It has been 15 months since depression and I walked into the emergency room.
The tools I have learned since that morning are making my day-to-day life more balanced. I am much more consistent in my mood and attitude. Frequently the days do not look daunting and I am able to get up and get going. Even a few months ago, I was wondering if I would ever be able to do that again.
Framing my thoughts in an all-or-nothing context is one of the hallmark moves depression and I share.
Yet, until 15 months ago, I never recognized unhelpful thinking. I admit I really didn’t know what it was, that it was a real thing. For many years, I would spend a huge amount of some days traveling. Slipping into the past, I would relive events. Then I would start blaming myself or feeling shame for my actions or lack of actions.
But this behavior was not as damaging as when I would start woulda, coulda, shoulda “ing”.
READ: I promise not to should on myself today
Beating myself up for my past actions is great sport for depression. Even though I now recognize this and can catch myself as I begin to do it, correcting this behavior is still a work in progress.
Even wilder is my ability to time travel into the future.
Once I began to do that, I found a way to make judgements about situations without the messiness of interacting with anyone. Visualizing a situation, I would consult depression and we would come up with a reason why this was occurring. Then I would project the outcome. And I would do this without any facts. And even better, according to depression, I would not need to talk to anyone.
Depression loves it when I keep secrets.
And making judgments about future events without using the facts or talking to anyone is very clandestine. The closer to the vest I keep my actions, the prouder depression is of me. Nobody knows me better than depression. That is what I told myself for 43+ years. And I would quickly forget how each project depression and I worked on, would end in disaster for me.
Somehow, depression is never around when it is time to pay the bill.
Time-traveling was one of the reasons I ended up in 5 North. Depression was really peeved that things were going so well. This was after we had moved to the country where we plan to spend the next 30 years. Work was great, my relationships with people were blossoming, and every day held a promise of greatness.
This was more than depression could stand, so it pulled out time travel.
READ: I didn’t time-travel this past weekend
I began to see my future self not going to a day job. My side business for over 10 years could become my full-time work and I could give up my well-thought-out plans for future retirement. Casually mentioning this to my support groups, I was incredibly careful not to share any details about my plan.
Seeing the picture in my head of my future, I did not need a reality check. Depression was truly clear that I should not divulge the results of my time traveling.
And the next 14 months prove once again that Depression’s idea of success was detrimental to my health.
I still time travel, allowing myself to create a future that fits my needs. Reality often is not a part of how I envision the situation unfolding, so I can easily create danger where there is none. Or a positive outcome when all signs point to disaster.
Unhelpful, all-or-nothing, catastrophizing, time-traveling thinking is one of depression’s most powerful tools.
SMART recovery has a tool I am using to combat unhelpful thinking, asking 6 questions. SEE ALL SIX QUESTIONS AT SMART RECOVERY. Depression is not happy when I ask these questions about an idea. Being secretive, I am not allowed to question the idea of time travel and see anything but what depression has cooked up for me. Finally, using these questions is becoming easier. But depression is nothing if not doggedly persistent. So, I must be constantly on alert, ready to openly address unhelpful thinking. Here are the questions I found:
6 Questions: Challenging My Unhelpful Idea
- What idea have I strongly and persistently held that I now realize to be the cause of many problems – emotional or otherwise – in my life?
- What’s wrong with this idea? What makes it unrealistic, extreme, illogical, and/or unreasonable?
- How does this idea push me and others around? What are the consequences of doggedly holding on to this idea?
- Is it helping me get what I want or hurting me?
- Is there any proof to support this irrational and/or unhelpful idea?
- Imagine that I’m trying to convince another person why it doesn’t make sense to think that way; what persuasive counterarguments would convince him or her?
And these questions are leading me towards a more balanced life with depression.
READ: When Will I Ask These 12 Better Questions?
Look and see what you think. I know my depression would be happier if I did not challenge its ideas. Whether it is these questions or some other vehicle, saying things out loud can make unhelpful thinking more visible.
How to Challenge Unhelpful Thinking Styles – 12 Questions
- How do I know if this thought is accurate?
- What evidence do I have to support the thoughts or beliefs?
- How can I test my assumptions/beliefs to find out if they are accurate?
- Do I have a trusted friend who I can check out these thoughts with?
- Is this thought helpful?
- Are there other ways that I can think about this situation or myself?
- Who or what else contributed to this situation?
- Can I look for shades of gray?
- Am I assuming the worst?
- Am I holding myself to an unreasonable or double standard?
- Are there exceptions to these absolutes (always, never)?
- Am I making this personal when it is not?
For me, once I can see it, I can do something about it.
If you are unable to control your thoughts or discover that they are interfering with your ability to meet everyday tasks or enjoy life. Counseling and counseling can assist you in navigating life changes, alleviating emotional distress, and achieving self-growth.
Before you get too excited, the focus of the article that this is quoted from has links to sell you their 7-day depression cure. 7 Tips for eliminating unhelpful thoughts I am still open to anything that may reduce my depression, but this sounds too good to be true. I will let you decide.
My concealed depression is written under the alias “Depression is not my boss.” I have certifications in SMART Recovery and am a Global Career Development Facilitator.
Diagnosed with Major Depressive Disorder last year, I am sharing what I learn. If you know someone who might benefit from reading this, please share.
I very much appreciate your comments.
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