Is the Change Triangle my tool for moving forward with my depression?
I first wrote “moving forward FROM my depression.” What was I thinking? My depression and I are together until the end. Two peas in a pod, Ying and yang. And to think that I am moving away from depression is not a realistic outlook. Now there are times when I feel it is possible. And over the years, I have sometimes managed to tamp down any feeling of depression or anxiety by just ignoring it.
Maybe I was just being chicken, but for decades, ignoring my depression seemed to work.
Things that you don’t know can’t hurt you. Well, that was my idea for many, many years. I figured if I didn’t acknowledge it, it didn’t exist. It was as simple as that. So, I did not want to know what had caused my “lost year.” Now I did understand deep down that something had not been right. I could have dug a bit to see what was causing my lack of focus or direction.
Saying “I have depression” back then wasn’t something I was willing to do.
Today, I am willing to say that “I have depression, depression does not have me.” And I have been using the change triangle as one very powerful tool to help me understand my emotions. Emotions are everywhere, but I have not been good at dealing with them. This is particularly true when the emotions are mine. I have the emotion of fear down pat.
Anger is different. I push that down and pretend that it is not there. Very seldom does it come to the surface, but when it does, I cannot control it. It isn’t physical, but very verbal and often loud. Excitement has not been in my vocabulary for years.
Fear, anger, grief, joy, excitement, disgust, and sexual excitement are all emotions.
The same thing with disgust. I am still ok with sexual excitement, but I am embarrassed to speak about it. This leaves joy. Or joy is the emotion I am most fixated on. I enjoy joy and would like to experience it again on a regular basis.
I feel that I am stuck on the emotion of joy, of happiness.
The change triangle can help you see where you are and what is going on.
Getting to the core emotions leads to the final step in the Change Triangle: Our openhearted state of the authentic self. Now the concept seems a bit glitzy or glammy. So, the concept of the change triangle is to get to my true feelings. Being a triangle, it has three sides. And each corner represents you and what emotions you are showing (or not showing) in response to a situation.
Beginning in the top left corner, the corners show that you:
- are being defensive. This is an action we do to avoid feeling or being aware of feelings.
- We can hide behind our Exhibitory Emotions. These are Anxiety, Shame, and Guilt.
- Finally, if we dare to, we encounter our core (true) emotions.
Now I do not know about you, but I have been defensive at times.
However, what I am realizing is that it is not all about me. I am sure everyone is looking at me because I got a spot of water on my shirt when I was washing my hands after using the restroom. Walking out of the bathroom, I am acutely aware of the spot. It is going to take a few minutes to dry. In the meantime, I am carrying a document, which I can strategically position to hide the wet spot.
Very quickly I forget about the spot, and it dries without incident.
But in my mind, standing in front of the sink, and seeing that wet spot on my shirt makes me anxious. Or maybe I feel a bit of shame for not being better at washing my hands. And then I feel guilty for not being perfect and never having water splash up from the sink and get on my shirt.
All of this is flashing through my mind, instead of knowing that I am sanitary, and my hands are clean.
When I began writing today, I had something on my mind. Now I cannot remember what it was. Too much of a good thing? I cannot say that that has been a problem for me in the past few years. Now too much depression, well that’s another thing altogether.
Seeing the change triangle again reminds me that I am not stuck anymore.
I have options. I can see where I am on the triangle, and what I am doing. The part where I react to this and move forward is where I get stuck. But even that has its moments of brilliance. And though it is not yet pure joy or excitement, it is no longer nothingness. That feeling of being up against a wall left me with an emptiness. Nothing mattered, it was impossible to see that there was a way forward.
And yet I moved forward despite the lack of feelings, and emotions.
Having viewed my path forward as one of three choices, once again, I decided that seeking professional medical help was the least frightening of the options. I was way too fearful of death to consider that option, and I was tired of doing the same things while expecting different outcomes. This left me with one option. And even that wasn’t straightforward.
Getting professional medical attention forced me to advocate for myself.
Looking back, I do remember thinking that having three different medical professionals downplay what I was experiencing was not going to help me. How could I learn the tools that I would need to face this? What strategies could I discover that would move me towards leading a balanced life with my depression? I needed them to help me.
It felt like they wanted to do the easiest thing for them and getting them to give me the help I was looking for was a struggle.
In fairness to them, they did come through in the end. The screening doctor at 5 East found a bed for me, without having to go to a different city to be admitted. The ER doctor made sure that I knew what was happening as each step progressed. And the admitting doctor at 5 East, did make sure that I understood what was happening as we labored through the admission paperwork.
In all fairness to those doctors, I was probably at the top left corner of the change triangle when I met them and saw all their actions suspiciously.
They were trying to and did help me get started on a path of understanding Major Depressive Disorder. So, despite my feeling I had to advocate for what I needed, they did provide it for me.
Too much of a good thing?
I am still waiting for that to happen again.