*Update December 7, 2021
As I reread my list, I can see where I have made progress and where I still need to work.
The reality is I will always need to work on at least one of the 10 unhelpful thinking styles. Living with depression means first acknowledging that I have it. And then quickly I say, “I have depression, depression does not have me.” And most days now, this is true. I also say, “my goal is to lead a balanced life with depression.”
I am very proud of my progress with item #7 on my list.
Mind reading was and still is one of my depression’s unhelpful thinking styles. Depression has used this to keep me either in the past or in the future. Anytime I even hint at living in the present moment, depression steps in, asserting its unhelpful thinking.
When my depression is at it’s worst, any unhelpful thinking style will keep me from seeing the truth about a situation.
And even when I am on top of my game, depression’s unhelpful thinking can appear out of nowhere. With the knowledge I have collected about depression, I now see that depression is always working on me. Depression slips little unhelpful ideas into every thought I have.
When I’m at my best, I can catch these and correct them.
Heck, when I’m doing well, many times I can repel these thoughts. This happens subconsciously, and I don’t always see my mind doing it. Other times, I catch myself using one of the unhelpful thinking styles. All or Nothing is one I see, too. “My computer is running slow, and since depression thinks I shouldn’t ask for help to fix it, I will just throw it away. Then I will buy a new one.”
Depression gets angry when I want to talk to someone.
And speaking about something like my computer could produce ideas that were not depressions. Getting fresh, unbiased ideas, about what I can do to speed up my computer, gave me a new avenue to try. By downloading Super anti-spyware, I was able to remove 1,643 cookies, all of which were slowing down my computer.
Depression was not pleased I had spoken to my wife about this.
And depression was even more upset to see that what I learned worked! I did not throw the computer in the trash and buy a new one as depression had directed me to do. I talked about my problem with my laptop with my wife and produced a better, free fix.
Even today, some 2+ years after I wrote this list, I am still required to stay vigilant.
But I am so grateful for the tools and support I have gotten. By talking, listening, and sharing, my world is becoming fuller. And now I see unhelpful thinking before it sends me screaming towards the abyss.
I understand and accept that every day, I must still push the same rock up the same hill.
But I do this willingly and happily. The alternative is not for me.
Below is my original blog post from 2 years ago.
Let me say right up front that these are things on which I am working.
Things I would like to do, things that I see value in, but depression does not. This is creating conflict in my head and heart about my need to address these things.
- Relax – Just sitting in the morning on the front porch, with my first cup of coffee was something I looked forward to. Now I cannot just sit. I feel that I must be writing on my laptop or checking my email.
- Let go – Some ideas I have carried around for quite a while. I am married to them, as some might say. I just can’t seem to get them out of my head. Depression keeps shooting me text messages and emails reminding me not to forget things.
- Be more in the moment – While I have gotten better at this, being present is very hard. I know I do not spend enough time working on this.
- Ask better questions consistently – I am so proud of the progress I have made in this area, and so frustrated that I cannot be consistent. My successes end up being minimized as depression gets involved, and the fact that I am not doing this in every situation becomes a monumental, big deal which depression keeps pointing out.
- Give myself a break – I am beginning to feel like I am always on again. This idea that I must be ‘evergreen’ and always available is tiring me out. It is in my list of triggers to watch for in my WRAP plan.
- Clean the office – I still vacuum my office once a week. While I have the vacuum out, I do the bedroom and the two guest rooms that are carpeted. But cleaning and organizing my desk, projects and incoming mail are slipping. I don’t feel in control of these things right now. With all the best intentions to address it over the past few weeks, my desk is still a mess.
- Stop mind reading – Doing this, depression tells me, is like reading the “Monarch Notes” version of a book. You get the jest of the book, without reading the book. I decide I know what a person is thinking, then act on that assumption, without ever speaking to the person. This has been one of depressions favorite ideas to show me who is really in charge.
- Stop running – As soon as I wasn’t up against the wall with depression, I was off and trying to run again. Running to a non-profit position, a board of directors’ position, installing a swimming pool. Anything to keep me from having free time to face myself and depression. Running saved my life in my twenty’s. Real, actual, physical exercise pushed depression into the background and created an almost 15 years stretch of positive energy. But now I am using running, as in running away, to avoid facing situations that involve my feelings.
- Be in touch with my feelings – That is a tough one for me. I have said many times, I can give you an accurate report about a situation, just don’t ask me how I feel about it. And I know this is one of the biggest challenges I face, and one depression has spent so much time showing me ways NOT to be in touch. I spend a lot of time working on recognizing unhelpful thinking styles. These are strategies I use to avoid the issue, or at least avoid the feeling associated with the issue.
- Recognize and believe in the value of simple conversation – I’m always in a rush. Stopping and smelling the roses, spending a few minutes just chatting, with no agenda, no specific goal, is foreign to me. I am results oriented. How can I or why would I just talk? Why wouldn’t there be a purpose, an objective, an outcome to achieve? This is my mind set as I approach conversations.
Now the very short version of a simple conversation I can do. “Hi, how are you?” “Is your child feeling better?” These are easy. But if it turns into a one to five minutes conversation, I get edgy, I lose focus, and I feel guilty that I am not doing something “productive.” I really want to fix this.
It has only been four months since I turned and faced my depression.
And it took me 43 years to do that. I must say that despite having things I cannot do YET, there are success stories, too. And this is what keeps me going. I have called out depression and am keeping it where I can see it. I am on to its sneaky ways and its underhanded style of getting me into its secretive world.
I’m finally facing it and it feels good.
So, I will continue to work on this list. I am posting a copy on my bulletin board next to my desk and will pick one area to focus on each day. I’ll start with what could be an easy one and I will clean and organize my desk. This has helped me feel better in the past. Then I will tackle some of the bigger issues.
What things would you like to do but are not doing?
Your comments are appreciated as I continue my journey.