the life of zooey who happens to be Bipolar 2
It’s been a tense couple of months of late. And now, I’m not doing that great. I think stress has played big part in a recent meltdown. I know I need to change jobs, but the thought of going through all that to leave here…I just don’t have the energy.
But that’s not what I’m here to talk about. I’ve got rocks in my pockets. Or, as a few of you may know, my black dog is back. And you know, ‘self help’ for depressive thoughts is just bullshit. I opened up an email today with an article, “7 Ways to Manage Depressive Thoughts.” Ok. Maybe I can get some support or ideas from this…
Feeling depressed often means feeling hopeless and helpless. It’s critical to understand that these views are symptoms of the illness, and do not reflect reality. In other words, it’s the depression talking, not an objective picture of your situation. Remind yourself that the bleak outcomes you foresee for yourself are due to your mood clouding your judgment. Think back to a time when you were grounded and optimistic about your future, and tell yourself that what you thought then about your life was more accurate, because now your mood is blurring your vision.
Too often, we decide how people feel about us in the absence of evidence. If you automatically conclude that someone didn’t say “hello” because she doesn’t like you, rather than perhaps because she didn’t see you, this is mind reading. When we are depressed, it’s easy to explain a person’s behavior as an expression of negative feelings about us, rather than noting the countless factors, having nothing to do with us, that influence others. It can help to write down the behavior which discouraged you in one column, your automatic interpretation of it in a second column, and multiple alternative explanations in a third column.
How many times have you concluded, on the basis of a single failure, that you will always fail? Don’t fall prey to overgeneralized thoughts such as “No one cares about me” and “I’m never going to be able to get a job.” Instead, let the words always, everybody, never, and nobody serve as red flags that you’re probably overgeneralizing.
When we concentrate on the unfortunate aspects of situations and filter out the positive—dwelling on soccer games lost, and forgetting our victories—we do ourselves a tremendous disservice. If you find yourself focusing on your limitations, envision what a friend might say to contradict your negative thoughts, or ask someone!
Catastrophizing involves noticing one unfavorable fact or unfortunate situation, and making it mushroom in your mind into a chain of hypothetical circumstances ending in disaster. Observed symptoms of a cold lead to an imagined death from pneumonia, or a minor mistake at work results in the nightmare of getting fired. When you predict calamities, ask how probable each event is, and how likely it is they could occur together.
Black-or-white, or all-or-nothing, thinking involves inappropriately categorizing objects, situations, or people into one extreme or another. When you are depressed, it is easy to think of yourself as a total failure, or as completely worthless. Remind yourself that the world is made of shades of gray, and people who are all good or all bad are rare.
One day a client suffering from depression told me he was thinking of suicide. I empathized with him, but reminded him that depression was not a permanent condition, even though a common symptom of it was the illusion of permanency. Realizing that his state was temporary made it easier for my client to endure it.
Identifying and correcting distorted thoughts is a learned skill, just like anything else. If you “over learn” this skill—that is, learn it more thoroughly than necessary—when you are stable, you will be better able to apply it when you are stressed, depressed, and not thinking as clearly as you can.
Remember, a powerful, proven tool for reducing depression—namely, modifying your own thoughts—lies within you! With work, you can use it to help rescue yourself from depression.
Fuck that shit.