Oh the things we think!
I am sure you’ve heard the age-old debate about which came first, the chicken or the egg? There is a similar debate regarding depression, which comes first; the horrible feelings associated with being depressed or the negative thinking that accompanies being depressed? In other words, do I start to think horrible things because I am depressed or do my negative, pessimistic, helpless, cynical thoughts lead me to be depressed? Guess what? Pretty hard to say, but what I can say is that feeding, focusing, and believing your negative thoughts will undoubtedly serve to keep you feeling down.
As you can imagine I spend a great deal of time with men who are suffering from depression. Whether this is in the group setting, over the telephone, exchanging emails, or sitting down face to face the better part of my day is with men who are in pain. If I were to believe the things they tell me on a regular basis, I would assume that indeed the sky is falling, humanity is lost, and we would all be better off just giving up. Are these things true? Of course not, but to these men this type of thinking dominates their day. And I do understand this as one time in my life many years ago, I too believed that the world was lost, I was a complete and forever loser, and that those in my life would be better off if I simply took my life…those thoughts are powerful and if you want to begin to feel better you need to learn to fight back against this type of thinking.
The question is how? One of the most effective ways is to begin to track and write down the thoughts you have which dominate your day. For example, perhaps at work you feel inadequate and as you examine your thinking you find these little gems running through your brain; “I am just stupid”, “I can’t believe what a fraud I am”, “I’ll never be able to figure this out”, or “I can’t believe they haven’t fired me yet.” If you take the time to write down (honestly!) the negative thoughts you’re having you now have a fighting chance to re-examine these thoughts and begin to attack the beliefs you have about yourself that lead you to think this way.
But…there’s always a “but” right?! But the real challenge will be to share these negative things you write down about yourself with someone you trust who can help you take a real look at your actions and how they line up with your negative thoughts. Using the work example, it’s entirely possible you want to do a better job at work, but odds are that if your predominant thought is that you’re stupid, well that is you being hard on yourself, which in turn only fuels your depression.
My premise in this blog…when we are suffering from depression, we need the courage to get out of our heads, be willing to question our beliefs, and be open to interpreting the events in our life and the actions we take in a new way. And you don’t have to do this alone!