I wish I could say depression is cured with a pill but it isn’t really. Dampened for sure. Any stressors and it rises up and your habitual thoughts… happen. You are more aware of them, if like me, you did all the therapy thing. But they still happen. Way better than unmanaged depression for sure but I have to be aware of how my mood can be dramatically affected by external AND internal triggers.
External triggers we can’t exactly avoid. Life happens. Sometimes it sucks. A lot. And then with chronic illness and chronic pain, well that’s a constant stressor on a person. Internal triggers are like landmines. One just never knows when one will hit them when one is thinking about any damn thing. Sometimes I feel like I am playing chess with my brain but a very defensive, protective game. Just trying to hold a wall against the depressive thoughts trying to get through. Sometimes I do well. Sometimes I do not.
Is it me? Or the mental illness?
I wonder sometimes if it is me or the mental illness when I have a thought.
Is it a rational, well thought out thought? Is it my natural intuition about a situation? Am I reading things right?
Or is it mental illness? And distorted thinking? And low self-worth and loathing. And cynicism that corrupts everything around me? Self-pity? Am I ignoring rational thought and intuition? Am I being sucked into distorted thinking and catastrophizing? Overthinking?
I love to think I am self-aware to tell the difference but in heightened emotional states and stressful situations I simply cannot. Especially if I get no feedback to tell me what the situation really is. Because then my brain, well, it is free to play its games on me.
Fact is, both are me
I am a very rational, logical thinker. Who just happens to sometimes overthink into a slump and catastrophize. I am intuitive about situations and what is going on up until I have thought about it for too long, too many angles, too many possibilities, too many fears and horrors… and then I get lost in all those possibilities that I lose sight of my initial insights. I am all of those things.
Depression lies a lot
Depression lies a whole lot. It magnifies truths until they are horrific. But there is a tiny bit of truth in there, so our brains latch onto the That Fact and believe the Whole Thing. I am not fond of this. I would love if I could just be myself and think clearly. But emotions are a fact of life. And mental illness is something that distorts both emotions and then thinking.
Even treated with medication. Even having had years of therapy. I can overthink something into something way worse than it ever could have been. It is a talent of mine. I have to step back. I have to write down what I know to be true, as fact. And what I do not know to be true, what I have speculated, expanded on, feared, catastrophized. Cut that all out and focus on what I Know to be true. Cut out the crap.
And a thought/ mood journal like this works really well for me. Keeps me grounded. From situation, to reaction, to emotion, to thought, to whatever distorted thinking I may do from there. When I want to focus on what I know about the situation. Facts only. How I feel about my reaction and why I reacted that way. What emotions rose up and why? What thoughts were spawns from that emotion… and were those thoughts rational thoughts to a situation or were they skewed in some way? How should I think about it? Without all the brain clutter?
Life is not easy peasy
Hate to say it but life is messy. Life is stressful. Shit happens. And sure, we can choose how to react to situations… but usually we react on autopilot and then think about it later. We just have to think about why we react the way we do and whether that was a healthy reaction or not. Because for some things, totally healthy reaction to be sad, angry, pissed, frustrated… nothing wrong with that. It is when my depressed brain goes, well, that means my entire life sucks balls, I guess. Or I’ll never be happy, I suppose. Or I guess I am just worthless then. None of that is cool at all and I have to take a step back mentally and say, not cool, man. You wouldn’t say most of that crap to anyone else but it is cool to treat yourself like crap? I don’t think so.
It gets better
It does get better. When we start to build up our self-worth again and understand how our brains work… and do not let it go down that slippery slope it so much wants to go down. We catch more of those nasty little thoughts. We turn them around. Flip them. And tell ourselves something more true. More realistic. More valid. Until… eventually we believe it. Because the brain believes what you tell it. But if you have been telling it crap for a decade it takes a lot of time for it to believe anything else. A long time. But bit by bit it does accept that you are not a piece of crap.
Better but not perfect
But just because I have some self-worth and am aware of Most of my crappy thoughts and have turned them around… doesn’t mean I do not overthink myself into a hole sometimes. And lose myself into all this crap. And once again I have to cut that all out and start back at the beginning. What was the situation? What did I sense or feel? Why did I feel that way? What made me feel that way? Why did I think the way I did in that moment? Before I went down the rabbit hole of overthinking. Then look at it with fresh eyes. Was I having an appropriate reaction to a shitty situation? Or was I reacting based on my history and preconceived notions of myself? If I was reacting like anyone would to a shitty situation then, fine, I can then deal with it like anyone would with a problem that needs to be resolved. Without overthinking it to death. Or I can… let it go if it is something I do not need to hold onto or should not hold onto.
And I always remind myself with a problem, at its core:
- Is this in my control? If not, it is not something I should be worrying about or thinking about. I have no power over it.
- Is this something that is my responsibility? If it is not, then why am I taking ownership of it?
- Is this a problem I Own? If not, why am I trying to solve something I didn’t cause and doesn’t affect me?
If it is something I have some control over, some sense of responsibility to resolve, or a problem I own then What steps should I take to resolve it?
I will not stop overthinking sometimes. It is something my brain is prone to. I am very much an internal thinker. Very much someone that wants to make some sense out of things. And so I think and think and think. And sometimes I will think myself into a mental slump. And yes, I do things to get myself out of that mental slump. Mood boosting things, work on my hobbies, mental distractions… all sorts of things. If that overthinking was about something out of my control I will then try to put it aside. If it is something at its core that is a serious problem I need to address I will then do, as I said, pare it down to its basic facts and re-look the actual problem before I magnified it.
But I will do it. Over and over. It is the way my brain works. And I am very aware of that. I have to work with that fact.
And I won’t stop having mental and emotional slumps. Sometimes bad ones. Sometimes due to pain. I just know they pass now.
And I know I need medication to manage my depression because without it these emotion slumps are deep dives into despair and all rational though it out the window, man.
It doesn’t go Away. It just lingers in different ways. Comes out in different ways. Messes with me in different ways. However, I am very aware of all the progress I have made. I acknowledge that progress and am damn proud of it. I have more resilience to deal with illness, pain, vertigo, and mood slumps. And I need it. All the resilience I can get.
Sometimes we just have to work with the brain we have. And just get to know it a little better. It’s triggers and what makes it tick. And how to calm it down when it gets going on something after being triggered. And how to cope when it has been triggered. Sometimes that is the best we can do.