I am in a constant battle with my mind. It’s like that iconic scene you’ll see in all western movies:
Scene: High noon. Two cowboys stand a few yards apart, staring each other down. A tumbleweed rolls across the screen.
Me: It’s time for us to stop this feud. We’re not enemies.
My mind: Go ahead…think something positive.
Me: Is that a threat?!
My mind: Remember that time your so-called best friend stopped talking to you? It was your fault. She still hates you.
Me: Stop it! That’s not true!
My mind: You’re a black sheep. Everyone in your family gossips about you.
Me: That’s enough!
My mind: That top you’re wearing doesn’t go with those pants.
Me: *sniff* You’re right.
It’s hard enough to deal with negative thoughts as it is, but when you’re suffering from depression, it’s like a never-ending tidal wave. When I compared the thoughts and attitudes of depressed and non-depressed people, what I discovered was a distinct pattern of brow-beating, pessimistic, defeatist, and guilt-ridden beliefs. To put it simply, depression can really mess with your head. Here are some of the lies your depression will tell you:
1) “You should be ashamed of yourself. You deserve to feel guilty.”
A wise teacher once told me that guilt is “a waste of energy”. Now, should you feel remorse when you’ve done something wrong? Yes. Should you apologize? Absolutely. Should you punish yourself for years on end? No.
If you’ve hurt or wronged someone, do what you can to make amends. Even if you’re not forgiven, try to find some solace in the fact that you did your best to mend bridges. Use the experience as a lesson learned, as a reminder to treat others with respect. Do not use the experience as a ceaseless excuse to make yourself feel like crap.
2) “You will never get over this.”
You can and you will, regardless of your circumstances. Emotions are transient. This means that all emotions, even negative ones, will dissipate after some time. No matter what you are going through, you will reach a point when it won’t hurt as much, where the negative emotions surrounding it won’t feel as intense. Essentially, while things may seem dark now, they will lighten eventually.
3) “I am not _____ enough.”
Fill in the blank. It could be “smart,” “attractive,” “thin,” “rich,” “successful,” or simply not “good” enough. Whatever your chosen word, realize that it’s nothing more than an artificial limitation that you are placing on yourself. The world is filled with people who have defied seemingly impossible odds. Need proof? Read the life stories of Nelson Mandela, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Helen Keller, Oprah Winfrey, or Stephen Hawking, just to name a few.
4) “What can go wrong will go wrong.”
Hope is in short supply when you’re depressed. You start to overanalyze things, creating doubts and problems that weren’t there before. And when you go into a situation with a defeatist attitude, you’re already setting yourself up for disappointment. Everything you say, everything you do, and every decision you make will be a reflection of this belief. While it’s very difficult to take the leap from pessimism to extreme optimism, try to take just one step in that direction: Prepare for the worst, and then go in with a hopeful attitude. Or, failing that, go into the situation without any expectations, and see how things play out.
5) “I don’t deserve love.”
In a recent blog, I discussed the extremely detrimental effects of these four simple yet powerful words. Depression will make you believe that you are unlovable; this simply isn’t true, however, and always stems from a lack of self-love. The greatest advice I can ever offer is this: Don’t look to other people to recognize your strengths, to tell you what makes you special, or to give you the love that you yearn for. You need to discover that in yourself – and once you do, everything will seem to fall into place. Ever been around someone who makes you so happy you just want to bask in their energy? A happy, giggling baby, for example. It’s because they love themselves so fully that the love kind of just spills out of them, affecting everyone around them.
Stay tuned for part 2!