Depression. It’s an ugly word. I’ve been there. It’s an ugly place. I don’t want to go back. Ever! So, I decided to learn how to stay away from it. I listen to the people who know how to help me. No, it hasn’t been easy. Yes, I am tested at times. And I make a choice with every test. I know my triggers. What I need more practice at is recognizing the triggers before they engulf my thinking. I’ve mentioned before the idea of “pausing” and taking a breath. The instant I feel the twinge of fear, anxiety, anger, sadness, etc. I have to step back, take a deep breath and ask myself, “what was I just thinking or doing that caused that feeling?” Once I recognize the cause, or trigger, I can stop my brain from its learned behavior of distorted thinking. The technical term is “Cognitive Distortions.”
This has been a long road. And it is a tough job. Changing the way a mind had been working for over 40 years is no small task. I’ve made it a challenge for myself. I went through a Cognitive Therapy program where I learned to use Thought Records. This is how I learned about thought distortions. In a nutshell, you write down a horrible thought you have about yourself, what proof there is that the thought is actually true, then you write down proof that the thought is actually not true and is in fact very distorted. I got so good at doing these thought records that I can do them quickly in my head and move past the horrible thought.
Before Cognitive Therapy, I would have let a horrible thought about myself spiral out of control until I convinced myself that I was the dumbest, most irresponsible, meanest person on the face of the earth. Now I challenge those thoughts. I move past them before they’re able to get their grip on me. A bright light went on in my head when I realized I really can control my thoughts. A bright light in my head and a big smile on my face.
When things are particularly stressful, I sometimes forget about the thought records. The anxious, afraid, angry or sad feelings come up. I get mad at myself for allowing the bad feelings to surface. Then… I take a deep breath. I remind myself that I am only human. Next time I’ll try harder to recognize the triggers that set the thoughts in motion. Then I’ll be able to stop the thoughts in their tracks and head off the bad feelings.
I’m not trying to make it sound easy. It’s not. But nothing will work unless you try. I decided to try and discovered it works!