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When clinical depression hits you, it changes everything.
It changes how and what you think, what you believe, and how you behave.
It only makes sense that when you’re going through a depression, your brain tells you depressing things, including flat-out lies. It’s really good at that.
Perhaps the biggest lie mine tells me is this:
I hate you.
THAT’S A PRETTY STRONG WORD, ISN’T IT?
Hate is not a word I use often. In fact, I try not to use it. For the most part, the only time I do is when I’m in a depression (or when I’m talking about certain politicians). I can’t tell you how many times I’ve asked Kim, my rockin’ therapist, “Why do I hate myself so much??!!” in the last four or five months.
Of course, there is no good answer. No one *should* hate themselves. It’s no way to live.
As you probably know, I’ve been in treatment for depression for a long time. I’m currently in therapy twice a week and I’m finishing up TMS treatments.
For the last several months, it’s been rough going. For the last few weeks, though, it’s been getting steadily better. Even though I have hard days when I do feel quite depressed, I’m able to get through it with more positive self-talk and less rumination. 🙂
So I realized something at therapy a couple days ago: I don’t think I hate myself anymore. In fact, I’m not sure I ever did.
I was just frustrated, full of shame, embarrassed, angry, anxious, and – of course – depressed. The truth got twisted and thrashed around until it came through my brain’s dysfunctional emotions filter as “I hate myself.”
When I’m having a bad day or week or month(s), it’s so easy to fall into the trap of thinking such things. It’s so easy to believe them.
Now that I’ve had a few good weeks again, despite the depressing days, it’s getting easier to challenge my beliefs. (That’s a DBT skill, BTW.)
No longer do I have to feel like I’m a hostage to my thoughts. I don’t have to question if life is worth living.
And I don’t need to think I hate myself. 🙂
BUT WAIT, THERE’S MORE!
There are other lies my depression tells me, too, and they all feed into each other. Here are some of the most common ones I struggle with from time to time:
- I’m not worthy. I struggle with this one a lot, even when I’m not in the middle of a depression. It takes a lot of positive thinking, being productive, socializing (see below), and allowing others to see my worth to change this thought.
- No one gives a shit. Another really tough one. If I don’t think much of myself, how could anyone else? This one requires a lot of positivity and encouragement from others, which means I need to spend time socializing. “Socializing” is practically a four-letter word in my book. As a true introvert (INFJ on the Myers-Briggs Personality scale), I have a finite amount of energy each day – some days I have more and other days I have almost none. Being around people (especially if I feel like I have to entertain them) is the kiss of death for me most days. It requires lots of special work on my part to challenge this one.
- It doesn’t matter/I don’t matter. More destructive thinking: I don’t matter, so it doesn’t matter what I do. At one point, when I was living on my own in St. Paul, I was trying to stay sober on my own. No support group, no nothin’. So I wrote the words, “Yes, it DOES matter” on a piece of paper and taped it to the inside of my apartment door, hoping it would help deter me from walking the half-block to the liquor store. It didn’t. I would just look at it and say, “No, it doesn’t” and throw some obscenities around. This is still a really basic, challenging myth I sometimes tell myself. But I’ve been sober almost a year and a half! 🙂
- No one can help me. This one is tricky. I used to believe this without a doubt. But when I finally started feeling better a couple years ago, and when I went through DBT last year, I began to see how others might actually be able to help me more than I thought. It’s my faulty belief system and unwillingness (fear) to try new things that keep me down most of the time. In fact, I’ve been in non-stop therapy for two years now, and, as you know, I’m on my fourth course of treatment with TMS. I also did DBT every Tuesday morning for a year, got a new pdoc, and have a case manager. At some points in the last two years, I’ve had 4 or 5 mental health appointments per week! So I must believe now that the right kind of help and the right kind of people can help me, or I wouldn’t be doing all this. Still, when I’m in a depression, I am doubtful. Belief systems are SO HARD to battle!
- I’m always going to feel like shit/be this way. Despite the living proof I am that depression does not last forever (though it can last a mighty long time), when I’m stuck in that place, it does feel like it’s never going to get better. Another function of my faulty belief system, after years of fighting and suffering. A couple months ago, I bought a bead (like for beading) shaped kind of like a barrel that says “Hope” on it. I wear it every day, and every time I play with it or feel my necklace around my neck, I think about it. It’s a good reminder.
- Life’s a bitch, then you die. When I was younger, this was a popular saying. It probably still is, but the people I hang with (when I do hang) don’t believe that, so I don’t hear it much anymore. I don’t say it anymore, either. In the last two years, I have gained so many tools to help me along the dark parts of my journey, I almost have no choice but NOT to believe this. I have now experienced enough [dare I say] happiness and light-heartedness that I know that’s not how it is. Plus, it’s an awfully negative thing to tell yourself. It takes away even the hope of future happiness, and I can’t live like that anymore.
This is, of course, not an exhaustive list. But these are the most common lies my depression has been telling me for over thirty years. I bet yours tells you some, too.
OPPORTUNITY, PERSISTENCE, AND A LITTLE LUCK
I am so grateful for the professional team I work with. They have hope for me and they are persistent, patient, and as proactive as they can be. Had I not found Dr. Nelson (thanks to CeAnne and my case manager, the amazing Brianna), and had I not given in to my old therapist Christina and finally agreed to at least try DBT; had I not been transferred to my new therapist, Kim, when Christina left the clinic last April; had I not been open to case management, despite an awful first experience with a different case manager, I honestly don’t know where I’d be.
There’s a good chance I’d either be drinking, divorced, or dead.
Yes, I know – “You’re the one doing the work.” That’s true, and it is hard, and it takes a hell of a commitment, and sometimes I get burned out on appointments and want to give up, but my team does a lot of work, too. They are all true professionals.
They don’t just listen to me for an hour and then move on. I truly feel that they all give a shit, and I know for a fact that each of them has gone above and beyond for me at some point.
God, I’m lucky to have them.
Actually, I’ve had several good professionals’ help over the years (and some, not so much) and they helped me get through some bad times. (Except for Dr. W., who had a total God complex. He was literally no help at all. In fact, he took me back a few steps >:| )
But I haven’t always been willing – or able – to change, to look beyond my belief system, to commit to myself for the long haul. I may have survived those times, but that doesn’t mean I made much progress.
Still, I’ve made it this far, and that’s no accident. I guess I’ve never completely given up on myself 100% with absolutely no hope for a future. 90%? Yes. 95%? Yes. 98%? Yup, I’ve been that far gone, too.
Life is nothing without at least a modicum of hope, and I’ve had more since I met Dr. Nelson than I may ever have had in my life. You don’t know how grateful I am.
I hope you have some hope, too, in something.
IN A NUTSHELL
- Depression changes everything about you.
- “Hate” is a four-letter word.
- I don’t have to hate myself anymore. Woohoo!
- Depression can make your brain lie to you. And I mean real whoppers.
- You don’t have to believe everything you think.
- A thought is just that – a thought. Don’t get sucked up in it.
- Treatment can be long, hard, and painful, and you may sometimes wonder whether its worth it. I’m living proof that it is.
- If you are depressed, please get help!
- If you don’t like the professional(s) on your support team, find someone new, get a second opinion.
- Always keep a teeny, tiny bit of hope with you, even if it’s invisible.
- It will be okay.
As always, thanks for reading. Comments, questions, suggestions, complaints, and challenges are always welcome.
Keep on Keepin’ it Real, kids. You’re stronger than you know.