I even gathered evidence to support them and ignored evidence to the contrary. For example, when I was single and feeling lonely, I only saw couples out in the world. My mind refused to take in that there were millions of single people around me as well. Not to mention millions of unhappy couples. If I was struggling with a recent weight gain, I only saw thin, confident looking women.
My mind refused to see anyone else. It was as if my depressed self was on trial and my mind was the prosecuting attorney gathering evidence that I was not okay and that everyone else was. Eventually, after lots of help from others and a good dose of willingness from within, I learned that I could take a stand against my internal programs.
I learned that I could disagree with my discouraging thoughts and eventually dispel them for good. You can too! Do the opposite of what the "voice of depression" suggests. As a psychotherapist, I often find myself encouraging people to follow their hearts, listen to their true feelings, and go with their intuition That's because when we are lost in depression, we are not in the best position to make wise decisions regarding self-care. My "voice of depression" used to convince me to isolate, veg out all day, oversleep, binge, starve, get high or give up.
I had to learn to do the opposite of what that internal voice was telling me to do. I had to learn that when I was depressed and thought I should isolate, I should do exactly the opposite and reach out to a friend or attend a support group. When the voice of depression told me to watch TV all day, I had to push myself to take a walk or listen to a self-help cassette tape remember those?
When my mind told me not to eat breakfast because I wanted to lose weight or because I had no appetite, I needed to do the opposite and eat a nutritious meal anyway or I was going to set myself up for yet another binge followed by even deeper depression. Unfortunately, depression zaps the energy we need to do the very things that will make us feel less depressed.
Learning to do the opposite of what your voice of depression suggests will help you begin to climb out of its painful and familiar grip. Don't open virus-infested links. We don't usually have a choice about what thoughts pop up in our minds. But we do have a choice about whether or not to open those "virus-infested links" containing the same old self-sabotaging thoughts. Rather than allow our thoughts to infect our whole system, we can choose to only download ideas we know to be safe and user-friendly.
So if you know that your "unkind mind" is operating, you can choose to close it and only open up what you know are safe programs.
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If you know that a certain link will tell you "I am a loser," decide to download the "This is what's okay about me" message instead. Instead of opening the "My life sucks" link, you can choose the " These are some things that are good about my life" podcast. Avoid the virus that says, "Everyone has a better life than me" and download "Here are some things I'm grateful for.
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Upgrade your mantras. Whether or not you consider yourself to be a spiritual person or believe in the concept of mantras, we are all constantly repeating internal messages to ourselves. Our minds are mantra machines, and whether our messages are kind, neutral, unkind or abusive, they make an enormous difference in the quality of our lives. I used to have a mantra that went something like this: I'm too weak to handle life. I'm not cut out for this. Things are never going to get better.
Not exactly an Oprah pick-me-up! I had heard of the self-fulfilling prophecy that if you tell a child they are stupid long enough, they will begin to believe it and act that way. But here I was self-fulfilling my own prophecies. I had to begin to pry my gripped fingers off of my internal whip and set it down. I had to practice some new mantras that were kinder and as it turned out, more true. My upgraded mantras sound more along the lines of this: I can handle what happens. Everyone has struggles.
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I am safe in this moment. I can do things to improve my life. I am worthy. We are all the same on some level. I learned that even if I didn't believe them at first, it was an upgrade in the system and I had to start somewhere. Plus, the people that told me to speak to myself with more kindness swore that it would eventually make a difference and I knew where they lived if it turned out they were wrong! They were not wrong. You are not alone. I remember the first time I asked someone if they ever thought about suicide and they said they hadn't.
I was floored. But it's true. We are all different breeds and some of us are more sensitive and thought-filled than others. Yes, we all face hard times and we all -- regardless of fame, fortune or physique -- will face losses. But some of us have a darker internal experience than others.
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It's important to find people who really understand and can handle your pain and your dark thoughts, people you feel totally safe with. I also remember the first time I confided in a friend that I was suicidal. She was completely silent. I'm talkin' not one word. Poor thing. I know now she had zero skills to deal with such intense information and we were pretty young at the time but it left me feeling even more alone and despairing. It would be years before I would risk sharing my dark secret again; however, the next time, I chose a professional who really got me and really knew how to respond.
Boy did I feel the difference! It's so important to seek out loving, compassionate, non-judgmental people until you can be that way toward yourself. CBT will help you learn to challenge and change your thinking and mindfulness will help you learn to live without becoming lost in your thoughts. Something needs to die, but not you! Being a sensitive person in a demanding and often perfectionistic world is not easy. But watching them writing songs in a Spanish studio, you found yourself wondering how they ever functioned at all: the surprisingly geezerish band members seemed so utterly unlike their frontman, who, for his part, spent the programme looking like a man who would rather be almost anywhere else than in their company.
And yet, here they are, 18 months on, knocking them dead at the Hard Rock Hotel, Tulsa, getting along famously. He uses a lot of hyperbole, he says extreme things, but me arguing with Jon has nothing to do with our relationship. Still, he concedes, they have their moments.
He used to be much more self-conscious when he was younger, he says: he would get dressed up as Boudicca or a geisha to go clubbing, then lose his temper when people remarked on how he looked. He looked like someone born to be a pop star, but often found the experience weirdly uncomfortable. Offstage, he continued to struggle with attention. It takes years to get your head around how to have some sort of normal life whilst also enjoying the spoils of being Boy George.
I just pull a silly face. If in doubt, pout. Certainly, his career now seems to be blooming again. His recent documentary for the BBC about life in the suburbs in 70s Britain was rapturously received. There was even talk of his own US reality series, but he abandoned the idea.
Look at my life!