Depression: can unsolicited advice be useful?

Navigating through depression I heard a lot of advice, now I look back and try to turn that advice into strategies that can help me prevent a relapse.

 

 

have good-minHave a good night rest and you’ll be as new’. Sleep is very, very important and maybe the first crucial step to take when confronted with an unbalance in mind and/or body. Medication helped me to take that first step. I was just too tired to manage my sleep. Once I had a little bit of strength I implemented a sleeping schedule and payed attention to sleep hygiene. I’ve noticed that I tend to stay up later when I don’t feel well. Sometimes you need to be your own parent and send yourself to bed at an hour that works for you. When I wake up way too early and feel some stressy thoughts in my head, that is thé cue to rest during the day, to implement self-care, to not push myself. The more relaxed I am during waking hours, the better I sleep at night. So yes, have a good (night) rest, enjoy it (I do now!). When you struggle, talk to a (mental) health professional, reach out.

 

 

examine your-min‘You’re too negative’. Depression can pull a blanket over you where you don’t see the world as it is but you think you do. Important to notice is that mood influences your feelings and perception of the world. Reality testing becomes crucial, is it the ability to step out of yourself to see what is really happening out there.  You need to know how to gather information and how to use it. I’m not only talking about segregating fake new from real news but I’m talking more about a cognitive style that is called cognitive flexibility. You can train yourself to find multiple explanations for things that happen to you.  Let’s say you called your mother-in-law to ask if you need to do groceries but there is no answer. 8 hours later, still nothing. You ask yourself what happened. Depression can tell you that she’s upset with you and that she doesn’t like you anymore. You think that maybe other people don’t like you as they don’t call you either. ‘Why is everybody leaving me and I end up all alone?’ See, how fast your thoughts and assumptions can spin out of control?

 

 

How to examine your thoughts?

 

Ask yourself what other realistic reasons can you think of. Let’s practice. Think about different reasons for something someone has said or done to you. In the previous real life example I can think that the battery is flat, that she’s not on her phone 24/7,  that she missed the message somehow, that she lost her phone or that she red the message but it slipped out of her mind…  In the end we need to make a mends with the fact that we don’t know for sure.

 

Or you can tell people how you feel in the moment when you have people close to you. People you trust and people who know you. You can tell them you feel worthless and unloving. They can help you reality test that thought. Depression tells me very frequently that I am not worthy of being loved. Every time I look at Pierre, I see the things he does for me and the loving words he tells me, I know that that is closer to the truth than the thought that I am an awful human being. Step by step I’m believing more of the reality than the lies in my own head.

 

‘I’m not worthy of love’ is also a good example of a global cognitive style. A global cognitive style is when you engage in ‘over general thinking’. Let me clarify, lets say you drop your groceries and you immediately think: ‘It’s always happening to me’. Or your boyfriend breaks up with you and you think: ‘Men, they are all the same’. You had a bad day and you say ‘Why is life so unfair?’ Or ‘All I want is to be happy, is that too much to ask?’, ‘All I want is a good relationship, is that too much to ask too? Poor me.’ When you would ask what is needed to achieve this good relationship, the global  answer may be: ‘Chemistry’.

 

Thinking in this global terms won’t make you a good problem solver. It’s difficult to learn skills when you have a global approach. To learn to think in specific terms will help you. Your goal needs to be defined in specific steps so that you can take those steps to move towards your goal. You’ll go from global to linear thinking. This will take time and some trial and error. You’ll need to revise your strategy and keep going.  You need to know what steps you ought to be taking because when you don’t know the steps, you can’t be successful in attaining your goal. ‘Poor me’ will pop up again. You need to go back and re-look your steps, find out which one is missing, what needs to be adjusted. If you can’t sequence what you’re trying to do, it isn’t going to happen. You can help your brain to think more linear in the domains you need help.

 

For example: I like to read, I find it very relaxing to unwind my mind by reading. A few months back I tried to change some habits by doing fun things for 10’ per day. I made my plan to read 10’ per day. I could not do it. My goal was clear and my steps too, so I thought. I started to doubt which book I wanted to read, I thought about good books, good enough books and bad books. Should I read fiction or non-fiction? First I did everything else, so I would have time to read, I cooked and cleaned and as a result was too exhausted to read, even for those 10’. The imposter in me told me that I wasn’t allowed to relax because I didn’t work hard enough.

Somehow the plan of reading hatched in my mind and kept on growing. I read some blogs about books. There was a question of the day ‘do you finish a book when you don’t enjoy it?’  I told myself that it was imperative to finish a book because otherwise it would be sad for the book. And I was ashamed because I picked the wrong book. Big mistake! Shame on me! Yes, I told myself that. But other people didn’t think like that, it was ok to skip a bad book. Finally I did. I tried another one, with big letters, not too difficult. The first step was to enjoy the act of reading. There was no judgement to what I was reading (a crime novel). At first my mind told me how stupid the book was, how stupid I was for even trying to read,  that I was a slow reader … I pulled through and page after page I advanced. I read and listened to the imposter but the voice became more silent. Now I read without trouble. I feel when I want to read and I’m not afraid to take time out of my day to do fun things.

32 thoughts on “Depression: can unsolicited advice be useful?

  1. The idea of “you’re too negative” is something that puzzles me. I’ve come across a couple of bloggers who commented on mental health blogs being too negative. It made me wonder a) too negative for what, and b) why would anyone read a mental health blog if they didn’t want any negative?

    Depression can certainly trigger a lot of unhelpful cognitive distortions, but at the same time the experience of depression certainly isn’t fun, and when people are saying “you’re too negative,” it’s a broad evaluation that seems to miss out on the more important nuances.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. When I hear ‘you’re too negative’ I shut up immediately and all the thoughts keep festering in my head.
      I found it a breath of fresh air that I could write my ‘negatives’ down on my blog and that people didn’t react judgmental. I was one of the first times that I didn’t need to hold back and that gave a relief like you can’t imagine! So for not being negative on your own blog, no one can tell you what you need of shouldn’t write!
      I do think that my depressed brain sees some things more clearly. There is no energy for a lot of bs. At the same time, to move a bit forward I try to detect the cognitive distortions and change them little by little.
      There is a lot of wisdom hidden in mental illness and I’m trying to make that work for me.
      Nuances and an individual approach is key!

      Liked by 2 people

  2. These posts are definitely making me see little aspects of my life in an entirely new light. While sleep is something I’m still trying to understand and work with, negativity is something I can definitely relate to. Last year I tried to observe patterns in my thought and see how a situation would lead to a very negative thought, and whether or not that negative thought even made sense. Like if I happened to get talked over in a group of friends, I’d immediately begin thinking things like “I’m boring” or “people don’t want to listen to me” or “my friends don’t care about me” and it was so absurd. While I still struggle with it, I’m definitely getting better, and this post has definitely made my process make more sense!
    Thank you for sharing, Kacha, I loved reading it! 🙂

    Liked by 3 people

    1. I’m so glad you liked it! I’m struggling too with it but I’m trying to work with it, to change small things. My guess is that what we can do to help ourselves me must undertake. And every small step counts 🙂 I also think that it is part of the human existence to experience those things, so I’m not too hard on myself when I catch myself thinking those things. In the end we all want to be happy don’t we?
      You’re absolutely not boring! Sometimes we just need to find ‘our’ platform to be listened too 🙂

      Liked by 2 people

      1. He was a vet. Animal stories. He presented them as anecdotes, but a lot were embellished. His first books are set just before WW2. It Shouldn’t Happen To A Vet is the first, although you could probably pick them all up quite cheaply now as a box set. I’m sure you would like them just from the animal aspect. They televised his books as “All Creatures Great and Snall” so you might find something on YouTube, but the books are better.
        I did a quick search and I think this might be the entire first book for free: https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=2L0fCfPW9A0C&printsec=frontcover&dq=james+herriot&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwiYuKrZ27LpAhUzShUIHYx8CiIQ6AEIKDAA#v=onepage&q=james%20herriot&f=false

        Liked by 3 people

      2. Oh wauw, that sounds really good! Definitely now when I’m back in the habit of reading. I was looking for books about dogs, but memoirs of a vet sounds good too. Thank you!

        Liked by 1 person

      3. All Creatures Great and Small is such a good read, it was a book I loved as a kid and made me want to be a vet (until I discovered writing of course!) Highly recommend it!

        Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks! I’ve noticed that the further I am on my journey, the better I get to know the illness, the easier it is to get some kind of grip. I love that I can be more practical about it, it gives me confidence. And maybe someone can have some benefit too when reading it.
      Thank you for your great comment, it makes me proud that my message came through as I intended it. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Wonderful, practical post!

    Giving and receiving advice is so hard!

    In our support group we make a point of avoiding straight advice, instead saying “what’s worked for me is…” Doing it that way helps the receiver feel less pressured while still providing something helpful.

    I think a lot of us struggle with Executive Dysfunction which maybe a lot of neurotypicals don’t get when giving advice. What seems easy to them is a forty step nightmare for us.

    So maybe it’s not so much the advice that’s unwanted but often the way it’s given by folks who don’t understand that makes it unpalatable for us? Just a thought!

    Great post as always 💖

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Thank you for your thoughtful comment! It made me think 🙂
      I think you’re right about executive difficulties with mental illness. We off course know that sleep is good and exercise too but how to implement that on a level that is ‘do-able’ for someone while (!) struggling is on a whole other level of care and providing advice.
      Putting it in the ‘I’ form, like you suggested, ‘what has helped me’ is a better way to find that connection between the messenger and the receiver.
      Mental illness can make you feel so ‘unique’ and alone (‘nobody goes through this’) that connection is key.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Very true! Connection is the key! Mental Illness has a way of isolating, leading us to believe we’re all alone in the fight. But the truth is lots of people are facing the same struggle, that’s what I love about peer support groups like DBSA and NAMI

        Liked by 1 person

  4. Global cognitive style is something I have learned to guard against in my thoughts and words, in large part because I know someone who frequently uses that in speaking. “You always say this, you always do that…” No one is really that consistent.

    Two things I lean on to remind myself not to engage in that kind of thinking come from Star Wars and rhetoric lessons. There’s this hilariously ironic line in Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith where a Light Side guy says, “Only a Sith (Dark Side) talks in absolutes.” Which is an absolute. 😂 There’s also a rhetoric principle that an argument based on absolute language only needs one contrary example to overturn it. The example is if someone argues all crows are always black, you only need to find one white crow to refute them.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Well that is such a good way to tackle global cognitive style, to find that one white cow!
      I’m monitoring my thoughts and sometimes I do think ‘Oh, it always happens to me’ ‘I’m always having issues’. It’s less now I’m more aware of it but it does happen. Thank you for your comment and sorry for my late response! I’ve been connecting with my dog and had some sleepless nights because of him howling and barking 😆😁

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I can be so self demanding that I forgot about the needed transition period, also for me!
        We are doing fine, one little paw/step at the time. Thank you for your comment, to be reminded of the transition period, helps me to take things slower 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  5. This is such a great post. Rich in detail and full of information. It’s wise to observe the kind of stuck negative thought patterns we typically fall into so we can readily identify when we are falling into the same old traps.

    Liked by 1 person

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