Negative Thinking

Hello, all! It’s been so long! I’m afraid I haven’t been in much a writing mood lately, but I figured I should check in and let people know I’m still alive. 🙂


I wouldn’t call myself an optimist. I like to think of myself as a realist. But, let’s be honest, that’s just a fancy marketing-type term for pessimist, isn’t it?

In the past, I have frequently and compulsively let myself mope and ruminate about all the awful things in life. It’s kind of a chicken and egg thing with the depression; do I feel depressed because of the negative thoughts, or do I think negative thoughts because of the depression?

When I began treating my depression and anxiety, I had to confront my own thinking patterns. The negative thoughts were not helping me. If I wanted to be happy, I had to learn to think more positively, or, at the very least, realistically about things. Instead of telling myself ‘Today is going to be hellish,’ I had to begin telling myself ‘Today might be a good day; I won’t know until I get on with it.’

The change in perspective has helped a little, though it’s not a pancea. There’s a bit of a learning curve to it, but eventually it starts to feel natural to challenge the negative thoughts. I assume the eventual goal is that you don’t have all the negative thoughts to challenge, but that seems like a distant goal at this point.

Now, here’s my confession: sometimes I still let myself mope and ruminate and relish in those terribly negative thoughts. I do this for two reasons.

The first reason is that it allows for a cathartic release. Once in a while, I curl up in bed and think awful things and have a cry. Sometimes I feel better after. Not always. Sometimes I feel worse. But the times that I feel better allow me to justify it in my own mind.

The second reason is to combat anhedonia. I spend a lot time comfortably – or uncomfortably – numb. Sometimes it seems like I don’t feel much of anything. Letting myself think negative thoughts and feel bad for a while serves as a reminder that I do have feelings, no matter how well I manage to push them down most of the time. I wonder if this doesn’t make me a bit like an addict. Perhaps I’m addicted to feeling bad. I’ve spent so much of my life feeling miserable that there’s a certain amount of comfort in it. Still, I know this won’t help me to get better, so I try not to do this too often.

But let’s look on the bright side since that’s what we ought to do: at least I don’t mope all the time anymore. Any progress is good.

Three-day Rule

 

Forewarning: this post discusses suicide.

Hello all! Still alive? Yes, me too. I’m going to credit this fact to the three-day rule.

No, not the dating three-day rule. I’m not qualified to give relationship advice!

This rule: if you are going to commit suicide, wait three days…or five days…or a week. Just wait.

Suicide might seem like a really good idea – or, at least, a very tempting idea – at a particular moment. But there is a very real chance that if you wait at least three days, it won’t seem so appealing.

Now, if three days seems like way too long, or if you still intend to attempt suicide after three days, I’ll encourage you to call emergency services (911, 999, 112, or whatever it is in your location), or a suicide hotline (here’s a list of hotlines by country), or go to an emergency room, or talk to somebody…anybody.

But the decision to commit suicide can be a very impulsive one. And impulses pass.

For me, the impulse came on very suddenly. One moment, I was okay (well, as okay as I ever am). The next moment, I was very much not okay. In under an hour, I had a method and a note planned. But I still had a few details to work out (I’m a stickler for details, even in a life-or-death situation it seems!). While trying to work out those details, I came across the three-day rule online. Three days isn’t very many – it’s very few in comparison to being gone for all of eternity – so I figured I could suffer through them. By the end of those three days (hell, by the end of the next day), the impulse was gone.

I’m glad the impulse passed. I’m okay (again: as okay as I ever am). I still have bad days, and I still have suicidal thoughts sometimes. But not every day is awful. Some decent things happened in the months following – like eating great food, or watching interesting T.V., or petting a dog, or talking to my family, or meeting my goddaughter, or spending time with my friends – and I would have missed out on those things if I hadn’t followed the three-day rule.

Take things one day at a time…or three days at a time. Whatever works for you.


If you want to read more about the three-day rule, try this website.

 

Side note: apparently, the blog is 5 years old today! It doesn’t feel like 5 years!

Changing is hard

Changing is hard. Okay, lots of things are hard when you’re depressed. Getting up in the morning. Finding the energy to do everyday tasks. Looking for the will to go on. You know, all that good stuff. But changing yourself and your thoughts is especially hard.

It’s a strange battle, isn’t it? Often, you know what you ought to do or have to do. And often, you just can’t seem to summon up the will to do it.

Let’s say you want to to start exercising more, and let’s say you even found the energy to do it a couple of days. Great! That’s a good start in making a positive change in your life. Then you miss a day, or two, or three, or a month. That change didn’t go so well, and now it’s like you have to start over from the beginning. It can be demotivating.

Or let’s say you’re trying to combat social isolation. You chat with a couple of friends you haven’t talked to in a while, catch up. Everything seems pretty okay, and maybe you’re even feeling pretty good about the whole thing. Then plans you made with one friend fall through and you’re left feeling disappointed and depressed. It’s not really their fault and it’s not necessarily yours. But it can set your progress back.

I know there are changes I should make to improve my life. The problem is that my mind, my depression tells me that these changes are nearly impossible. I think of the cost, the energy needed, the risk and I find it difficult to carry things through. Changing is hard!

And I’m stubborn, really stubborn. I have negative thought processes that have slowly been ingrained in me over the past 20+ years; it might take another 20+ years to rewire those processes.And I’m so, so tired of fighting some days – tired of fighting with myself, with the world. Sometimes I don’t want to change. Sometimes I want to take the easy route.

But I think change can be good. So I try, and try, and keep trying, despite some reluctance and more than a little anxiety.

I don’t think there is some magical way to make changing easier. Take things one step at a time? Get back up when you fall? Pick your battles wisely? It’s all decent advice. But it’s still going to be hard. And it’s still going to seem pretty awful. And it’s probably going to be pretty depressing.

But I hope it’s worth it in the end!

❤ Michelle

Runs in the Family

Mental illness can have hereditary links. Between scientific evidence and anecdotal experience, I don’t think many people would disagree with this. If somebody in your family has a certain mental illness, you might have it too. You might not. But you might.

I couldn’t really tell you if depression runs in my family. I’m tempted to say it does, but I could be mistaking somebody’s regular old sadness, or temporary bouts of depression for something more serious. I’m not a doctor, so I won’t try to diagnose anybody.

However, I can say with more confidence that anxiety does run in my family. It is especially common in the women. One of my aunts has received medical attention and medication for anxiety. When some of the others talk about their worries, I’m able to recognize the unhealthy thought patterns. I recognize them because I have them myself.

But here’s the thing: we don’t talk about it, not really. Something might be mentioned in passing. Nobody comes out and says “I have an anxiety disorder.” For whatever reason, talking about it isn’t something we do. I’m really no better than the rest of them. I’ve never told anybody in my family my diagnoses. None of us are necessarily hiding the truth, but we don’t face it head on either.

And I wonder how much of the anxiety is learned behaviour. My mother is a worrier. She’ll keep herself up all night worrying about things. I’ve done it a time or two (or three, or four – I’ve lost count) myself. Did I pick up on her bad habits? Did I subconsciously learn to be afraid of things because I sensed that she was afraid?

I don’t know, but I know it can happen. We’ll use the example of my mother again. She hates thunderstorms. She’s afraid of them. I love them, but so does my father. I asked my mother why she’d afraid. She said because her father was. When there was a storm in the night, he’d get up and pace in the kitchen. He was afraid of storms because his mother was afraid. She would gather the children and they would all hide beneath the kitchen table when there was a storm. This fear was passed down through the generations because the children took on their parent’s worries.

What can I conclude from all this? Not much. All I know is that my family is a bunch of worriers and I love a good storm.

Michelle’s very unscientific and inconclusive vitamin D experiment

Spring finally rolled out in my area. It’s warmer (sometimes). It isn’t pitch black outside at 5pm. This is good news for sufferers of seasonal affective disorder (SAD), also sometimes called ‘winter depression’. I’ve never been diagnosed with SAD, but I have noticed that I often feel more depressed in winter. I wanted to try to combat this last winter.

Now, let me try to explain my thinking:

  • Some research suggests there could be a link between vitamin D deficiency and depression (Just check out these Google Scholar results for the search ‘vitamin D depression’).
  • I experience increased symptoms of depression in winter.
  • I am probably vitamin D deficient in winter.
    • I come to this conclusion because the main source of vitamin D is sunlight. I live above the 37th parallel, which makes it more or less impossible to get enough vitamin D from sunlight in the winter (I’ll let Harvard Health Publications explain this one.)
  • Therefore, vitamin D deficiency might be linked to my increased symptoms of depression.
  • Therefore, increasing my intake of vitamin D might help combat those increased symptoms of depression.

That makes sense, right?

It’s difficult to get enough vitamin D from diet alone, so I decided to take supplements. Eat Right Ontario suggested that 600-4000iu was both safe and good for me, so ignoring some allegations that we might actually need far more vitamin D, I always took between 1000iu and 2000iu.

I’ll jump ahead and give you the “results” right now: taking vitamin D didn’t seem to do a damn thing for me. I tracked my mood throughout the winter, asking myself at the end of the day ‘How did I feel today?‘…the answer was usually ‘Blah!

But here were the problems with my experiment:

  • I did not take the supplements every day.
  • I varied the amount of vitamin D I was taking (and my amounts may have been too low).
  • I did not use a very rigorous mood and symptom tracking questionnaire.

This makes for bad science (not even touching the fact that I’m just one trial!). Any of those problems could skew the results of my very unscientific experiment.

So, unfortunately, I can’t really come to any solid conclusions. I might try this experiment again next winter, but with stricter guidelines. Until then, I’ll just enjoy the sunshine.

Notes: I’m not a doctor and I don’t play one on T.V. I did not do this with a doctor’s permission or under a doctor’s supervision. If you are curious about what supplementing vitamin D could do for you, talking to a real doctor is almost certainly a good idea. Stay safe, stay well, friends 🙂

 

Worthlessness, Depression, and Unemployment

I am almost impressed by how worthless depression and unemployment can make you feel.

If you have depression, chances are you already question your worth. Unemployment can seem like confirmation of your worthlessness. Job searching is like a really un-fun game to see how many times you can be rejected and still get back up after. Every rejection can make you question your own worth. Am I not good enough for that job? Am I not smart enough, skilled enough, nice enough? Am I not worthy of a job?

Since I graduated, I’ve been looking for full-time work. The job search isn’t going that well. I place some of the blame on the poor job market, and some of the blame on myself. Yes, it doesn’t help that I live in a city that was hit hard by the recession and hasn’t really recovered. Yes, it doesn’t help that I’m overwhelmed by anxiety every time I send out a resume. There are many reasons things aren’t going well. It’s a complex problem. Yet my brain likes to tell me that it’s a really simple thing – I mean, isn’t it clear? I’m unemployed because I’m worthless!

The truth is, I’m probably not worthless. You’re probably not worthless either. I’m not sure if I’ve met a person without any worth.

So how do you combat the feelings of worthless that come with depression and unemployment?

I really wish I knew the answer to that question!

I’ve been trying to do a few things to keep my mood up. I’ve been doing some exercise. I’ve been taking some vitamins. I try to get out of the house once in a while. I’ve been doing some writing (though not on this blog obviously, oops). It all helps a little, but it’s not a perfect solution. I still have to fight the feelings of worthlessness.

But if I stop fighting the feelings, I know I will just get more depressed, and feel more worthless. If that happens, I don’t think I will have the strength to continue my job search, which would make me even more depressed and worthless-feeling. Vicious circle, no? So even though I’m tired and sad, I keep going. Hopefully that’s enough for now.


 

Have experience with depression and/or anxiety and unemployment? Have tips? I’d love to hear your stories or advice, and I’m sure other readers would too! Why not leave a comment below? 🙂

 

Change of Scenery

I fought tooth and nail to avoid spending the holidays with my family and friends this past year. I was in such a bad state of mind that I didn’t feel like being around people (especially when people would be merry-making). I just wanted to be left alone with my misery.

Despite my protests, I ended up ‘going home’ for a visit anyway. In truth, my family and friends didn’t give me much of a choice – they were quite adamant I was going to visit them! And you know what? The change of scenery was good for me.

I totally expected to spend most of my time completely miserable. That’s how I was spending my time, so I figured it would continue. But just being in a different place and around different people helped my state of mind. I wasn’t necessarily all smiles and laughter, but I also wasn’t hobbled by my anxiety and depression. It was okay.

Now that the holidays are over and I’m back in my normal environment, I can feel the miserable state of mind creeping back in. I can’t just pick up and visit my family and friends whenever I want, but I think I can still use a change of scenery as a way of shaking my bad mood.

So, when I’m feeling poorly, I’ll try to switch things up. This might mean going for a walk, or heading to the store, or it might just mean stationing myself in a different room (It’s cold outside, but it’s nice and warm in here! 🙂 ) Hopefully I’ll see some benefit from this.

Anybody have any experience with this? Anybody think this would help them? Drop it in the comments 🙂 I’d love to hear from you!

All the best to all of you!

X

Michelle

Web find: Anti-Depression Kit

Just a quick post to share something I saw floating around the web (I believe this is the original Tumblr post). Check out this ‘Anti-Depression Kit):

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I just thought this was very sweet.


More posts coming – I’ve just got to pull myself out of my pit of sadness first. I’m getting there!

All the best to all of you 🙂

The Impact of Suicide (on someone with depression)

Warning: This post talks about suicide. If that will be upsetting or triggering for you, I do suggest skipping this post. Please keep yourself well!


Someone I knew killed himself. (more…)

The physicality of depression and anxiety

I think that some people don’t fully understand how mind can affect body, especially in the case of mental illness. Even I underestimate how the effects of mental illness manifest in my body. I’m good at ignoring and neglecting my body. Which isn’t good! There are many symptoms you might notice in yourself or others. I’m going to talk about some common ones.

Changes in sleep patterns

You might find yourself sleeping more, less, or lighter/heavier than you normally do. I think this often goes hand-in-hand with feelings of fatigue. I know it’s hard for me to get a good night’s sleep when I’m very stressed or depressed. I could easily stay awake all night ruminating. I’ve always been a night owl and had troubles falling asleep. It’s really hard to maintain sleep patterns when you have depression and anxiety, but it’s still good to try. It’s easier to face the world when you’re well-rested.

Changes in appetite or diet

You might find yourself more or less hungry when you’re depressed or anxious. Personally, I’m an emotional eater; I try to distract myself from bad feelings with good-tasting food. Spoiler alert: this method doesn’t actually work. I find I have to keep in mind what my body needs rather than what my mind wants. Staying hydrated is really important too (and it keeps me from feeling hungry when it’s not time to eat).

Pain and tension

This one covers a lot – you could experience back pain, chest pain, joint pain, muscle pain, tension, pressure, etc. I’m lucky in that I don’t experience too much pain in relation to my depression and anxiety, but I do experience a lot of muscle tension. I’m incredibly tense all the time. I clench my jaw. My shoulders are often drawn up. My back and neck are held stiff. My brow furrowed and lips pursed in an unhappy expression. I’ve been trying to correct this. I do a little self-massage, and I practice muscle relaxation. These are both useful, but as soon as I stop thinking about being relaxed, I tense right back up again. I joke that tense is my natural state. I’ve unknowingly trained my body to always be tense, and now I have to train it to relax. It’s not an easy task, but I’ll keep working on it.

Headaches

I think headaches, especially tension headaches, are a really common symptom. I get quite a few headaches. I don’t know if this is entirely connected to my mental health, as headaches and migraines are common in my family, but the depression and anxiety certainly don’t help. I haven’t found a good way to prevent stress-related headaches. When I get a headache, I generally just take some aspirin or acetaminophen (a.k.a. paracetemol) and hope for the best. I know several people who don’t like to take any medication when they have headaches. I couldn’t do that! Kudos to them, I suppose.

Stomach aches

I don’t know exactly how common this symptom is, but it was my first and most noticeable bodily symptom. As a teenager, I had chronic stomach aches, often to the point that I felt quite nauseated. I would get so anxious and stressed out my body was producing excess acid (which I feel is a really weird ‘defense mechanism’). Turns out this hurts! My doctor prescribed me ranitidine (which you might know as over the counter Zantac) to reduce acid production. This worked fairly well for me; I used ranitidine for a long time just to able able to get through the day without an aching belly. My stomach is still sensitive, and I take ranitidine from time to time, but I’ve become more attuned to when my stomach is getting achey, and I’ll try to nip the problem in the bud by altering my diet and doing some stress and anxiety-relieving practices.

I’m of the opinion that recognizing these physical symptoms is important. Recognizing them can help you be more aware of your mental state (e.g. ‘I haven’t been sleeping well…possibly because I’ve been anxious about x‘). Plus, you can treat the symptoms if you notice them; this might not be as effective as treating the overall cause, but I think it could still give you a little relief and improve your quality of life.

If you have any experience with or tips for dealing with stuff like this, please do share! 🙂

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