My Story: Part 7

This is a continuation, part 7, of my daily journal of life after outpatient treatment for depression, and anxiety. Please click for Part 1Part 2Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, and Part 6.

Part 7, Day 1,:

Vacation was amazing!! I lived in the moment and all of my stress and depression melted away. I felt so good on vacation. Of course, the minute I walked through my door at home, everything came crashing down onto my shoulders. So I guess I need to learn how to live like I’m on vacation. That’s easier said than done.

Day 5:

So I’ve decided to get a dog, or more specifically an emotional support animal. I’ve been putting it off lately, but I’ve finally decided that it’s now or never. I can’t keep waiting forever. I’m looking forward to having an emotional support animal. Hopefully it will help me with my depression.

On the flip side, learning to live like I’m on vacation is not an easy task. I’m struggling with it. I was so happy and living in the moment while on vacation and now that I’m home, everything is getting to me. I feel like I’m upset every other day. I wish my depression would get better. Hopefully a dog will help.

Day 12:

Today was a horrible day. I spent most of the day crying. First, I found out that the third dog that I was interested in was no longer available for adoption. Then, I found out that my best friend had changed his plans, making me feel like he had lied to me. Normally, we get lunch or dinner every Thursday, but today I feel like he is blowing me off. I feel like I’m not important or wanted.

All of which is a little ridiculous, because my boyfriend was hanging out with me today so it should have been a good day. At least he lets me use his shoulder to cry on. He even cried a little because I was so upset and he hates seeing me that way. He can be so cute. Of course, I cried when he left. I hate when he leaves. I know I’ll see him again, but I hate that we only get to see each other twice a week. I wish we could be together more.

Day 15:

It’s hard to stay angry at your best friend when he does nice things for you. I’ve been angry at him ever since I felt like he lied to me. But today, he might have found me a puppy and then he stopped by my work on his way home just to say hi. It was very nice of him and I made sure he knew that I appreciated it. It’s just been a struggle with him having a new girlfriend. I feel forgotten until he suddenly decides to do something to show me that I still exist in his life. I just wish those gestures weren’t so few and far between. That can make it difficult to remember.

Day 18:

I got the puppy!!! I was so nervous that my application was going to get turned down. I went and visited them yesterday, but they didn’t have any of the unadopted puppies in so I was told to come back tomorrow. Boy, was I surprised when she asked me if I wanted to take the puppy home with me that day. I wasn’t ready at all!! I had to ask my mom to puppy-sit so I could go get everything I need for her. I’m sure she’ll be a handful but it’ll be so nice having a dog to come home to. I can’t wait to train her!!!

Please stay tuned for Part 8. Here are the links for Part 1Part 2Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, and Part 6.

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Reprogramming Me: My Issues & My Struggles

According to the doctors, I have ingrained personality traits that are causing my depression. This means that I have learned certain ways of thinking and doing things that are actually part of the problem. This basically means that I have to learn how to reprogram my ways of thinking and my outlook on the world. Here are a couple of things they believe I need to work on:

  1. Mindfulness
    1. I’m not very mindful. I’m constantly reviewing the past or worrying about the future, so I have a very hard time being present. I need to learn to stay in the moment and be mindful, to pay attention to what is going on around me and to what I am doing in the moment.
  2. Quick Fix
    1. I want a quick fix to everything. I don’t want to have to struggle for answers or solutions to problems, I just want them fixed immediately.
  3. Catastrophize
    1. This is one of a couple cognitive distortions that I have. I tend to view situations in the worst possible light and look for the worst possible situation to occur. You can read about Cognitive Distortions here.
  4. Avoidance and Fixations
    1. I tend to avoid situations that I don’t want to deal with and fixate on things I shouldn’t.
  5. Negative outlook and worst case scenario
    1. I tend to have a negative outlook on life and believe that the worst possible scenario will occur.
  6. Expectation for things to go my way, or the way I plan.
    1. I have an expectation for things to go the way I plan and for everything to work out exactly as I specify. This is often not the case, and I can get extremely upset when the plans I have made go awry.
  7. Fixation on connection.
    1. Because of a lack of friendships, I have a fixation on connection. I yearn to connect with people and make friends. Oftentimes this connection causes me more harm because I form connections quickly and often believe I have a close friendship with someone who may only consider me as a passing friend.
  8. I also need to explore why group social settings are so uncomfortable
    1. Despite my need for connection, I have a hard time thriving in a group social setting. I need to explore why this is the case. I yearn for connection, but feel uncomfortable in group settings. Why?

I also have issues with my primary support group (my family) which I have discussed here and problems related to social environment which I will be discussing in a later post.

Some of the ways the doctors and therapists have suggested that I work on these issues is by focusing on and accepting myself. I’m holding onto ideals and an old relationship with myself that is only hurting me now. By focusing on myself, something I’m not very good at, I can form a new relationship and connection with myself that will make me a stronger person, and help me fight depression

All of these problems are works in progress and I will continue to update you on my progress in my journey to mental healthiness.

Cognitive Distortions: Fixes

Now that we know what cognitive distortions are and how this way of automatic thinking affects our moods, we must now find a way to counteract and change these thought processes. Here is a list of the cognitive distortions and steps that you can take to prevent  these types of thinking.

  1. All or nothing thinking
    1. Instead of categorizing things in black and white, try rating them on a scale from 1-10. By rating the situation, you are considering all sides instead of instantly picking a side.
  2. Overgeneralization
    1. Instead of making a judgment and reacting on that, view the evidence. Examine how others are behaving to the situation and why. Is there another perspective?
  3. Mental filter
    1. Am I only noticing the bad stuff? Am I filtering out the positives? What would be more realistic?
  4. Disqualifying the positive
    1. Am I exaggerating my negatives and minimizing the positives? How would someone else see it? What’s the bigger picture? It can also be helpful to minimize social media usage, where we compare our worst to other people’s best.
  5. Jumping to conclusions
    1. Mind reading
      1. Am I assuming I know what others are thinking? What’s the evidence? Those are my own thoughts, not theirs. Is there another, more balanced way of looking at it?
    2. Fortune teller error
      1. Am I thinking that I can predict the future? How likely is it that that might really happen?
  6. Magnification
    1. Thinking that the worst possible thing will definitely happen isn’t helpful right now. Ask yourself, “ what’s most likely to happen?”
  7. Emotional reasoning
    1. Just because it feels bad, doesn’t necessarily mean it is bad. My feelings are just a reaction to my thoughts – and thoughts are just automatic brain reflexes.
  8. Absolute Statements
    1. Am I putting more pressure on myself, setting up expectations of myself that are almost impossible? What would be more realistic? Avoid using words that have no meaning. Please see the list at the end of this article which shows what words are more helpful than others.
  9. Labeling & Mislabeling
    1. Instead of labeling the situation, look at the evidence. Also avoid double standards, these will only make a situation worse.
  10. Personalization
    1. Would most people who really know me say that about me? Is this something that I am totally responsible for? Instead of blaming yourself or another person, consider the circumstances. Look at the situation and view the evidence.
  11. Memories
    1. This is just a reminder of the past. That was then, and this is now. Even though this memory makes me feel upset, it’s not actually happening again right now.

 

Replace… with…
Should Like or Want
Should not Do not Like or Want
Have to Would Like
Must Wish
Must not Wish would not
Deserve Desire
Always Usually/Frequently
Forever Until/Unless
Never Rarely
Awful Disagreeable
Horrible Unfortunate
Terrible Unfavorable
Perfect Successful

http://jayuhdinger.com/chapters/faulty-thinking/

http://getselfhelp.co.uk/docs/FindingAlternativeThoughts.pdf

 

Cognitive Disorders

Cognitive Distortions are thoughts that cause reality to be inaccurately perceived. These inaccurate thoughts are usually reinforcing negative thoughts or emotions. This can lead to an anxious or depressive mental state when they combine to give an individual a negative outlook on their world. Cognitive distortions are also known as automatic thoughts. These thoughts are ingrained in individuals and affect the way they think. It takes time and patience to overcome these automatic distortions.

Here is a list of just a few of these distortions.

  1. All or nothing thinking:
    1. Also known as black and white thinking, it is ignoring all forms of in between or the ‘shades of grey’. This thinking also involves using absolute terms like ‘always’, ‘every’ or ‘never’. The thing to remember is that there is usually some grey in a situation and all or nothing thinking leads an individual to ignoring that.
  2. Overgeneralization
    1. Also known as categorizing, it is placing judgements or evaluations on an event, person or thing rather than describing the item or person. This thinking usually involves absolute terms such as ‘always’ or ‘never’. Overgeneralization causes individuals to ignore the facts and evidence in favor of their distorted vision.
  3. Mental filter
    1. This filter allows an individual to focus on a single detail (usually negative), about an event or person so that they overlook any positive. This thinking blocks out what doesn’t ‘fit’ with our ‘filter’ and is also known as looking through dark blinkers or ‘gloomy specs’. A mental filter causes individuals to ignore the positive or anything outside of what that filter provides.
  4. Disqualifying the positive
    1. This distortion causes individuals to overlook their positive experiences in favor of negative ones. It is also known as compare and despair, seeing only the good and positive aspects in others and comparing ourselves negatively against them. This can often be seen via Facebook, where people compare their everyday life to their friend’s ‘highlights reel’.
  5. Jumping to conclusions
    1. Mind reading
      1. Mind reading is assuming we know what other people are thinking, usually about ourselves. This distortion causes people to believe they can predict a person’s reaction or attitude.
    2. Fortune teller error
      1. Fortune teller error is assuming that a situation is going to end negatively despite lack of evidence. This can also be known as a self-fulfilling prophecy; because you assume a situation won’t end well, oftentimes it doesn’t because of that mindset.
  6. Magnification
    1. Also known as exaggeration or catastrophizing, this distortion causes individuals to overlook the one side in favor of the other. For example, overlooking the negative in a person by exaggerating the positive. It’s also known as making mountains out of molehills or imagining and believing that the worst possible thing will happen.
  7. Emotional reasoning
    1. This distortion causes individuals to take feelings as fact and base your decisions and actions on them. An example would be ‘I feel bad so it must be bad’. Individuals use this distortion to often put off doing something because they don’t ‘feel’ like doing it.
  8. Absolute Statements
    1. Absolute statements are words such as ‘should’, ‘must’, or ‘ought’. These statements raise expectations, and if these expectations are not met anger, frustration and disappointment occur. Absolute statements set up unrealistic expectations and can make people feel guilty.
  9. Labeling & Mislabeling
    1. Labeling is another form of black and white thinking. This is done by assigning either good or bad labels to yourself or other people. Again, there are no shades of grey and outside circumstances are not taken into consideration.
  10. Personalization
    1. Personalization is blaming yourself or taking responsibility for something that wasn’t your fault. Blaming others for something that is your fault, also falls under this category. This distortion is taking things personally when perhaps they didn’t involve you in the first place.
  11. Memories
    1. This distortion is when current situations or events trigger upsetting memories and lead you to believe that the danger is in the present rather than in the past. This causes distress in the present when the situation isn’t in the present, but in the past.

Perhaps after reading through these cognitive distortions, you realize that your way of thinking tends to lean towards these distortions. The first step to fixing these distortions is to realize that you have them. Please read the following article, Cognitive Distortions: Fixing the Problems for information on how to retrain your thinking away from distorted thoughts.

 

Cognitive Distortions

From: The Feeling Good Handbook

By: Dr. David Burns

 

http://jayuhdinger.com/chapters/faulty-thinking/

http://getselfhelp.co.uk/docs/AutomaticThoughts.pdf

http://getselfhelp.co.uk/docs/UnhelpfulThinkingHabits.pdf

http://getselfhelp.co.uk/docs/FindingAlternativeThoughts.pdf

 

The Definition of Success

Success is defined as the accomplishment of one’s goals or a person or thing that achieves desired aims. In this definition, it doesn’t matter what your goals or aims are, you are deemed successful as long as you complete them. The goals could be short term like finishing a book or long term, like going back to school, however you are only successful if you complete these goals.

Our goals change as we grow and change. I know that I started off with one life plan only to be heading in a totally different direction once my depression hit. And while, I’ll admit that I like this plan better than the old one, I’ve discovered that my life rarely ever goes as planned. I find that even my daily plans change constantly which can be frustrating for someone who is searching for stability.

I don’t feel successful. Honestly, I feel like a total failure. I feel like I’ve let down so many people in my life because I don’t have a college degree and it doesn’t look like I’m going to get one any time soon. There are days when I feel successful because I am independent and live on my own, but because I don’t have a degree or a decent job, I feel like my family looks down on me with disapproval and disdain.

I want to be successful and I need to stop looking for approval from other people. I only need approval from myself. Do I approve of what is going on in my life? The answer is I’m not sure. I feel like I’m headed in the right direction with my dream of starting ADAPT, but I’ve had enough plans go awry to know that it might not happen the way I plan.

Do I feel successful now? No. In fact, I mostly feel like a failure, but will I continue to strive for success? Yes. I have to. There is a part of me that is constantly climbing that ladder to success and maybe someday, I’ll be able to look back on my life and say that I’m successful. I know I need to look at my life now, and say that I am a success. I am still alive, I am still fighting and I have new goals to accomplishment. I am successful because I am alive despite a disease that kills so many, but I don’t feel successful. Hopefully one day, I will.

 

How to Deal With Being Mentally Ill Part II

So you’ve just been diagnosed with a mental illness. You’re scared, you don’t know what to do and you don’t know what other people are going to think of you now. You feel like you’ve been labeled and this label only makes you feel worse. Don’t worry, I’m here to help. Here are some things you should know.

I’d like to first describe depression for you. Depression is like your high school bully. Except, unlike that bully who is taking stabs in the dark trying to find what to say to hurt you the most, the depression is in our mind and knows exactly what to say. It pulls out everything we don’t like or that we think is not good enough about ourselves and shouts it at us just like that high school bully would. The depression knows exactly which nerve to strike. And while you can walk away from your high school bully, you can’t walk away from your mind and the depression that preys on it.

So you’re probably going to need medication and therapy. This doesn’t make you a bad person. In fact, this makes you a better person. You are doing what you need to do to be healthy. Medication will help fix the chemical imbalance in your brain. It’s necessary just like the treatment needed for cancer and you shouldn’t be ashamed to have a little help. This fight is just as important as fighting cancer, or any other sickness.

Your next step would be to find a therapist. Make sure you find someone that you like and whom you feel comfortable talking to. They are there to help you. Don’t be ashamed of asking for a little help. These are trained professionals who deal with mental illness on a daily basis. They want to help you and they want to help you help yourself. Learn what works best for you. Everyone’s struggle is different. You’ll have to learn of your triggers and warning signs and figure out what coping skills work best for you.

Mental illness isn’t easy. It is a disease of the mind. It is something you might have to work against for the rest of your life, but you are not alone. I urge you to seek out groups in your area for people with mental illness. Depression often makes you feel isolated, so hearing of other people’s struggles will remind you that you are not alone.

And I am here for you. If you need to talk, please don’t hesitate to message me. I understand the struggle you’re facing and how much of an upward battle it can seem like. I am facing it myself, every day. Just remember, you are not alone and you can do this. Win your fight!

 

How to Deal With Being Mentally Ill Part I

Being diagnosed with a mental illness can seem overwhelming at first. Here are some simple tips for dealing with your mental illness.

  • Take care of yourself. Eat a healthy diet, be physically active and get plenty of sleep.
  • Get exercise. Physical activity reduces depression symptoms. Consider walking, jogging, swimming, gardening or taking up another activity that you enjoy.
  • Get plenty of sleep. Sleeping well is important for both your physical and mental well-being. If you’re having trouble sleeping, talk to your doctor about what you can do.
  • Simplify your life. Cut back on obligations when possible, and set reasonable goals for yourself. Give yourself permission to do less when you feel down.
  • Structure your time. Plan your day. You may find it helps to make a list of daily tasks, use sticky notes as reminders or use a planner to stay organized.
  • Stick to your treatment plan. Don’t skip psychotherapy sessions or appointments. Even if you’re feeling well, don’t skip your medications. If you stop, depression symptoms may come back, and you could also experience withdrawal-like symptoms.
  • Learn about depression. Education about your condition can empower you and motivate you to stick to your treatment plan. Encourage your family to learn about depression to help them understand and be more supportive of you.
  • Learn ways to relax and manage your stress. Examples include meditation, progressive muscle relaxation, yoga and tai chi.
  • Pay attention to warning signs and learn your triggers. Work with your doctor or therapist to learn what might trigger your depression symptoms. Make a plan so you know what to do if your symptoms get worse. Contact your doctor or therapist if you notice any changes in symptoms or how you feel. Ask family members or friends to help watch for warning signs.
  • Write in a journal. Journaling may improve mood by allowing you to express pain, anger, fear or other emotions.
  • Avoid alcohol and illegal drugs. It may seem like alcohol or drugs lessen depression symptoms, but in the long run they generally worsen symptoms and make depression harder to treat. Talk with your doctor or therapist if you need help with alcohol or substance abuse.
  • Locate helpful organizations. Many organizations, such as the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) and the Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance (DBSA), offer education, support groups, counseling and other resources to help with depression.
  • Don’t become isolated. Try to participate in social activities, and get together with family or friends regularly.
  • Don’t make important decisions when you’re down. Avoid decision-making when you’re feeling depressed, since you may not be thinking clearly.

http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/depression/basics/treatment/con-20032977