Depression: Something That Helps Me
Okay, I've written a lot about my depression on my various blogs over the years, and mostly it's been the "screaming silently in text" type of post which is all about how horrible I'm feeling at the present moment and all the rest. Today, it's a bit different.
Today, I'm going to talk about something I've been doing for nearly two months now, which I'm finding is helping me with my depression.
It developed out of a bit of thinking that came to light in about mid-May, when I realised one of the things depression did for me was it made it very difficult for me to see the positives in what was going on around me (and thus made me very cross with people who said "look on the bright side", because as far as I was concerned, there wasn't one). Given my natural state of mind, I'll see the negatives, spot the rain cloud surrounding the silver linings, and always, always note not only is the glass half-empty (if that), it's also a dirty glass and there's a chip in the rim. I'm a natural for disaster planning, because I'm automatically looking on the bleak side of life, and preparing for the worst to happen. As a job skill, it's probably invaluable if I can just get into the correct field.
However, as a life-long habit, it sucks rocks through a straw. So I decided what I needed to do was start noticing when things went right, and writing those down, if need be. I tried it for a bit back in June, and it seemed to help - certainly it's harder to think everything in your life is going wrong if you have a list of things which went right. However, the notebook I was using in June for this was my general "stuff" notebook (the one I started up as an adjunct to my memory, which is starting to get a bit spotty as I get older), and I found I was forgetting to write things down each day.
So, in September, I bought another notebook, and designated this as my specific "What Went Right" notebook. At present, I only have one rule: I have to write down at least three things every day which went right, or were good about each day. No maximum number, but a minimum of three per day. I haven't missed a day yet (although I'll admit there are some days when I filled in the three things from the day before early in the morning of the next day), and looking back over the book, it makes for interesting reading. On days where I know I'm going to be stressed, I'll tend to keep the book with me, and fill in things as soon as I notice them.
I'm finding it does help with the depression, because I'm deliberately looking for the positive things, and for the things which went right, and writing them down when I spot them. It's harder to focus on the negatives when I'm looking for the positives - and it's harder to forget the positive things when I've written them down for future reference.
What this doesn't do: it doesn't change my underlying mood. If I'm miserable, I'm still going to be miserable, but I have to find at least three things during the course of even the most miserable day that went right - even if it's just something as simple as "I got out of bed"; "I ate something"; or "I didn't kill myself (or anyone else) today". (There're quite a few entries which basically consist of "the weather is horrible, but I'm not outside in it")
What this does do: it encourages me to recognise the things which went right, or the little things which were good about the day, even on days when things are absolutely catastrophically horrible. (There're at least a couple of entries which are me putting a good face on frustrating things which happened on a particular day; things like "my employment services provider did see me, eventually" or "found the limitations of the Centrelink appointments system").
Why I think this works for me: I'm fond of practical things I can do to deal with my condition (and I'm sorry, but referring to it in such a manner makes me think of the old codger in the Avengers speaking to Bruce Banner - "Son, you got a condition!" - which always makes me grin). The goal is easy to reach (a minimum of three things per day that went right, or that were good about the day). There's only the one rule (I have to put down at least three positive things or things which went right per day) and it's an easy one to stick with, even on the worst days. No rules about what counts as positive, or what counts as going right - it's a day by day decision.
I don't know whether anyone else will find this helpful. But I know it helps me, so I'm putting it out there as something which might help others. The notebook I'm using is a little A6 sized spiral-bound "Colour Hide" one (with a bright shrieking pink cover), and I'm keeping my place with an elastic band around the unused pages.