05 October, 2016
Every 6 months I wish I could go back in time and talk to myself 6 months prior. Life is so fast paced and there is so much drama; my early twenties have been extremely turbulent, with constant change in my circumstances every year. But the good side of this is that I always seem to learn something, or grow as a person in some way through the experiences that I have. The last 5 or 6 years have been so turbulent like this that every 6 months I discover something new that has a huge influence over my life.
More recently, I’ve discovered a few things that have radically helped me with probably the biggest ongoing problem I’ve had in my life – depression and anxiety. Because these strategies have helped me so much, and I’ve talked with lots of people who have the same battles, I want to share them with you.
I’ve grown a lot in this area, but I’m not free from problems, or depression, or anxiety. They will probably be with me on and off for the rest of my life. I don’t want to be naive about it. But I am more prepared than ever to face these challenges that will arise, and I hope that 6 months from now I will be even more equipped to face them.
I don’t want to pretend that I’m an expert, or that these strategies will magically fix everything, but I hope that they will help you with the next step forward.
The very first step
Firstly – It goes without saying that if you are battling depression and anxiety, your circumstances are unique, and you need to talk with someone about it. Start seeing a psychologist, even if it’s just low-key depression. It doesn’t matter. The key is that you have accountability – someone to openly share how you feel, and what you’re carrying around with you in your heart and your mind. I can’t stress that enough. Your life, your experience and your story are complex, and you are worth having it heard.
(What’s more, there are circumstances where depression is linked more closely to the chemistry of your body or your mind rather than life circumstances. This means that certain health conditions can contribute to feelings of depression, so it’s worth getting a blood test and visiting your GP.)
Talking with others about your struggles is just a given I wasn’t going to include on this list. This list is simply a few personal strategies that will hopefully help you with at least one step toward a more positive, enriched and happier life.
I got so carried away with number 1 that I decided to give it its own post! The other strategies I will write more about soon.
1. Instead of listening to yourself, speak the truth to yourself
When we are children, later as young people, and into adulthood, we naturally take our life experiences and internalise them into who we are and what we believe about ourselves. Experiences carry meaning, and they mould us into who we are.
At some point, the messages we receive, whether intentional or not, become perpetuated by our inner self. We take the messages we picked up and carry them on like an olympic torch, without anyone needing to hold it for us. So, long after the messages stop, they continue in our own minds.
For a lot of reasons, in this day and age, most of us do not grow up and face our teenage years genuinely believing, “I am OK as I am, I’m loved, I’m accepted.” As a result, we don’t face adulthood constantly hearing from ourselves, “I am OK as I am, I’m loved, I’m accepted.”
In a million ways, we define ourselves by messages that simply aren’t true. We are bombarded by voices, from our life experiences and messages we hear, that are often false, and seek to damage our self-worth. I think almost everyone hears these voices, but people who experience depression simply hear it more often, and eventually are convinced that they are true.
– You are worthless
– You are a failure
– No-one likes you
– You are ugly/fat/stupid/lazy
– You are a horrible person, you should be ashamed of yourself
– You don’t deserve that. You aren’t good enough
The truest lies
These kinds of thoughts are the worst kinds of lies. The worst kinds of lies, or perhaps the best kind, are those that have SOME truth in them.
The way that we read into our experiences can contribute to this.
– You lost that job because it was not right for you – “You are an incompetent failure. You can’t even hold down a job.”
– That relationship ended in break up or divorce – “You were not good enough for them. Who would ever love you? You couldn’t make it work. You are a failure as a man/woman.”
– You struggle with bodyweight issues – “You are fat and ugly.” (Actually, the media has lied to you about healthy food and nutrition anyway, but more on that later).
– Someone is hurt or offended by your behaviour, whether intentional or not – “You are a horrible person. How could you? Don’t you realise this person is hurt by you?”
– A loved one who you feel responsible for is self-destructive – “You are a failure as a mother/father/friend/carer. You are not good enough to help them.”
– You feel lonely – “No-one likes you, that’s why you’re alone. You have no friends.”
Thinking like this is poison, and it is crushing. Worse than that, these ideas are evil. They are harming you, and other people. There are millions of examples and scenarios where you might be tempted to drift into this kind of thinking. Whether you can acknowledge it or not, they are entirely false, and they can control your entire life if you let them, keeping you in slavery to shame, guilt and fear.
Change the channel
I heard it described recently in a podcast that self talk is like the radio – it is not you. It is actually separate from you as a person. And the most intriguing part is that, in time, you can learn to change the channel.
Instead, tell yourself the truth – out loud. Remind yourself of THE TRUTH, and BE FIRM ABOUT IT:
– That is bull****. Don’t lie to me. I am OK just as I am. I quit that job because it wasn’t right for me right now.”
– “What a load of crap. Yes, we couldn’t make the relationship work. But I did the best that I could. Maybe we just weren’t right for each other. Besides, relationships are a two way street.”
– “That’s ridiculous. Maybe I’m overweight, but I am OK with myself just as I am. I am not ugly. Sure, I will keep pursuing good health, but I will do it for the right reasons. I am attractive in my own way.”
– “Someone doesn’t like me, but I’m not a bad person. I am OK as I am, and I can only control my own behaviour, not anyone else’s.”
Entire books have been written on each of these points alone. One book that really helped me a lot in this is “Self Esteem” by Matthew McKay & Patrick Fanning, and “No More Mr Nice Guy” by Dr. Robert Glover.
Changing a lifetime of negative self talk can take time, but it is definitely possible, and achievable sooner than you think. This idea alone has radically changed my life. If you persist with it, it can end up changing every decision you make – from living totally bound by fear, to living out of love and joy. You will really surprise yourself with what you are capable of. It will give you the courage to pursue the life you want to live.
I know that there are a lot of hurting people out there. I was one, for a very long time. And now, for the first time in half a decade, I am going OK. I wouldn’t believe it was possible if I didn’t experience it for myself.
This is just one strategy that has helped me tremendously, along with a few others that I’ll share more about soon.
But, step 1 is always talk to someone you trust. When in doubt, play it safe and seek support.
Beyondblue – 24 hour mental health service:
https://www.beyondblue.org.au/ or 1300 22 4636
Headspace – Mental health service for people under 24:
This blog is about recognising when things aren’t working, and being willing to try something different. I’m not a mental health expert, this is simply my experience, and it’s working for me.
I’d love to hear from you, if you’ve tried something similar and it’s helped you in your life!
More coming soon.
Grace for Failures is the blog of Carlin Doyle to encourage and inspire people who have gotten life wrong for a long time, and want to try and do things a little differently. Click here for more info, and here for more posts.