Before going forward with this explanation, I want to explain that the following is about me and the details of my thoughts and feelings and how they have interacted with my behavior throughout my life.
More than anything, I have always wanted to feel comfortable. I always wanted to feel the idea that if I fit or belonged and I have feel that idea that I was welcome. More than anything, I have always wanted to walk into a room and not feel as if I had to “Fake” something or “Force” something and coerce my way through a conversation to keep people interested. Of all things, I never asked to feel uncomfortable or awkward or find myself interacting with the ideas that I was unwanted or unwelcomed.
In this regard, life is abrasive —it’s almost as if everything around me is either too bright or too loud. Or, everything around me is too soft to hear or too dim to see. But to me, it seems fine to everyone else. In my mind, I am the only one struggling.
Everything seems to come with a question. Everyone is suspect and all of my interaction comes with some kind of doubtful reservation.
And God forbid if I say or do the wrong thing. Nothing is worse than saying something I regret because the end of my sentence repeats itself in my mind. And no matter how I try, there doesn’t seem to be any way to make this stop.
I can try to fix it but fixing makes things worse and the hole I’ve dug becomes deeper and deeper. Then the anxiety machine turns on —and the harder I try to dig my way out, the deeper I dig, and the deeper I dig the faster the anxiety machine spins.
I never asked to feel uncomfortable. I never wanted to think about friends, people, or laughter as temporary. But before going forward, if this is to work then I must be forthright and honest in my assessment. This is my and depression as it relates to my life. Again, this is my without any over-dramatization. .
The act of proving myself or seeking approval and validation is draining. Trying to change or suit myself to accommodate surroundings is not only draining —it’s also a tough trick to pull off.
And I call it a trick because that’s how I see it; only, this trick is tough to pull off because it’s impossible to say, “Look, there’s nothing up my sleeve,” especially when there is something up my sleeve and everyone can see it.
It’s not that I want to get over or hurt someone. That’s the last thing I want. I just don’t want be uncomfortable. I want to feel wanted and welcomed. More than anything, I want to feel loved and believe that I belong.
Intellectually, I understand that I am not the only one to think this way. Emotionally, however, logic has no part in this equation, and the lonesomeness can be unbearable.
Although they seem real, I lose sight of the fact that my thoughts are not always fact. The same goes for my feeling as well. I see this as the four stations of a “Y”
On the top left station of the “Y” is my thought process. The top left is my emotions and moving down to the center section, this is where my thoughts and feelings combine, converge, and then the bottom station of the “Y” represents my behavior.
I am not claiming this to be an original description. I know there are several diagrams that show this and I have pictured one with credit to the website beneath it.
However, I see this as a flow of my thought, feeling, and behavior —and sometimes, this is too much to endure.
When I interact with this and the anxiety machine takes over, this diagram becomes electrified.
This is depression.
Or should I say, this is an example of my depression. Either way, it becomes hard to sleep when the regret seeps in and take over the thought process. I find myself reliving old or previous conversations —almost reliving them to the word; and wishing I could change them or wishing I could take them back, I relive them and reword them and then I rehearse them differently in my head. The only problem is the conversation is done and the effects are out of my control.
I was at a 12 Step meeting on Friday night and having a conversation about the first step with someone.
He explained, “The first step talks about being powerless over alcohol.”
Then he told me, “But I’m not just powerless over drugs and alcohol. I’m powerless over a lot of things.”
“Me too,” I said. “I’m powerless over a lot of things and my life becomes the most unmanageable every time I try to control them.”
And this is true.
Each time I try to control the uncontrollable, I spiral down and find myself in a hole that only gets deeper. I have lived with depression and social discomfort for as long as I can remember. Although I am clean and sober, I still have my bouts. I am certainly not above or better than anyone else.
I am human with flaws and all.
More and more, I learn about my interaction with my own “Y” diagram. This is where mindfulness helps. Mindfulness is a technique in which focuses one’s full attention only on the present, experiencing thoughts, feelings, and sensations but not judging them (or reacting to them.) And I’m not always mindful.
No, sometimes, I am the exact opposite. Sometimes I give in to the thought machine, which affects the feeling’s side of the diagram, so when they connect at the midsection or at pre-action part of my diagram, my behavior becomes the result.
I often hear people ask why others behave the way they do. Well, this is my best explanation. People ask why we get high or drink or worse, people wonder why someone would commit an act like suicide or self-harm. Well, it all goes back to their “Y” diagram.
It is hard to stop the thought machine —especially when it tilts and spins out of control. We lose all sense of logic at this point. But we forget that thoughts are not always real. And neither are feelings. In most cases, feelings are just a response, which we connect to our past or previous experiences and attach them to our emotion. This can be raw, frightening, and painful. Most of all, living this way is extremely uncomfortable. And nobody wants to live uncomfortably.
- Use positive distractions. Read a book, listen to music that motivates you to feel better and not worse, or take a walk.
- Interact and talk with others who share similar experiences and feelings and look to improve. This is important because this keeps is from feeling alone, different, or ostracized from the rest of the world.
- Replace negative thoughts with positive action (Exercise, meditation, cleaning, working on something in the home or for yourself) but whatever action you choose, be sure to choose something beneficial instead of remain stuck in yourself. (That’s the worst place to be.)
- And breathe! Breathing exercises are great for when the panic comes. Breathe in deep through the nose and out through the mouth (inhale the flowers and blow out the candles, so to speak. This was the best description I’ve ever heard on how to do this)
- Write your thoughts down because It’s important to get your thoughts out)
- Also, therapy is a great thing! Find someone with the right personality for you. Do not settle and just speak with anyone that will see you. This is just like any relationship. Chemistry is everything and since the details you will share will be deeply intimate, be sure to find someone you can speak with about anything. Remember something; your comfort means everything.
- Socialization is important. Albeit one of the most difficult things to do—do whatever you can to get out of yourself because isolation is the worst move when it comes to depression.
- Set realistic and achievable goals. This consists of daily incremental goals, short-term goals, and long-term as well. Use the acronym R.A.S.O (Realistic Achievable Sustainable Outcome) to simplify this. Ask yourself. “What’s my R.A.S.O. [rah-so] and work your way towards each and every goal you set —and be mindful that setbacks happen but they don’t have to kill us and the setbacks we have (in reality) do not have to be so detrimental that they kill out momentum.
The worst part of depression is the inaccurate belief that nothing could or ever will get better. When this happens, I tend to feel stuck in a sabotaged, self-fulfilled prophecy —and then when it all fails, I find myself complaining, “See? I knew it wouldn’t work!”
Truth is I quit before I even tried . . .
Getting back to the “Y” diagram above, my past experiences and recollections have a tendency to shade the facts of what happens in front of me (perception is everything) and we expect the worst.
Take a unreturned phone call for example. This becomes a personal offense and the why diagram in our mind fires off; the thought side interacts with the feeling side and they both look back to past and/or painful experiences and digging deep into the old mental Rolodex, immediately, we assume something is wrong. In our minds, we work up a million reasons why our phone call has not been returned and the longer we wait for the call —the worse the scenarios become.
I am guilty of this.
And if (or when) I give in to this thought process, the anxiety machine takes off and I spiral out of control. In part, my concerns are related to my own behaviors or dishonesties. In part, I’m afraid of falseness or a dishonesty in love towards me. In some cases, this ties into my past feelings of rejection. In other cases this ties into my fears of being disliked or unwelcomed.
At my worst, I was afraid to smile or enjoy myself for much of my life because I was afraid to let go of the anger. I was afraid to let go of the anger because I used anger to protect me from feeling vulnerable.
I sought through different ways to compensate my feelings of inadequacy but at best, the results were always temporary. Therefore; I was afraid to smile because I feared that A) I might look foolish, and B) why smile if the sadness is bound to return, and C) what if the joke was really on me?
This was me:
Always waiting for something to go wrong, always waiting for the other shoe to drop, always thinking there is a catastrophe around the corner, and lastly, I was always waiting to learn that everything was . . . entirely . . . all . . . my . . . fault.
A few months back, I learned something about P.T.S.D. (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder) which, in other words is truly a “Moral injury,” and I read about this in a report posted by Syracuse University’s The Moral Injury Project
“Moral injury is the damage done to one’s conscience or moral compass when that person perpetrates, witnesses, or fails to prevent acts that transgress their own moral and ethical values or codes of conduct.”
(quote taken from: http://moralinjuryproject.syr.edu/about-moral-injury/)
The above is not limited to or specific to soldiers or military alone. Same as the above quote describes, I have memories and visions that I remember from my childhood and up into my young adulthood years.
I lived in response to these thoughts and memories for a very long time. In some cases, the ends (to me) seemed to justify the means, in which case —yes, suicide made sense to me. And although I agree this would have hurt others in my life, as I saw it, at least they would heal. And me —I never thought I would ever heal.
I have good days and bad. I have days when yes, it is too hard to get out of bed and be motivated. There are nights when I can’t sleep and I can’t get comfortable. The thought machine moves too quickly and I can’t seem to stop the spinning.
This is why drinking and drugs made sense to me. This was my way to even the playing field. This was my way to stop the thought machine and slow it down to an unobjectionable speed.
(I love that word, by the way: Unobjectionable. It just fits perfectly sometimes.)
Over the years, I’ve had to learn different ways to overcome depression. I had to find out, “What’s my R.A.S.O.?” and work my way through or else all would feel lost and the life I had would be left to just existing instead of living. I had to learn how to feel better.
So what about you?
What’s your R.A.S.O.?
What are you going to do to feel better?
Something, I hope.
Otherwise, that self-fulfilling prophecy and impending doom you’ve been waiting for might just come true