It is easy for someone to say, “Just don’t think about it,” and act as if this is easy enough for someone else to do.
(There goes that word “Just” again)
When it comes to depressive thinking, telling someone, “Just don’t think about it,” suggests our thinking is a choice, which, maybe it is or maybe it isn’t. Keep in mind, this is neither a medical forum nor am I a professional with a professional opinion. However, I am someone that has lived with depression, which means I understand the struggles on how to interact with my thinking.
Something that worked for me is that I needed to learn how to make certain connections in my mind. What worked for me is replacing thought with action.
I found replacement and distraction to be the most helpful tools when interacting with troubled thinking.
To tell me, “Just don’t think that way,” makes no sense. I did not sign up or ask to have depressive thinking. No one wants this. Throughout the years, I had to learn how to direct my thinking in different directions. Otherwise, I become captive to my thoughts.
There were times when my stressors would take over. I had anxiety attacks. My panic was through the roof.
I couldn’t sleep. I couldn’t relax. All I could do is live through the tension, which was unimaginable. There were times when I swore I was going to die. Breathing was hard. And worse, there were times when my depression took a different turn. I would be in bed and lacked the desire to get out, change my clothes or even brush my teeth.
But why does something like this happen?
Pushing aside the chemistry and all the clinical talk, I had to understand this for myself. I wanted to come to my own understanding. I wanted to figure this out so I understood more of my own thinking. This way, I could improve.
I learned the mind is a busy place. This is not only so for me. This is so for all of us. The mind is a series of pathways. This is where our thinking connects.
I had to learn that my mind thinks according to opinion and emotion. My mind reacts to fears and concerns.
Sometimes, with depression, my mind predicts the future, in which I have expectations of danger. I have predictions of shame and heartache, or humiliation, rejection, and public failure.
I see the mind as a series of junctions, which pair off and, or, split, just like a road map. The traffic on these roads can be busy at times.
(Overthinking tends to do this.)
We are all certainly welcome to nurture any thought we choose. But to tell someone not to think that way makes no sense to me. Instead, I never tell people what to think. I simply ask if the thought process is beneficial. I offer a distraction or a replacement.
I say this because I know how it feels when my thoughts run away and someone tells me, “Just don’t think that way.”
I never asked to overthink. I never asked for depressive thoughts. Telling me not to think this way is far from helpful. In fact, the only helpful thing to say anyone is to try and help create new pathways of thought.
This is how I’ve been able to deal with my depression, which at times, was tragic and difficult. But even still, I had to learn ways to direct my thinking. Otherwise, I become a victim to my thoughts.
If this happens, it becomes literally impossible to weave through the day and negotiate my responsibilities or navigate through work or my home life.
In times like this, the world is against me. Everything is about to fall apart. I feel so down.
And then some genius comes over and says, “Just don’t think about it,” to which I become even more frustrated because A) this simplifies and belittles something so personal and difficult to me and B) as it is, I already feel different.
As it is, I already feel like some mentally deformed mutant that can’t think straight. But when someone comes and tells me, “Just don’t think that way,” I feel even more alienated and different, which churns the thinking even more.
My best description of depressive thinking is we lose to ourselves the same way water loses to a drain. I swirl. I cannot fix or defend myself. In my best defense, I have had to learn how to stop this before I sunk through the drain.
I learned that there is help:
Depression is a killer. Make no mistake about this. When people talk about deaths related to alcohol or drugs and when people talk about the opiate epidemic or when people discuss suicide, think about the underlying problem, which is seldom addressed.
Depression is the biggest killer of them all because depression is a prime motivator, which can often cause a dangerous and deadly reactions.
Fear and pain cause the mind to overreact. Shame and guilt, social awkwardness, and rejection are all part of this.
These are the avenues our thoughts travel along. As I see it, the only way to change this is to create new ways of thinking. We have to create new pathways.
To tell someone how to think is not helpful whatsoever. To help someone create a new pathway, however, is lifesaving.
When seeking help for depressive thinking, it is important to choose your team wisely. This needs to be a judgement free (and stigma free) team that you feel comfortable with.
Part of depression is the lack of feeling free. Meanwhile, I have even heard professionals say, “Just don’t think that way.”
This is not helpful.
We are all welcome to think whichever way we choose. Rather than condemn thoughts, I have found it useful to let them be and learn how to interact with them. Rather than hold depressive thoughts, I have learned that it is best to not hold them at all or dissect them, but more, I simply let them pass.
I have had to chant to myself, “That’s not real. This isn’t happening,” when my thoughts get too much. I use means of positive distraction, I use positive replacement by replacing harmful thoughts with positive actions.
By replacing thoughts with action, I have allowed my mind to nurture a different avenue.
It is my job to interact with my thoughts. Not to remove the freedom of thought but to direct my thoughts in a more beneficial way, which, as a result creates new pathways of thinking.
This way my mind recognizes the success of new results.
This way, I improve.