Depression, Part IV

Nothing happens on the web on the weekends...

Sure it doesn't... And since no one is around to listen, I'll just add my experience in with Dave's (and now Bran's, added at 1645) and leave it here in case someone may be able to make use of it.

One of the problems with depression is that of a cycle set up inside the mind, a constant litany of negative reinforcement from within, those thoughts that pop to the surface to tell you how unworthy you are and how could you even begin to deal with things and what about this and what about that. Nothing seems to help and the inward spiral begins. ...and we can become so used to them that we don't even notice them for what they are: imprints from the past, from abusive relationships, from religions that focus on guilt, from never being good enough in the eyes of another. ...and of all of those, inadvertently or not, stamping that imprint into the psyche during times of vulnerability.

...and those imprints become a background for our lives, perhaps sublimated and hidden until some time of stress turns them loose on an unsuspecting mind, a mind that believes those words and impressions from the past and begins to repeat them until they become the only truth we know. ...and we simply cannot believe those who tell us otherwise because they don't know what it's like inside our heads. ...until we start to change those internal dialogs ourselves.

I'd tell you a story, but someone else has done it much better than I can; her name is Suzette Haden Elgin and a few years back she wrote a story titled Peacetalk 101. From her publisher's blurb:

"The story of an ordinary man, who is so disgusted with the state of the world, so depressed at what he sees as a universal absence of hope for humankind, that he sees no way out except the most desperate of measures. But then things that are not at all ordinary start happening to him, as a stranger shows him, one small mysterious step at a time, that he has another choice. This novella in the form of a parable, leads the reader on an amazing journey from despair to joy."

...and my synopsis to a friend:

Suzette Haden Elgin wrote a story about this guy who had such a lousy life he planned on killing himself 'cause everything sucked so bad and he was going to take the wife and the kid (he couldn't even remember the kid's name) along so they wouldn't have to deal with him and life. ...and all very benevolent. ..and he uses an advent calendar to track the days only there's this crazy guy on the bus every day that keeps telling him stories and a symbol from each day's story keeps showing up in the calendar when he opens the windows at night and the crazy guy's *rules* from the stories make him mad only he listens and starts to listen to himself and better yet, starts to subconsciously use the rules and changes his inner dialogs and learns the kid's name and remembers why he married his wife and ends up not hating his coworkers and starts wondering about God kinda' things 'cause it sure wasn't Santa Claus and doesn't off anyone and we can only hope he'll continue to live and learn 'cause she ends the book there.

The book's main page is here, with an excerpt. Simply said, I cannot recommend this book enough if you fight battles with internal dialogs. (Yes, it's the same book linked from my Stories page from when it was available on the web; I'm leaving the link up pending a review copy of the book).

Okay, that's nice, but the book isn't here and you are. Fair enough. I came late to this party: I knew about internal dialogs in an abstract sort of way; but her story was what started me actively listening to my thoughts as they applied to me and others. A few years later and I'm pretty good at trapping them when they come boiling up when I'm mad or stressed or sugared up; but it started small with just trying to remember not to put myself down. Oh, yeah; how hard is that? Well, not so hard, maybe...

When was the last time you talked or emailed with someone who just constantly put you down? (...and if so, why on earth are you subjecting yourself to that?) No, I'm betting you email with and talk with people who think you're okay and cool and fun and probably tell you so. Hmmm... How about listening to them for a start. No, I don't mean, "Gee, so and so thinks I'm cool, so I must be"; we know it doesn't work that easily. How about just a simple, "People do talk to me, so there must be something there..." Exactly! They see something in you that you are likely blind to. ..and they come back to check up on you and see how you're doing and to interact with you because they want to. So maybe you could listen to them a bit more? ...and maybe start taking control of those negative thoughts?

...and not just take control. Realize that those thoughts started out from someplace else before they were internalized, words and concepts imprinted on you when you looking to please someone. ...and their value today? Bleah! They only serve to drive you down. Take hold of them and toss them out the window onto the garbage pile. ...and when there's enough composted history there, plant a flower bed on top of it and get some use from old, decomposing dreck!

No, it's not easy; but yes, it does work and can work marvelously well. Replace those old internal dialogs with new ones. Simple ones. Baby steps. I think you'll find if you clear away the old trash from in front of the door, you'll be able to open it and take a look outside.

5/3/2003, 1151

Follow-up stories in response to the first four: Bran, on "Healing Depression"; Sheila, on "it's about the pain"; Krishanna, on "You Don't Look Depressed"; Sue, on "Stigma".

Please note that none of the authors represented on this page are in any manner health care professionals; we're just regular people relating experiences from our lives.

I realize none of this is easy reading for some people, but "if we help just one..."