Getting into a cycle of negative and pessimistic thoughts is so easy for me. I look at a situation and can pick out all of the insurmountable challenges.
Whether it’s related to work, writing, relationships or general life, I see life with a negative perspective. It’s like having permanent sunglasses on that prevent me from seeing the positive light shining all around me.
As I’ve written in some previous posts, I am in the process of moving which has been overwhelming. The house my boyfriend and I just purchased was left filthy. I am still shocked that people chose to live in such filthy conditions. The bathtub and dish washer are moldy, all three sinks are grimy, I don’t think they ever cleaned their dryer vent and I feel like I have to wash my hands every few minutes to feel clean.
My negative mindset says, “You’ll be cleaning up these people’s shit forever!” “You’re never going to feel clean in your own home.” “This house was a mistake.” “Why am you so lazy that you can’t clean everything in one go?”
I spoke with my therapist today. She suggested to take each task one step at a time. To compartmentalize instead of looking at the house as one giant task.
It’s hard to look at it positively though when you live in a negative thought cycle.
Do you struggle with negative thinking? How do you change your mindset to think positively?
“Most of your class is smarter than you.” “No one wants to be your friend.” “Of course you didn’t win.”
Throughout my childhood, I taught myself to have no self pride. At all. Despite being decently intelligent and skilled; I could never accept a compliment. If I didn’t win the very best at a contest, the voices inside told me why. If I happened to do well; they reminded me of how many other people were better, or of how there weren’t many competitors.
I’d love to say things have gotten better, but they haven’t.
“Look, see: that person says she likes that person, but doesn’t even look at you when you’re walking by.” “There you go, dummy; forgetting everything again.” “Well, who would want to be your friend?”
I could blame the internet, exposing me and millions of others TO millions of others. But if I’m being honest, my negative self would be able to beat me up even without bringing the rest of the world into the comparisons.
When I’ve addressed this problem with self-meditation, self-medication (usually chocolate), and the occasional session with a therapist; I …can’t actually address it. I’m so good at not being good to me that I jump right in to sabotage any sort of progress.
Me: “Well, when someone compliments me, I feel like they probably don’t know the whole picture.”
Also Me: Justifying “I’m not that good at cooking/writing/being a friend/etc. That person is just really nice. She tells the off-key 8-year-olds at church that they sang beautifully.”
I’m so good at not being good that I claim my conclusions are LOGICAL. I bring outside evidence to back the negativity up, disguise rudeness as truth, and name-calling as accurate titles.
And I don’t see this as wrong.
If I had a friend (See? If I had a friend? -so mean!) -anyway- If I had a friend whose boyfriend were saying that crap to her, I’d immediately tell her it was abusive behavior. If someone at school were telling these things to my son, I’d advise him to stand up for himself and even talk to his teacher about it. If I were reading a book or watching a movie and heard the things that play in my head all day; I would recognize the character as a petty, selfish bully.
Living with me all day every day, however, I do not. As you may have guessed, I tell myself that negativity is exactly what I deserve.
…Which makes breaking out of the cycle of abuse that much more difficult. And yes, it is a cycle of abuse.
As such, the actually LOGICAL steps to getting out would be to follow professional advice for leaving an abuser. The internet may be providing fodder for my inaccurate comparisons, but it also has a lot of information to help save me from them. In fact, there is even a wikiHow on breaking an abusive cycle.
Since we’re dealing with an internal abuser, I’ve taken their list and modified it:
I can’t exactly leave my own head, but see that my substance abuse and attempts to disassociate are a lot like telling an abusive spouse I’m leaving, but not actually packing bags and arranging for another place to live.
I feel that I don’t know where to go or what to pack yet, but maybe I can start asking around and collecting a few moving boxes.
Don’t dismiss, justify, or accept the abuse.
Frankly, I need to stop agreeing with the Meany-Head in my head. I can probably, sort-of, start talking back to it like a stubborn 3-year-old. According to professionals, that’s healthier than allowing it.
Look out for the honeymoon phase.
I didn’t think self-abuse had this, but it does. I have days or even weeks of letting up on myself. I smile without reminding myself that poor children in Africa have little to smile about. I accept a compliment and don’t downplay it.
Don’t fall for that break in abuse!!
I can’t let my guard down and assume everything’s better if there is little or no meanness.
When I went on a successful diet one time, I mentally associated sugars and refined flour with fat gain. Those two became repulsive to me and I had no appetite to eat them.
Similarly, I’ve got to put a no-acceptance-at-all mental block on the negative talk. Like Susan said in her article, I’ve got to respond right away with positivity.
Unearth your superpower.
The wikiHow articles says, “One reason individuals stay in abusive relationships is because they feel powerless and unable to act.” Boy, is that ever true. I feel overwhelmed at the idea of finding strength within myself.
BUT, there are times that I am motivated to act -no matter how depressed or beaten-down I feel. Those times include: if someone I love is in danger, if injustice is raising its ugly head, and when things pile up so much that I simply cannot tolerate any more.
If I can find strength even in the darkest despair, I can fight this abuse.
Go get help.
I think this is my favorite of the steps, because I often suffer from Analysis Paralysis. I don’t know the ‘right’ direction to go, so stand and stare at the different options until I get frustrated and give up.
With a counselor, therapist, psychologist, trained friend, or even a small reminder to literally choose to be positive; I can get GPS instructions for which way to start walking.
So, what am I waiting for? Honestly, I’m waiting for it to be easier. I’m waiting for the ‘right’ motivation. I’m probably waiting for the chocolate to kick in.
But I have a list. I have a goal. I want to Keep Fighting instead of keep bending over backwards and feeling worthless.
Recently, one of my closest friends told me I had many friends. I half-jokingly said she was the only one I liked, and the rest were crap. Her reply to that was unexpected. She told me I needed a daily mantra. Before going to bed, she said I should look in the mirror and say, “I like myself. I love myself. I deserve good things.” I promised her I would try. She told me to say it three times. She then assured my that Bloody Mary won’t get me. I said I’d summon Bloody Mary and we’d both say the mantra.
I tried this mantra that night. I looked in the mirror. It was uncomfortable. I normally have no issues looking at myself. This time I did. I couldn’t bring myself to say the words out loud, but I said them in my mind. By the third time, I fought back tears. Why was saying those three sentences so difficult? I told my friend I did what she said, and it was more difficult than expected. She said I had to do it every day and she cried the first time. I told her I cried.
This was the first time a friend or family member told me to change how I speak to myself. You hear doctors or celebrities say these things all the time. This was a shocking realization. I discovered I didn’t like myself. Despite all the work I did for many years building my confidence and moving to a place where I thought I liked myself. I still don’t. I used to hate myself. I have improved. I have made progress, but I have a long way to go yet. I thought more about how I speak to myself and about myself.
If someone else said negative words to me, it might hurt but I’d eventually ignore them. Or I’d tell myself they’re having a bad day and lashed out. When I say negative things to myself, I accept it as truth. How do I move away from such ideas? I decided to put a name to those negative thoughts. If I name it and treat it like another person, I think I can stop listening to those words. If I separate it from myself, I’ll no longer treat it as truth. So, I gave my inner demon a name. I’m not sharing that name. That’s my personal demon and no one else’s.
I will no longer say, “I’m being negative.” It’s the demon feeding me negativity. Some days are still difficult. Sometimes you get trapped in a negative loop and can’t get out. You eventually do. Calling it something else makes it easier to fight. Easier for me anyway. This may not work for everyone. This can work with writing letters to yourself only now you can use a different name. I don’t hate myself. I hate you the demon inside me and I want you out. I want you gone! So, I gave the demon a name. Because you have to know the demon’s name before you can fight them.
Worrying has been a part of my life for as long as I can remember. I’ve worried about everything under the sun at one time or another.
My current worry is, am I/will I ever be successful?
I reflect on my career and finances primarily and debate with myself whether they’re successful enough.
I’ve always said that if I write for a living and am making a difference with my writing, I will be happy. For 2 years I have done that for a non-profit organization telling stories and encouraging others to donate. But I don’t make as much money as I would like. Does that make my job unsuccessful?
Because I don’t make a lot of money, it holds me back financially. I live at home with my mom because I spend almost half of my bi-weekly paychecks on student loans. I look at my bank account and shake my head because I always wish I had a few more dollars in there. Does that make me a failure?
I feel like I’m nowhere near being a success person because of my financial situation. I feel like I have failed at life.
My depression loves to play these thoughts on repeat. My mind tells me I will never amount to anything, that any dream I have will never become a reality because I am destined to fail.
I dream of writing a non-fiction book, of having a story published in a popular publication, of getting married, traveling the world and somehow paying off my student loans.
Those goals seem so unattainable that it discourages me from trying.
Next month I find out if I am getting a raise which I really, really want. If I my pay remains stagnant, I will find a new job. If I get the raise, I’ll stay on for longer. So we shall see what happens on the career front this summer!
How do you define success? Do you feel successful in your life?
If jumping to conclusions was a sport, I would be competing in the Olympics. See you all next year in Tokyo 😉 !
When something bad happens like I make a mistake or I’m having an argument with somebody, my anxiety launches me to the worst possible conclusion. I get hurt, put on my jet pack and zoom off far away from reality!
My anxiety has always influenced my reactions to something that has either hurt or scared me. It takes me from the actual situation and sucks me into my mind where it tells me that something horrible is about to happen.
“Megan, you’re so stupid, why would you even say that? Everyone now knows how dumb you are.”
“Megan, why would you do that? Now they hate you! They never want to speak to you or see you again.”
When I get like this I hide. I hide away in my room if I’m at home, I hide in my office at work or hiding can be me not speaking to anybody for a while. I do this out of guilt and fear that everybody hates me.
I also jump to the worst possible possibility when I’m reading too deeply into something. My mind tells me that “they’re doing that because nobody wants to be near you” or “this is happening because you’re a terrible person that nobody likes.”
I know it’s all rooted in anxiety which intensifying the fears I’ve held on to all my life. But when you but an ant under a magnifying glass, it can look pretty damn big.
In therapy I’m working on not jumping to conclusion so fast. I’m trying to take time in my thought process and attempt to assess reality (which can be really difficult).
If you struggle with jumping to conclusions, is there any tips that you have on how to work through them and return to reality?
You are all such strong individuals, I love reading the posts on this blog. It absolutely makes me feel less alone in my mental illness.
I am speaking, as the title indicated, of Depression. Do you know it? Do you know its seeping, creeping darkling tendrils? Its suffocating mass? Its overwhelming prevalence in your life?
The funny thing is that I want to feel it. I draw Depression over myself like a comforting blanket, speak through its muffling effects, and even run my thoughts through its percolating filter.
I’m afraid. And as much as I fear the mental state I can get to with Depression, I fear the unknowns of real life much more -especially the variables known as people. Actually, that’s not fair. A lot of my negative thoughts result from a constant need to numb any feeling at all.
When my mind is awake and aware, the reality of my pointless life rises up in walls around me. It doesn’t stop there. Depression curdles my thoughts, reminding me of how much I have in life and how I should feel bad for feeling bad. I should also stop thinking selfishly at all. Sure; I don’t ever address my own happiness, but I’m more functional that way.
When around people, every little gesture or tone or blink sends my anxiety off the charts. I talk too much, or too little. I don’t smile enough. Maybe I smiled too much? I know they hated me because they did that little side-smile and nervous laugh. Why oh why did I talk about social injustice when they just wanted to talk about Joanna Gaines?
Reeling at the stimuli I quickly opt for substance abuse, staying up late, stopping my mind, and squashing my innermost desires.
I forget all the good advice and hide beneath my cloud of encroaching gloom known as Depression.
And only when I am at the bottom of the pit do I notice things might not be ideal. When my mind shouts, “NO YOU’RE NOT” over the top of a compliment. When I yearn to not exist. When, in short, the thoughts altered by Depression go beyond what I think is ‘real’ and definitely enter ‘lying.’
That’s when I begin to fidget a bit. Perhaps, I consider, this Depression thing isn’t such a great comforter after all.
And yet, I don’t fully shake it. Instead, I feel I go round and round the cycle again.
I told my counselor once that I don’t know why I keep at it. I said that maybe I was waiting for ‘rock bottom;’ for a major event to shake me out of this. “You don’t want rock bottom,” she reminded me. She’s right, of course. I don’t.
I feel I need to take my own advice and stop pretending I don’t need to. I need to keep at it and not assume all’s well enough to get lazy. I need to actually do what I just said.
What do you do to push away the blues, and remember that they need to stay away? How do you stick with it?