I am going to try and explain the impact depression has upon my thinking and actions. This is uncomfortable to write about, which means it’s a good thing to do. Nor is this for sympathy, but awareness and understanding.
The majority of us hope to be well-liked and respected , without causing offence to others (I believe). That drives our external behaviour and actions, as much as our thoughts and emotions.
Depression has given me a level of self-criticism and self-judgement that is not healthy nor useful. It drives an inward view, magnifying problems and worries, creating issues where they don’t exist. What may not be so obvious is that it gives a firm belief that everyone else already knows more, are more worthy and deserving. For me that is part of the “imposter” part of depression.
“It never ceases to amaze me : we all love ourselves more than other people but care more about their opinion than our own” Marcus Aurelius
In an early therapy session the discussion turned to focus on this and that it was about me. That was upsetting, I don’t consider myself egotistical or narcissistic (which I had trouble spelling and don’t ask me to say it). But it wasn’t meant in that sense, it was meant to make me think about looking externally as much or more than inwardly. I really struggle with this still.
Here is a recent example which prompted me to write this post instead of the one I planned for this week. I guess some people may recognise parts of the monologue, but I believe that depression amplifies these thoughts, turning them quickly into something unhelpful.
The context: I never set out with an intention to do a weekly blog, but writing has become very important to me. WordPress has a visitor and view statistics page, by country and source (e.g. Facebook, Twitter, WordPress etc) Part of me wishes it didn’t show that, it’s really, really, truly hard to not look at it after I post a blog. Especially when lots of people read via email, not off the site, so it’s not a real reflection of the readership.
This was how the inner monologue went after the last blog post and it goes quickly through these steps:
- hmmm, only a few views off Facebook…wonder why that is? Some views off Twitter as The Minimalists liked it, perhaps I didn’t post the right link….oh no, someone has looked from Facebook, so not that
- Perhaps I posted the WordPress link onto Facebook too early on Friday, lost in people’s feeds
- Perhaps people thought it was a link to the Minimalists page as I used one of their images or minimalism isn’t something people would be interested in
- Or maybe people are fed up with the blog…maybe I write too much….maybe the posts are too long…maybe people are only being kind to read it…maybe fed up with my rambling posts…maybe people think “who does he think he is?”..it’s only depression, we get it, don’t keep going on…there are worse things happening…
- Well actually are they right? It’s becoming too much, why is this important, it’s not like you know how to write, who are you helping…this is all about you isn’t it, “look how ill I am” … who are you writing for…if for me, why do you care if anyone reads it….don’t they understand how much it means to me…me, me, me…
The rat is now gleefully running around my head and the wrong train has left the station. Breathe.
So what did I do….dwelt on it for a few days, then posed a badly worded question on Facebook asking if there was a specific reason that people hadn’t viewed that particular post. Back to the monologue:
- am being sensible, get a view on the external reality, let’s see what responses I get
- okay, people missed it or it’s hard to fit in reading alongside work, home and life etc…understand that
- Hold on, did I post the question for facts or am I fishing for compliments?
- Not everyone has as much time as I do…they are at work and not just sat at home…who is going say “yes you write too much, just stop” .. thought writing was part of self-care, not about how many likes/replies you get…this all about you isn’t it…how sad to be relying on social media to seek approval….what happened to self-compassion and acceptance…oh great, going downwards…it is all about me…me, me, me…
And which point the rat has run so fast he is now doing a Usain Bolt pose. And not only is it the wrong train, it’s an express service. Okay, breathe.
There are ways to stop this, by pausing, using deep breathes and meditation to calm the thoughts. Then to hold the related emotions more lightly, really understand them, including the negative ones and remind myself of why I write.
This is the other “imposter” part, the worry that this remains a front, showing what I have learnt but not always following it myself. As I was reminded last week, however, the ability to be aware of this thought process IS progress and building up steps to address it will follow, with practice.
That is one way self-compassion works, considering what you have done, rather than what you think you haven’t.
The brilliant and inspirational Thom Yorke of Radiohead said, when talking about his own mental health in a recent interview with Rolling Stone magazine:
“This internal monologue going on is completely debilitating and completely unhealthy. You’re not going crazy. You’ve just been doing this too long and you need to step away.”
If I or someone else you know with depression, acts or respond in an odd way to something which may appear trivial, please be patient and understanding, there will be an internal monologue being worked through.