Written by: Jorinde Berben
Image credit: Jorinde Berben
These past few days have been quite rough for me. I’m finding myself diving into a whole new process again (or deeper into the one I’ve been in perhaps) that brings up old pain, regret and a lot of insecurity. I’ve been trying to go into it, though, instead of running away from it, and I’ve noticed that even if I’ve felt really down, I don’t recognize the pattern of thoughts that usually accompanies me in the moments my depression gets intense.
Not having them now, and at times when I feel okay, means I can see them for what they are: lies. My depression has a way of making me believe things that strengthen the depression, but that aren’t true at all.
I thought I’d share some of these lies with you, to give you a glimpse of what it’s like residing in a depressed brain. Naturally, this is MY depressed brain, and these lies are catered to my specific vulnerabilities (my depression is at least a clever manipulator).
The following words are pretty much direct quotes from my depression. No worries, I know (at this moment) that they aren’t true. I don’t believe them now. And I’m alright. I have a wonderful support system. But there are times when these thoughts feel like the truth. Like the only absolute truth, and what those around me say or do has little to no impact.
This is what my depression tells me:
- You suck. You’ve always sucked and you’re just now finally able to see the truth.
- You’ve always been depressed and you always will be. Sure, you can fool yourself and pretend you’re happy sometimes (even years on end), but underneath you know that this is really who you are.
- Everything is worthless. Nothing really matters. We’ll all die in the end. We all suffer. What’s the point of anything?
- You’re a burden on people around you. Can’t you see how much worrying about you affects their life?
- I’ll take care of you. At least with me you’ll never have to fake anything. Just come and sit here with me, alone, forever.
- Other people can’t possibly understand what you’re going through.
- People think you’re weak for not just “pulling yourself together”
- You ARE weak for not just pulling yourself together.
- Don’t talk to other people. It won’t help and it will only bring them down.
- Medication will only change your brain, it won’t make your life meaningful.
- You should start drinking again. At least you won’t feel so empty.
- You’re failing everyone around you. You’re a terrible mother, partner, friend, sister, colleague, …
- You have no control here. I’m in control. I’m always just one blink of an eye away…
- (endless creative variations on the thoughts above)
By now these thoughts have become familiar, and I can start to see them as red flags that tell me I should look for help: contact my therapist, talk to someone or go out into the forest for a walk. But I can’t see them for the lies they are until I’ve come out of that mental state. They still feel true when I’m in the midst of it.
As I’ve said, these thoughts are specific to my depression, but I know many people who suffer from depression have thoughts that are similar (or might even be the same). If you do, please know that you are not alone, and know that you can (and should) seek help!
If someone you know shares some of these thoughts with you, validate their feelings (anything else will just push them away further.) If you can deny that they are a burden to you, that’s great (they may not believe it, but it’s better than ignoring it because that might be taken as a confirmation.) And if they’re open to it (and you have the energy/ability/availability/…), try to get them to seek help.