I struggle with depression and am receiving help for it but wanted to ask you for advice about trying to change my increasingly pessimistic outlook in general.
While I've been aware of this thought process I possess for a long time now, I've struggled to change it in vain and still find myself naturally biased or focused to the negative. I think this really contributes to my mood often and has been making it harder to get motivated to do things, to feel good about myself, to trust others, and view the world in a positive way.
I would really appreciate any advice or help.
Dyrk Prowler (age 20, Australia)
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Thank you for your letter and sorry for the delay in my reply. It would be helpful to me if you could give me a little personal history, especially if you have experienced tragedy, illness, death, or other events that may have led to your depression.
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Thank you for getting back to me, Papabear.
As for some history, I've been struggling with depression since about halfway through high school, since about age 14-15. Though it had been rather tidal experiencing ebbs and flows, events over the past few years influenced me to seek professional help; my grandfather's death, my once-best friend basically cutting me out of his life, a year of university which was not very good (I've dropped out), struggled and am still struggling to find steady employment, and being online friends with people I, upon reflection, should not have as they dropped and I don't know why they did.
Though I am not friendless (I do have friends good friends who’ve stood by me and supported me), and my family continues to support and care for me. I just can't seem to escape the negative thoughts that seem to be nagging at the back of my mind. As for the help I've received, it has been a year of seeing a psychologist, following their instructions, and have been on anti-depressants for about 9-10 months.
Hopefully this what you were looking for.
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This is helpful, thanks. If you feel comfortable with telling me, could you relate to me some of the things your psychologist has asked you to do? This will help me to not recommend something that's already been suggested.
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Okay, we've mainly focused on the relationship of thoughts, feelings, and behavior. We have on done some thought analysis to try and identify the unfounded negative thoughts. So mainly general perspective things.
This is the main things I remember.
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Thanks for all the additional information. Negative thoughts and depression, while not the same thing, are often related, as in your case. If your therapist is saying your negative thoughts are “unfounded,” I think I see some problem with their not validating your emotions. That “unfounded” comment fails to recognize that there is always a cause for your feelings. That cause could be anything from biological imbalances to emotional and psychological issues to just having problems dealing with the tragedies and stresses of normal life.
When it comes to depression, you’ve come to the right place. From my attempted suicide at 18 to my divorce to the recent loss of my mate, I know what it is like to experience deep depression, sadness, and loss. I have read books, sought professional counseling, talked with friends who have experienced similar losses, and taken the antidepressants. I know about the five stages of grieving, and have discovered a couple others no one told me about.
Not to make light of your experiences of losing a grandfather, a friend, college life, and so on, but there are far worse things people endure in life and manage to survive. Naturally, these things that have happened to you can be depressing, but what you need now is to learn to keep things in perspective and to broaden that perspective.
Before I continue, I would like to note some things you can do to help yourself using diet and exercise because, when you think of it, depression and cynicism can be a physiological response to one’s environment. Here are some things that really help me and can help you as well:
So, those things help the physiological side of depression and a sour attitude. Now let’s look at the more mental side of it.
Everyone faces challenges in their lives. Unless you die at a very young age (a tragedy in itself) you’re going to face loss, pain, and hardships in your life. This cannot be avoided. The key here is how you deal with bad events in your life after they have happened. This is not easy, and I will be the first person to tell you that. After about 10 months I am just getting to the point, after losing Jim, where I can console my heart by honestly saying how lucky I was to have him in my life at all, and I am grateful for the things he taught me and how he enriched my life. Yes, I would have loved it if he had stayed on Earth longer, but if he had to die young I am truly grateful that he spent those last years with me. I am a better person for his being in my life.
All clouds, as they say, can have a silver lining. You lost your grandfather, and that’s sad, but some people never get to meet their grandfathers, for one reason or another. His loss obviously hurt you, which means that you cared about him and will miss him. Think, then, of the blessing he was in your life.
Your friend abandoned you. Well, maybe he wasn’t such a good friend after all, then. You have noted that you have other friends who are still with you. Take this opportunity to appreciate their friendship, and let them know that you are happy you are friends; do something nice for them on occasion. And learn from what happened with the other guy. Think back on it; were their signs about how he acted that, in retrospect, were cues he wasn’t a worthy of friend? Make note of them and learn from that. The more you learn from friendships, both successful and not, the better friend you will be to others.
As for online friends, that’s a whole nuther kettle of fish. Most online friends would fall under what I categorize as “mere acquaintances.” It’s nice to chat with them and learn about them, but they don’t fall under true friend categories. Some do, of course. And those will usually be the ones with whom you hit it off so well that you will make the effort to meet them in person and strike up a more solid relationship.
In life, you will make friends, lose friends, make other new friends. That’s what happens. As the goombah would say, fuhgetabowdit.
Okay, on to your college efforts. After a year, you dropped out. Were you attending a four-year school? Maybe that’s just not for you. You don’t have to attend university to get some further education that can be useful in a job. Take a step back and think about what you would really like to do with your life. Perhaps it is something where you can go to a technical school or a two-year college, or become an apprentice to a tradesman of some kind, and afterwards find perfectly good employment. Many people go to a four-year school because they feel it is expected of them. They spend two or more years just taking classes that don’t interest them, fulfilling core requirements, not really getting inspired.
Instead of worrying about school, take some time to think harder about what you really enjoy doing, then make your plans accordingly. They may or may not involve a bachelor’s or graduate degree, and that doesn’t matter. What does matter is finding your passion. There are many successful people out there who don’t have a college diploma.
By always focusing on the negative in life, you create a feedback loop that worsens the problem. It is like rolling a pea down a snowy hill and creating a massive snowball capable of leveling a town. The way to stop that is to not place the pea on the hill at all. Start counting your blessings and thinking about what is good in your life and try to make that your feedback loop. One way to help with this is to stop watching TV news (if you do so) because it is designed to make you feel scared so that you will watch more TV news, including the ads.
Another thing to note: don’t worry about the things you can’t change and focus on only those things you can. And don’t overwhelm yourself by thinking of all the things you need to do at one time. Tackle one problem at a time. Live in the present. Depressed people often live too much in the past; anxious people worry too much about the future. The present is the only certainty we have. Live for now.
Okay, hope none of that was too cliché for you and helped some. And, if it didn’t, at least you didn’t have to pay me :-)
Write again if you need to. If not, I hope my words helped you some and I wish you well.
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