I think I’ve struggled with bouts of depression throughout my entire life. This probably isn’t unreasonable, since I’ve lived with medical challenges from infancy to adulthood, been bullied by teachers and kids, watched childhood friends die, dealt with difficult family members, experienced a terribly painful divorce, and lived with all the typical burdens other people experience.
The problem is, when you’re scarred so deeply, the memories live inside your mind and replay themselves as if they’re still real. People say, “get over it” or “you just need to chill.” Easy to say when you haven’t experienced a lifetime of trauma.
There isn’t a day that goes by when I don’t have to keep my mind in check and stop myself from
sinking into Hell. I am pretty upbeat on most days, but my bad days are just plain awful. Fortunately, I have been a diligent student of my own personal growth and wellness since my early teens. That’s when I started to recognize that there was a better way to think about my life.
My goal isn’t to gain sympathy from you. It’s to help you on your journey to living a happier, less reactive and dramatic (i.e., insane) life. And trust me, certain things (like fear of loss/abandonment) trigger my negative thought patterns in a way that is truly brutal. When I feel hurt by someone I try to rectify the situation by thinking about what went wrong one thousand different ways. But the truth of the matter is, the idea of being of hurt is a thought that that stems from something that happened in the past, which no longer exists, and my perception of it can be controlled.
So, how do I keep myself afloat each day without medicating myself (legally or illegally) into oblivion? By the way, I take zero psych medications, but do think everyone is different and sometimes certain people really do need them. I also rarely drink and say no to all drugs, because I don’t believe in disrupting the body’s homeostatic balance and also see this type of abuse as an act of self-harm.
If you’re not on any medicine to reduce anxiety or depression, ask your doctor if you can refrain from going there because I really believe that psychological pain exists for a reason — and that reason is to wake you up and shift you towards a life of peace through the practice of mindful awareness.
Depression is the result of reckless mind chatter. In other words, when your brain speaks to you using words like “if only things could be different,” “why didn’t it turn out that way,” “I was hoping ___ would happen,” “I should have been _____ about ___” and so on.
If you look at the words used to describe your depression, you’ll notice that they are 1) negative and self-defeating, and 2) based on thoughts about the past or the future.
Sometimes we try to correct situations by repeating past experiences in our mind or by creating imaginary thoughts about the future. Unfortunately, when we’re in a depressive state, our mind-made movies tend to be dark and unhappy. This makes us even more depressed.
What we also tend not to realize is that every one of our thoughts moves us closer to creating a certain reality. For example, when someone plays a sport they often see the move they’re about to make before they make it; the strength of their vision determines the success of their real-life outcome.
If you are constantly cycling ideas of pain and suffering through your mind, you will only experience more pain and suffering. Your thoughts will lead you to the same type of darkness, because you will gravitate towards circumstances and people that resonate with your negative mind-made drama. These people and circumstances will most likely be negative themselves and bring you MORE PAIN. Ever hear that saying “misery loves company?” When you’re miserable, you talk about your misery, which then makes other people talk about their misery and it’s an endless cycle.
So, what do you do about it? Here are 12 steps to stop depression:
1) Find the root cause of your depression by examining the words you use to describe your unhappiness. This can be really difficult to do on your own. I would suggest opening up to someone who is non-judgemental and trustworthy. Allow them to act as a sounding board to your issues. You can hire a coach like me, if you’d like. Email me firstname.lastname@example.org for a free intro session.
2) Once you learn more about the words you use to describe your unhappiness, recognize the patterns or ways that you use them repeatedly in your everyday life. Again, if you’re unaware of what’s causing your pain, you may need help from an outside source to help you recognize your patterns.
3) Understand that your words are describing a story which is often fictional and not based in reality (reality = present moment). Ask yourself what your role is in the story. Remember — you can never control anyone else’s part in the stories you tell yourself. You can only control yourself.
4) If you become emotional about the pain that exists in your mind, cry about it. Get angry. Express all of the feelings you might be suppressing. You’ll be amazed how much relief you get from allowing that negative energy to leave your body.
5) Remember that life happens through you, in the present moment. People tend to behave reactively, instead of proactively because they think that they are a victim to whatever is taking place in their environment. What we don’t realize is that our thoughts brought us to and created the environment that we are in.Refrain from victim mentality by understanding that your choices create your reality. No external force has more power than you do in your own life. Take root and stand tall for what you want. Also remember that every moment spent living inside your useless mind chatter, or worse — someone else’s mind chatter, as it impacts your life — is a moment wasted in reality. You’re missing out on living if you’re constantly thinking about past mistakes or future problems. To get out of your head, try lighting incense or a candle, run your hands under water, or walk through nature and pay attention to the sensations you’re experiencing. Try to re-frame your thoughts to see the good in all, rather than the bad.
6) When it comes time to sit and plan for the future, create a vision for yourself that uplifts and inspires you. Hold that positive vision for yourself at the back of your mind while you go about your day-to-day tasks. Call on it when you need it. Leave it when you’re experiencing life in the now.
7) Realize that every person is innocent and doing the best they can with the wisdom they’ve discovered thus far. Even if she was texting three different guys with kisses and hugs! I know this is really difficult believe when you feel really hurt by another person’s actions. But, if you release people from being guilty, you end up reducing the guilt you feel about the situation. This will help you take greater responsibility for the part you play in your own life.
8) Understand that the same exact experience of pain will appear over and over in your life until you correct your thoughts and actions around it. What does this mean? For example: say you’re depressed about the way things played out in your past, so you take that energy and mindset with you into everything you do in the present. That energy warps your thoughts and actions in the moment and eventually disrupts everyone else’s thoughts and actions in the moment. So, your mind-made drama ends up ruining what could be really great right now. What you carry over from the past will follow you everywhere you go in the present. Everyone’s subconscious mind knows you’re miserable, even if you don’t say a word.
9) Remove yourself from the presence of anyone who is depressed. Realize that you have probably attracted them into your life because of your own depressive state. Like attracts like. Depressed people carry an incredibly heavy energy. Do your best to not live in the drama of your mind by constantly talking about the pain.
10) Realize that you may eventually experience a string of days without any sadness, but then get triggered by something and fall right back into Hell. When you’re in Hell, ask yourself what stories you told yourself to get there. Hell rarely happens in reality. It typically happens in your mind when it’s trapped in the past or future.
11) Depression can sometimes be the result of imagining what’s going on in another person’s mind. Don’t be afraid to ask people questions to alleviate yourself from wondering what someone else is thinking. There’s a really good chance that you will not correctly guess what someone else is thinking, so communication is mandatory for a mind that is healthy and based in reality.
12) If you are having a good day, but suddenly feel the pain of depression creeping in, watch it and tell it to “stop” and say “not now.” Think of your mind as having two parts. One part seems to be uncontrollable and works against you by speaking unkindly to you. This is your ego. The second part is in your full control. It’s loving and caring, but will speak to you in whispers until you finally learn how to hear and respond to it more readily. You want to quiet the loud emotional part of your mind (ego), so you can finally begin to experience the freedom and peace of the soft subtle mind (your true self).
Every seemingly negative situation that arises in life is meant to shake you, break you, and teach you the art of surrender. The only reason we experience pain is because our ego wants things to be different than they are and refuses to accept what the universe is giving to us. When seemingly bad things happen, I believe it’s because our free will has chosen incorrectly in the past. The universe is self-correcting and will take you out of your own mess and lead you to a better path. Unfortunately, our ego will always want something more, it always lives in fear, it lives in resentment, it lives in judgement, and it lives in guilt, it lives in the past and future. You will experience pain as long as your ego is in control of your life. Fortunately for you, you can control it and rise above.
That’s right… rise above,
JOSEPHINE BILA, M.S.W. has been receiving transfusions to treat a rare genetic blood disorder for over 35 years. Her life experience, advocacy, and schooling helped her become an Expert Patient Representative to the United States Food and Drug Administration’s Office of Special Health Issues. She is an inspirational speaker who has presented to audiences around the world. Her written work has appeared on Yahoo!, CNBC, The Huffington Post, and many other outlets.