[A reminder that this blog is not written as medical advice nor is it meant to paint a universal portrait of depression. This is my experience.]
Last week, the voice in my head got mean and all-too-familiar. You’re a failure. You’re not successful. You’re a terrible writer. Your job is stupid and pointless. You’re already 35 and look at all the things you haven’t accomplished.
The voice, when she arrives, is relentless in her negativity and brutal assault on every aspect of my life. She compares. She judges. She complains.
Nonetheless, because this certainly wasn’t clinical depression but rather a large dip in my mood, I was able to drag myself, just barely, to work last Tuesday. It felt like an accomplishment just being there. Later that evening, I made my way to yoga because I knew if I didn’t I’d go home and cry.
Before yoga class, as I was filling up my water bottle, the negativity still stirring around in my brain, I told myself: OK, you just need to think happier thoughts to drown out this all out. So I started to pump other sentences in my brain: You are smart. You are happy. You are doing well at your job.
This helped a little bit, but during yoga class I could still hear the criticism loud and clear. She wouldn’t shut up.
Towards the end of class, my yoga teacher (he’s my favorite because he offers words of wisdom, usually influenced by Buddhist tradition, in the class) started to talk about pain vs. suffering. He talked about how pain is inevitable. We all have pain. The goal is to release ourselves from suffering, to accept the pain.
And in that moment, I realized that I was going about this self-imposed cognitive therapy the wrong way: instead of trying to drown out that voice in my head, I needed to accept that she was there and then just shield myself from the darkness by creating an intellectual barrier to distance myself from my self-destructive thoughts.
I visualized a protective umbrella opened up over me and saw all the drops of negativity deflected from my body.
This may sound silly, but it really did help me last week. Somehow, by accepting that the depressive thoughts were pain, inevitable pain, I felt able to move further away from the suffering. I walked home, not feeling happy, but not feeling paralyzed either.
Do you have visualizations that have helped you through dark days? Please share in the comments so we can help one another!