Depression has a way of ensuring that you only ever focus on the negatives of a situation, whilst completely disregarding the positives. It’s the whole ‘glass half empty or half full’ argument, although depression leads to the conclusion that the glass is in fact completely empty. It’s not rocket science to make the connection between negative thinking and negative feelings. If the mind is only every directed towards the negative moments or situations, then its inevitable that this produces feelings of sadness, regret, frustration and hopelessness. The depressives mind further exacerbates these thoughts due the ruminative nature of the illness. The thoughts keep going round and round, and at times are all that you can focus on, to the detriment of every day life.
Here is an interesting article on depression and negative thinking. As the author states, “One of the features of depression is pessimistic thinking. The negative thinking is actually the depression speaking. It’s what depression sounds like. Depression in fact manifests in negative thinking before it creates negative affect.” It then precedes to argue that “Compounding the matter is that negative thinking slips into the brain under the radar of conscious awareness and becomes one of the strongest of habit patterns. People generate negative thoughts so automatically they are unaware that it is happening, that it is actually a choice they are making”
These thoughts, therefore, are sometimes conscious, and recognisable triggers. However as the quote above attests to, often they are deeply subconscious, which is why I find it virtually impossible to respond to the oft asked question, “what were you thinking to make you feel so low?”. Unfortunately it just doesn’t work like that. The thoughts are frequently so deeply buried and entrenched in the mind, that they can only be recognised by the effects they have on body and and on the feelings and emotions that are a consequence of that.
As mentioned in previous blogs, I often contemplate the notion of time. For instance, if I analyse the last 5 or 10 years, I am led to negative conclusions centering on lack of achievement, relationships, improvement in my wellbeing, and a general acceptance that I am no further forward than I was then. A good example of this is when I was asked today in an appointment to verbalise the positives of the last few years. Whilst my initial temptation was to remark that there were none, I was encouraged to think more clearly and honestly. I concluded that in the last few years I have had two stable and rewarding jobs, built up an array of friends and colleagues who I care deeply about, have my own flat which provides a place of comfort and safety, and have also lived in London for 5.5 years, which is something I never believed I could achieve when I left university. So here is proof that depression is both a cause and an effect of thinking. On the one hand the low mood can sway how you view the world and your achievements, while at the same time the negative thoughts that manifest themselves in your mind feed in to further bouts of depression. This again highlights the undoubted cyclical nature of the illness.
Many of the therapies tasked with treating depression are based around the notion that by changing your way of thinking, you can go someway towards combating the illness. Sadly I have never found this to be the case, and any of these such treatments have had little or no affect on me. I’d hazard a guess that this is a consequence of the multitude of negative thoughts and ways of thinking being so deeply ingrained that they cannot be broken down by such methods. I hypothesise that the best I can hope for is that every so often I can be reminded of the positives by other people, because I sure enough don’t need reminding of the negatives. The ‘black dog’ ensures that I don’t forget those. He is incredibly persuasive and persistent.