There are many behavioral symptoms of depression such as isolating, neglecting one’s personal hygiene, undereating or overeating, and more. These symptoms are fairly easy to conceal and frequently go unnoticed by others. One of the noticeable symptoms (and a costly one) is negative speech. Our depressive behaviors can become habits if we aren’t careful.
Negative speech can set off a cycle of rejection and isolation. Friends or family members may try to coax us out of our depression by pressing us to talk about our feelings, but are completely unprepared for our response. These snap out of it people are usually well-meaning, but have no idea of the depths to which depression takes our thinking or how difficult the climb back up can be. They simply don’t get it, and we then end up on the receiving end of comments like, “Don’t be such a downer” or “I can’t be around you when you are like this” or “Why don’t you just stop feeling sorry for yourself?”
They make it sound so simple — why don’t we stop? As painful as these remarks may seem at the time, there is actually a clue to escaping negativity in them. At the root of our negative speech problem is depression hovering around us like a fog, clouding both our anticipation of the future and our interpretation of the past. People who love us say, “Count your blessings. Look at what you’ve accomplished!” The brain fog lies to us and whispers, “You’ve never accomplished anything and never will.” And we believe it.
When we believe the lie, our ability to expect good things diminishes. The happy times of our past are distorted as we inventory each and every little flaw throughout our life’s history. The fog filters our thoughts, and the words we say reflect our foggy brain filter. The people who care about us don’t understand our responses, and leave us to ourselves until we are “better.” We end up feeling isolated when we desperately need connection.
Battling depression requires energy at a time when we have none. This is why it is important to prepare for the next valley when you are on the current hilltop. In other words, when you are feeling good, channel that momentum to push you through the next rough patch. Begin by acknowledging your accomplishments – no matter how insignificant.
Dr. Seuss said, “A person’s a person, no matter how small.” The same can be said for accomplishments. If you’ve been in a fog for a long time, admitting you actually DO have some accomplishments may feel a little weird, but do it anyway. Write down everything, from “I got out of bed this morning” to “I got that promotion.” If you find you are censoring yourself or are in a valley right now, ask for help from somebody who knows you. BUT – and this is important: Don’t censor THEM, either. Just write everything down in a journal or notebook and keep it handy. Two things will happen if you do.
First, simply writing down three accomplishments each day will lift the fog. Our thoughts generate chemical reactions in our brain, and these reactions generate physical sensations. Some of us have brains with low activity in the positive-feeling areas, and high activity in the negative-feeling areas. Writing down three accomplishments each day forces positive chemical reactions. In other words, you are exercising the positive-feeling area of the brain, making it stronger and more active.
Second, if you encounter another bout of depression, you can refer back to your list of accomplishments. It’s a reminder of what you CAN DO and have done – PROOF that you are capable of doing things, even when your brain is shrouded in fog. You are also setting off those little positive chemical reactions in the brain every time you read your list. Update it daily. FILL A NOTEBOOK with accomplishments, big and small. Use it to chase away the fog so you can see your life and yourself in a positive light.