As you are well aware of, I’m in the process of writing my next book, which is called Hardcore Self Help: F**k Depression. I’m deep into the writing process right now and I’d be lying if I said it’s not a little frustrating to write all of these awesome words and have no one to share them with until I release the book in February. So I want to give you a sneak peak into some of what I have been writing so far. Here are 5 random paragraphs taken from different chapters of the book in progress. Please keep in mind that these are drafts and may contain errors. This is far from a final product, but should give you a feel of what to expect.
From the Motivation Chapter
This is a WAY overly simplistic description of how it works, but I hope it helps you understand a bit more about why it can be so hard to get the damn ball rolling in the middle of a depressive episode. You are literally fighting against your biology. That’s the thing, though. Since you are a kickass human being, you have the power to fight against your biology. You can say, “Hey asshole, I know that you’ve gotten used to the way things are, but it’s time for you to start getting back into shape.” You can literally retrain your brain to derive pleasure from things that used to feel awesome to you. Think of the bar example again. If neuron #1 suddenly starts sending a ton of patrons over to the pub at neuron #2, the doors will not reopen immediately. The owner of the pub will hear that they missed out on a ton of business and then maybe open up a few more days during the next week to see if the trend keeps up. If neuron #1 stays consistent and keeps sending people down to neuron #2 to get turnt (read: drunk), the owner of the pub will be inclined to stay open more and more often. So when you do activities that are fun and pleasurable, you will be sending dopamine into that synapse. Over time, by staying consistent and forcing yourself to do those activities that were once pleasurable for you, you can train your brain to start opening for business and feeling happiness again. Pretty fucking awesome if you ask me. The coolest part is that once you develop that neural groove again, the happiness and pleasure will start to become more effortless. Things that you didn’t even intend to make you happy will make you happy. That way, the random goat picture on twitter is no longer “meh” and is now “OMG I JUST GOAT SO HAPPY IN MY HEART!” (Side note: please go follow @TheSassyGoats on twitter for your daily dose of happy)
From the chapter about thinking patterns
All or nothing thinking is a pretty big problem in depression. You tell yourself that something was a failure if it did not go completely right and that makes you feel really terrible. Remember how I said that I want you to be a realist instead of a rosy optimist? You can acknowledge that you have fucked up without engaging in all or nothing thinking. Instead of just writing the entire situation off as a fail, try rating it on a scale from 0-100. I know this might seem a little pessimistic and many other self-help resources might tell you to avoid telling yourself that you screwed up at all. To me that approach is really unfair. We are human and all screw up sometimes. What we want to get better at is realistically judging just to what extent we have screwed up and to get better at emotionally reacting in a way that is consistent with that rating instead of always reacting in an over-the-top dramatic fashion. I tend to use being late to work or class as an example of a basic mistake because it’s unfortunately an inherited disposition that my family handed down to me and I have had to learn to not let it wreck my mood for the entire day. Sure being late and causing some sort of disruption is upsetting. It is probably your own damn fault and you should feel bad about it. How bad, though? This is where that 0-100 scale comes in. Does anything about your lateness indicate that you won’t be able to do good things with the rest of your day? Have you been late before and been able to salvage your day just fine? The other day, I was late to a treatment team meeting. I blamed traffic (external control fallacy), when it was probably my fault and I did cause a bit of disruption. The members of the team were gracious and didn’t make any comments while they shifted around to make room for me. In that moment, my brain was trying to convince me that I screwed up the meeting and probably my whole day. Taking a step back, I used this 0-100 scale based on how smooth the rest of the meeting went and my ability to contribute useful information. Absolutely it was my fault and I felt like an idiot, but I really only hit a 20 on the fuck up scale. In my own silly brain, that allowed me to only feel 20% like shit. That’s the trick. I don’t want you to think magical pixie dust thoughts and hope that you can do whatever you want without consequence just because you think positively. You still need to handle your stuff. However, you can be more realistic and try to work toward having emotional reactions that are appropriate to the situation instead of using that deadly combination of emotional reasoning and all or nothing thinking to drive you straight into Depressionville every time you might the slightest mistake.
From the chapter on letting go
This technique is helpful for those of you who just feel SO burdened by the past that you can’t even begin to move forward. Like I mentioned above, we can sometimes feel crushed under the weight of our own guilt. How fucked up is that? We are trying to move forward and the fact that we haven’t been able to move forward until this point is the very thing keeping us feeling guilty and preventing us from moving forward at all. It’s impossible and it’s no wonder you feel like such crap. If this applies to you, I want you to consider declaring emotional bankruptcy. You can’t ever deny all of the things that have lead you to this point, but it is absolutely certain that you won’t be able to improve if they are constantly overwhelming you. I hereby absolve you of your emotional debt. You don’t have to find a way to mentally reconcile every single action or inaction. I know you do it. As if there were some way to think about it long enough to figure out a way to feel less shitty about it. OR you might be the type to just replay scenarios in your head over and over as a sort of self flagellation because in your mind, you deserve exactly what has happened. I call bullshit. The past is not the present. Yes it has influenced what you are going through right now, but if you let it stay in the past, it will stop hurting you so badly in the present. It’s not a perfect solution. In a perfect world, you would never have to deal with this crap. I wish that were the case. Second best is to move forward from it and work on crafting a life that works for you and not against you. That doesn’t mean that you are dodging responsibility for it. In some ways, you are finally giving yourself the chance to stand up to it and acknowledge your part and then do the responsible thing of trying to better yourself moving forward for the sake of you and everyone around you.
From the chapter about other sources of depression
Depression is a sneaky little asshole. One aspect of depression that is vitally important to understand is that it is not always what it seems. If you are feeling very surprised by the symptoms that you are having, especially if the pieces don’t seem to add up, you might be experiencing depression that is caused by some other primary issue. Unfortunately there are a ton of things that can mimic depression by causing symptoms that are very similar or identical. In a differential diagnosis, which is something that you need to leave to us professionals (we need jobs too), it is always important to consider the possibility that the depressive symptoms are better explained by some other factor. This does NOT mean that the strategies and advice in this book will not be helpful for you if you are experiencing the difficulties that I have talked about so far. I just want to make sure that you aren’t off relentlessly pursuing a false trail while you investigate the source of why you are feeling so poorly. There are really a ton of potential sources of your depressive symptoms that could be right under your nose. I won’t be able to cover all of them here, but I want to give you some of the categories and specific issues that I have most often come across during my professional work as a psychologist. Let me please reiterate that this is not an exhaustive list and you should ask your doctor about any potential sources of your depressive symptoms.
From the Suicide Chapter
Time to be straight up. I want to talk about suicide. That’s right, I said it. Suicide. Some people seem to think that suicide is like Voldemort and we should never utter the name out loud or that it’s like Beetlejuice and if we say it three times, suddenly someone will decide to kill themselves. That is not how it works. In fact, I think that a lot of people kill themselves because it isn’t talked about. In this chapter I’m going to talk about it. I would say “trigger warning,” but I wouldn’t mean it. It’s something that we need to talk about and something that we need to stand up to.
Thanks for taking the chance to read through these chapters. What do you think so far? I am so excited to wrap this thing up and ship it out to you in a few months.