Hello, friends. In this episode, I offer advice on two very different but important listener questions. The first dives into the depression motivation exercise that can be found in my book, F**k Depression, while the second focuses on abusive relationships.
Hi,I’m so sorry to bother you but I may need a little bit more guidance, I downloaded your audiobook on my phone ages ago and have had a dabble in and out but been more in at the moment, but I struggle on the 10-15 list thing, I picked up a pen and couldn’t recall what used to at least give me pleasure.Going for a beer was ok but I’ve not really missed that probably as used to drink too much. Exercise is my thing now and that focuses me for a while.But I don’t get what my boggle is, maybe being recently unemployed and the unknowing and uncertainty etc… who knows?Anyway, I’m sorry to bother you.Cheers,
First off, there is no need to apologize. I really appreciate you reaching out. For all of you out there, I always want you to reach out with questions that you might have. I’m not able to get to everyone and I can’t give direct advice, but you are never doing anything wrong by asking. Now, if you ask and get mad at me for not answering that’s a different story… but in this case. Super glad you asked.
To clarify what the question asker is talking about, there is a chapter in HCSH F**K Depression called Getting the Ball Rolling, which is about combating the symptoms of depression that make you feel unmotivated, uninspired, and lazy. There’s an exercise that I include and walk you through that involves writing down a list of things that you used to enjoy doing before depression really sucked away the fun and interest from things. You assign a “reward” rating and a “challenge rating” to each activity. Then you subtract the challenge from the reward to get a final value. The activities with the highest value are your best starting places to get the ball rolling in a positive direction. Relatively low challenge and relatively high reward.
This is a great question to ask and actually one of the questions that I’ve gotten most often from people who feel like they never had activities that generated feelings of happiness and pleasure or feel that they are so far removed from the things that they used to love that they can’t even remember what they were. Totally valid. There is also the fact that depression, especially significant depression, can make your brain foggy. It can make it hard to focus your thoughts and concentrate. Add to that the fact that it is hard to put in the effort for an activity like this in the first place, and you may find yourself bailing out before you come up with any items.
So my first piece of advice is to keep trying. Don’t just pull out a sheet of paper, try to think of some items for your list, and then give up permanently after five minutes. Give it a fair shake. Sit with that piece of paper for a good long while and see if anything bubbles up to the surface. If not, resolve to come back to the list the next day. What people often find is that when you start to ponder a question but don’t yet have an answer, it runs like a background process in your brain throughout the day. You are actively trying to brainstorm or solve the problem, but it’s there in the back of your mind and you may find that you have random moments of insight that break through. Just make sure you have a notebook or your phone handy to write them down. Make it as easy as possible to keep track of what you come up with because if you run into any roadblocks or it simply takes too long, you very well might just not get around to writing your thoughts down. So come back to the exercise multiple times. Give yourself the chance to try again.
Another thing that you can do is to focus less on yourself and instead focus more on other people. Look at your friends, family, and other connections that you might have. What do they do for fun? What are their hobbies? What sort of things do you see them doing with themselves on a weekly basis? Become a student of those around you and write down what you notice. Maybe you’ll see people that play video games, participate in virtual running challenges, do axe throwing or archery, take cooking classes, cross-stitch, raise plants, or any other number of things. They don’t all have to be hobbies either. People might spend time with their family eating nice meals or they might make a point to support their friend’s projects. Basically, I’m just saying to try taking a step back and studying the behavior of other people. Again find a convenient way to keep track of what you learn. You can also always ask people if you feel comfortable. What sort of things bring you joy? What do you do when you’re not at work? What kind of things do you and your friends have in common etc.
From there, you can generate a list of possible activities that have been influenced by other people. You may have never actually engaged in these activities before and that’s okay. Do your best to imagine what it would be like for you to do these things. What level of challenge do you think that you’d feel? What level of reward do you think you would get out of them? This isn’t an exact science. The point of the exercise is to try to give you a place to start. You need to have some sort of structure to this because when you’re depressed, it’s not like you are getting randomly inspired to do activities. It’s easier to generate a list, find a starting place, and then just start cracking away at it over time.
To learn more about the exercise and more about the concept of behavioral activation, check out the book! The concepts are pretty obvious, but I give you some good tricks and short cuts to get the ball rolling, and the approach is actually very well supported in the research.
Last thing I’ll say is that the HCSH Facebook group might be a good place to brainstorm ideas.
Good luck to you!
Hey Duff, hope you’re doing well. I have previously emailed you, but at the time I was very confused and didn’t know what I was talking about and I have gotten some help and clarity since so I hope this has a better chance of reaching you.I was wondering if you could go into abusive relationships in an episode of the podcast sometime. I have recently gotten out of an abusive relationship that lasted 5 years and am in therapy for it. I was previously trying to stay friends with that ex but I tend to let him push my boundaries and I know I should stop hanging out with him but I get very confused and upset and feel guilty any time I think of cutting contact with him. He’s done things that I know are way over the line and yet I still seem to prioritize his feelings over mine. It feels like I don’t really care about myself anymore and I don’t know how to change that.Thanks for everything you do. Hope you’re doing well in these strange times.
First off, I want to say thank you for trusting me with this question and that I’m glad you’re around to ask it. I hope that you’re in a more safe situation now.
What you are describing here is SO common in abusive relationships. Anyone who has been in one was probably nodding along in understanding as I read that out loud. You have to remember that in an abusive relationship, the abuser has to keep you feeling powerless. That’s the nature of it. If you felt powerful and confident that what was happening was wrong, that it wasn’t your fault, and that you had the capability to leave – you would. But that’s typically not how it works. The abuser will make you feel like the way they act toward you is your fault. They will say things like “You know how I am. Why would you do that? You should have known better.” Or they will make excuses as if the intensity of their behavior is because they love you so much OR in some cases because of their own problems, which causes you to feel like you need to comfort them even though you are the one being abused.
You are also often isolated from your loved ones that would stand up for you or help you realize what is going on. There are so many different ways that abusers try to keep the balance of power in their favor so that they can continue controlling you. It’s also important to recognize that abuse happens to all sorts of people. It’s not like you need to be unintelligent to find yourself in an abusive relationship. There are many very intelligent, successful, and strong people that become recipients of abuse and fall into abusive patterns. That means that it can be a bit of a mindf**k. You KNOW at some level that what is happening is wrong. If you had a friend that was experiencing the same thing, you would be able to tell them plain as day that they are being abused. But for you to be in that situation yourself… you brain just doesn’t want to admit that it is possible. That’s why it can be so disorienting to come out of the relationship. You might feel like you did something wrong. Maybe it wasn’t as bad as you thought. Maybe there was potential for things to get better and you just didn’t put in enough effort. Maybe you’re crazy. There has to be some rationale for it because it just doesn’t make sense with the person that you are.
So to answer the question that you didn’t actually ask here – yes you should most likely cease contact with this person. 5 years is a long time to be in an abusive relationship, so I understand that it feels weird to not even see or hear from them anymore, but that’s a good thing ultimately. They gave up the chance to be in your life by treating you the way they did. He will continue to push your boundaries and he will continue to make you feel guilty. That guilt is one of the primary ways that he is able to control your behavior. By making you think that you are in the wrong and that you are the crazy one. Whether it’s conscious or not on his part, it’s a tactic and it’s wrong.
I’m really happy to hear that you are in therapy now. This is something that you definitely should not keep from your therapist. It is often the case that people are too worried about pleasing their therapist and will hide information like continued contact with an abuser, but that is the exact thing that you should be processing there. So I encourage you to be open about it.
You might also look into support groups or other resources in your area for survivors of interpersonal violence and domestic violence. There is a high likelihood that in the context of this relationship, significant codependence developed. So that is another area to look for support. Again, speaking with your therapist, support groups, even Facebook groups, and books are all great resources there.
It WILL get better and easier for you to stay away from this person over time. What you’re experiencing is not unusual and you’re not a bad person for feeling this way. But we do need to keep you safe and you aren’t going to be able to break the cycle if you are still in it, just by a different name.
Thank you for the vulnerable question and I hope that things continue to improve for you in the safest way possible.
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