Depression is a liar. If you have depression, the chances are, it’s lying to you too.
Depression is a very, very common mental health disorder, and it tends to be a very effective liar. My hope today is to get you to see the ways that it lies to you—the ways in which depression lies to you, and gets you to believe things that are not true.
I believe that this part of depression, this component of managing depression is so important because the way in which depression lies to us, impacts how we see ourselves in the world, how we see the future, how we see other people, how we see our lives playing out. And that in and of itself can be devastating.
Today, I want to talk about, number one, the ways in which depression lies to us and what we can do to manage that. Let’s get going.
THEMES OF DEPRESSION
Before we start, let’s talk about the themes of depression. Now, the way it was trained to me is that there are three core themes of depression. The first one being hopelessness, the second one being helplessness, and the third being worthlessness. It will often target one, some, or all of these themes. Let’s go through those here and break it down.
This is where it can really make us feel very hopeless. Depression says your future won’t be good. You won’t amount to anything. You won’t be successful. You won’t have a relationship if that’s important to you. You won’t have kids if that’s important to you. It often will target the things that we deeply value and it’ll tell us you won’t get those things or you’ll be doing those things wrong. Or in some ways, something bad will happen. When it targets the future, that is often when we begin to feel very hopeless. When we think about the way the human brain works, our brain does things right now, even things it doesn’t want to do, knowing that it’ll get a benefit or a payoff or a wonderful, joyful result. But if your brain is telling you that the result is always going to be bad, that’s going to create an experience where you feel like there’s no point. What’s the point of doing this hard thing if my depression is telling me the future is going to be crummy anyway? What we want to do is get very skilled at catching it in its lies about the future.
Depression will tell you, you did something wrong. You’re terrible. That thing you did really ruined your life or ruined somebody else’s life, or is proof that you’re a bad person. Depression loves to ruminate on that specific event or an array of events. What we end up doing is cycling and gathering evidence. This is what depression does. It gathers evidence to back its point. What we end up doing is instead of seeing the event for what it is, which is both probably positive and negative, depression likes to magnify all of the things that you did wrong or that didn’t go well. And then it wants to disqualify the positive. Often patients of mine with depression will say, “Oh, I’m a terrible person. I did this terrible thing,” or “I made this terrible mistake or accident.” I’ll look and say, “Okay, but what about the other times where maybe you didn’t make a mistake and so forth?” They will disqualify that as if it means nothing to them. It does mean something to them, but often the way in fact depression functions is it keeps you looking at the negative. And that’s how you get stuck in that cycle of rumination on the negative—feeling worse and worse, feeling more shame, feeling more guilt, feeling more dread, feeling often numb because the depression is so, so strong.
Now, this is where I’m going to offer to you to reframe things a little bit and look at helplessness. Depression will also tell us: “There is no one who can help you. There is no amount of support that can help you. You’re helpless.” Often when people come to me for their first time in session, they will say, “I’m here. I understand you can help me. But at the end of the day, I don’t even think you can help me.” Maybe they’ve read one of my articles on the internet or they’ve listened to a podcast and they go, “You’re speaking to exactly what I’m going through, but I still don’t even believe you can help me.” This is where I can give them all the science and show them that I can help them and that there’s treatment for depression, and it’s very science-based. The depression will still lie to them and say, “There’s no point. You’re helpless.”
Now, the last piece here is about worth, and I’ll touch on that here in just a little bit. Before we move into that, I want to share with you that the reason I was so excited to talk about this with you today is I’m in the process of creating a course for OCD. I’m contributing this to a bigger company and I will be creating it. You guys can have access to it too here very soon. As I was creating it, I was really starting to see and talk to a lot of people with depression and talk to people on social media. The biggest message people were saying is, “OCD lies to me. It tells me these things. My friends, my loved ones tell me that that can’t possibly be true. They don’t see any of these negative things, but to me, it feels so true.” I wanted to let you know that we do have an online course for depression. You can go to CBTSchool.com/depression to hear more about it.
Remember, one of the themes of depression is worthlessness. What it does there is it tells you, you are bad. Now, we know this can be the voice of shame, but depression and shame go very well together. In fact, they can have a whole party together if we let it go on for too long, telling you, you are bad, there is something innately wrong with you. This is a lie depression will tell you over and over again. When I say it’s a lie, believe me, it is a lie. This is what I always will say with my patients—if we went to a court, we put it up with the jury and we said, “This person would like to claim that they are worthless.” Then the jury is going to say, “Where is your evidence?” We’re not really going to put you up in front of a jury. I don’t want that to frighten you. But if we were, they would say, “Show me the evidence.” Then the attorney would bring in all of the evidence of the facts that you’re a wonderful person, that you’re innately worthy, that you do these kind things, that you deeply care about other people, that you’re a human being, and just being a human being means you’re worthy. We would have all these people come in and bring evidence, but the person with depression, their OCD will gently or very meanly whisper in their ear, “That’s not true,” despite all the evidence.
Now we know if this was an actual court case, the judge would throw this case out. They’d go, “There is a profound degree of evidence that this person is worthy. There is a profound degree of evidence that this person can rebuild their life and get their life back on track even if they’re really struggling and functioning with depression.” We know this to be true. I’ve seen it every day in my practice. I’ve seen people with depression manage it and go on to live wonderfully fulfilling lives.
For you, I want you to keep that imagery in your mind, of that jury throwing your case out and that judge throwing your case out because the evidence does not support depression’s case. It wouldn’t last a second in court. Again, a lot of the points I made there are really important if you’re struggling with worthlessness. You being a human being makes you innately worthy. You’re not worthy one day because you did well on an exam but not worthy the next day because you crashed your car. It doesn’t work like that. We’re all worthy. So we have to remember that and keep that in the front of our mind, even if depression has a lot to say about that.
Depression—not only does it lie about your future, not only does it lie about your past, not only does it lie about your worth, it lies about you in general.
Your job and my job as a therapist is to help our minds. My job as a human, I should say, is to help our minds by being able to observe and be aware of our thoughts and catch when it’s in the trend of these areas—worthlessness, hopelessness, and helplessness. If it’s got any theme of those and it’s very strong and very black and white, chances are, it’s depression. We can then work and get tools to manage that.
Now, as I said, I do have an online course because a lot of you will not be able to have therapy with me. First of all, I’m always going to encourage you, go and see a therapist if you can if you have depression. Over any course I could ever offer you, I would always encourage you to first see if you can get access to a mental health therapist. However, if you don’t have access to that, you can go to the course to get some tools, strategies, and depression tips that you could be practicing. We go through and look at changing your thoughts. We go through changing your behaviors, looking at your activity schedule, looking at motivation. We look at a lot of that, but that is not therapy. The course is not therapy. It is not a specific depression treatment. But I will teach you everything that I tell my patients in my office.
Now, before we end this, I want to first go through some depression tips & depression tools that I want to send you off with today so that you can get started right away. I really believe Your Anxiety Toolkit is all about giving as many anxiety and depression tips, tools and helpful skills as we can, so I want to send you away with some bite-size ideas on that you can start immediately.
Tip #1: Start a self-compassion practice
The biggest thing that depression does is it bullies us. It says horrible, mean things that you would never say to not only a loved one, even someone you hate. You probably wouldn’t say as many mean things as depression has to say. Number one, start with a self-compassion and mindfulness practice. A part of your self-compassion practice is talking back to depression. Now remember, self-compassion is nurturing, it’s kind, but it also doesn’t set back and let people push you around. Self-compassion would never have you be bullied. If you were in a compassionate place and you saw someone else being bullied, chances are, you’d step in and say, “Hey, this isn’t right,” or you’d call someone who could come and assist them. Now, this goes for depression as well.
Here I want you to remember, if depression is bullying you and telling you lies, you’re going to have to talk back to it. I will say, I do not mind if you swear. I do not mind if you have to get a little aggressive with it. I will share with you personally the most common depressive thought that I have, and I have it a lot—you cannot handle this. I hear it many times in the day. In fact, now it almost makes me laugh a little bit because it’s very boring. Depression needs to come up with some new jokes because this is the one it uses with me all the time. Often when it says that, no longer do I believe it and agree with it and go ahead and listen to what it has to say. Now, I come back with evidence and say, “You know what? I can handle it because I’ve handled it before. In fact, I’ve handled much worse than this. So depression, you can go and do whatever it is that you need to do, but you don’t get to bully me anymore.”
Some people find that it’s better to absolutely swear the biggest profanity and say, “FU, depression. Back off! You know nothing about me and you know nothing about my future and know nothing about my past, and I’m going to politely ask you to sit down because I got this.” You can talk to depression in whatever way is helpful to you as long as you’re talking to it as separate, not to you in the way where you’re saying and swearing at yourself.
Now we also know there is some evidence that you can use your name by saying, “No, Kimberley can handle this. Thank you, depression.” Using the third person, we’ve got research and science to show that that is very empowering. I could say to depression, “Thank you, depression, but Kimberley has got this. She is going to do her best. She’s going to put one foot forward and please sit down because you don’t get to tell her what to do today.” That is how we can talk back to depression.
Tip #2: Keep your expectations small
I know when you’re suffering and you’re starting to lose your functioning and depression is taking a lot from you. It’s taken your friendships, your time, taking you away from events. It’s made you miss being present with your children or your family or your loved ones. I know what it can feel like in that you feel like you have to catch up somehow. What I want to offer to you is, yes, I know you want to catch up, but the only way to catch up is to do baby steps. Please don’t try and push yourself with pressure to catch up at a rate where it doesn’t help you. In fact, when we put a lot of pressure on ourselves, we actually create a lot more depression because it feels scary, it feels more overwhelming, which your depression is already done to you.
What I want you to do is make small, realistic expectations for the day and work at keeping the expectations small and then build on them. As you do something that was just baby steps, your depression is going to say, “See, what a loser? You’re doing only small steps? You should be doing big steps.” This is where you’re going to go back and talk to depression and say, “Back off! I’m doing what I need to do today to take you over. I’m taking you down, depression, and I’m going to do it slowly and compassionately. It will work because I’m building habit upon habit, not just pushing myself out of self-punishment and self-judgment, and self-criticism.” We know that those behaviors make depression worse, so we’re actually going to cheer ourselves on.
Tip #3 Celebrate your wins
That is the big piece that we need to remember. The best way to change the mindset over depression is to be kind and to cheer ourselves on, to motivate ourselves, to celebrate when you make a baby step. I celebrate you if you’re making baby steps. Even listening to this right now, I celebrate you. You’re investing in your well-being. We want to make sure we’re cheering you on. I call it the kind coach. It’s the voice that says, “You can do it. Just a little more. Keep going. I believe in you. Just a little more. What would be right for you? What do you need?” It takes into consideration that, of course, you’re going to have challenges. But when you have challenges, it’s there to say, “What can we do to strategize? Maybe we need to rethink this. How can we rethink this in a way that makes it possible for you just to get back on track?” Baby steps at a time.
I hope that was helpful. I really wanted to go over and really reinforce to you and hopefully get you to see that depression is a wire and depression is lying to you. A big part of that is you recognizing and being aware and observing and catching when it lies to you and having skills so that you can talk back to it, change the way you respond so that you’re not contributing and making the depression stronger.
Have a wonderful day. You guys always know, I’m always going to say it is a beautiful day to do hard things. I hope that this was helpful and I hope you have a wonderful day.