I have struggled against anxiety and depression for my whole adult life. In fact, it started when I was still a teenager so I have spent more of my life dealing with it than not. I tried everything from antidepressants to talking therapy and meditation, and anything in between I thought might help, with varying success.
I'd love to say I'm completely better now, but I can't. I won't lie, it's hard living with mental health conditions – to me it feels like I'm in a constant war against myself, and any time I feel like I'm winning my brain pops up with an unfriendly reminder that I'm never going to be happy and that I don't deserve to inflict myself on anyone, least of all the people that do actually care for me.
I realised I needed to start being kinder to myself and start fighting back against these thoughts. It started with something I read somewhere, or heard somewhere and I can't remember exactly where, but the concept is very simple: what would you say to a friend who was going through the same challenges?
This little seed grew in my mind until I felt able to challenge my own thoughts. I know many mental health professionals advise that we should recognise and acknowledge unhelpful thoughts and then let go of them but I found that didn't work for me. I needed to fight back in order to regain some control, so I started doing just that.
When my brain said "You're not good enough" I asked myself why not? I don't think any of my friends would say that I'm not good enough. It was that new angle on things – the "What would my friend say?" that helped me tell my own brain to shut up.
It's not the only tool I have used to combat and re-frame my brain's unkind thoughts with, but it was the one that finally clicked with me and made me adjust my perspective on things. Since then I've developed another tool for positive thinking and adjusting my outlook.
When I am faced with a negative situation I don't allow myself to look at the negatives first. They're not going to disappear just because I don't pay attention to them first, so now I challenge myself to find one positive thing about the situation. The thing is, there's nearly always a positive element in every situation, even if you have to perform some mental backflips or dig deep to get there.
Armed with one positive angle I had a weapon to fight the negatives with, and you'd be amazed at how much stronger your resolve is when you're equipped with something positive.
Slowly, and with a lot of practice these two things have really helped me deal with negatives, real or perceived, and they've helped me become kinder to myself every day. Try it, you might be just as surprised as I was.
A Moodscope member.