Banishing Dark Thoughts

One of the worst parts of depression, at least for me, was the never-ending swirl of negative thoughts I lived in. Even during my dreams, I was surrounded by thoughts of death, apathy, and nothingness, and I didn't have much respite from angry self-talk during the day, either.

Here are a couple of tips to help you fight off your own dark mindset:

While alone, speak your negative self-talk aloud, as if you were saying it to another person.

Your words should sound a lot harsher and unreasonable once you've spoken it--as if it has less truth and power in it once it stops bouncing around in your brain. Recognize that this negative self-talk IS harsh and unreasonable, and it is not your doing; this is depression warping your natural state.

For instance, during the worst of my depression, I used to remember what my bullies said to me in school, and then agree with them. "Nancy was right, I AM just a fat horrible slug," I thought in sixth grade. "I'm disgusting. I haven't bathed in five days or even gotten out of bed. Nobody wants to date me or even look at me. I'm worthless. She was right, she was right." But as soon as I spoke these thoughts out loud (and even as I just typed them), I could see the depression fog around those words.

Depression will try to convince you that you are nothing and worthless, and that nobody will miss you if you died. But, when you speak its words out loud, you will understand that these things are unreasonable and untrue. Those are the words of the enemy--prove them wrong.

Talk about your troubling thoughts with listeners whom you trust.

Like talking about a bad dream, often your darkest thoughts will slowly lose their cogency, meaning, and fearsomeness once others have heard them. You can also get opinions on whether these thoughts/fears have any real bearing on reality.

For example: During my lapse in high school, I began to write lots of poetry about my dark thoughts. It was weird--as soon as I wrote the poem out, it was like those thoughts were trapped like insects in amber, unable to affect me any longer. Furthermore, other people read the poem and expressed how relatable it was, how much they had suffered just like that. It stunned me to know that there were people out there who understood the fog in my mind and the emptiness in my heart; knowing that I was not alone in my suffering helped much more than I thought it would.

Consciously replace negative self-talk with positive.

I have to do this even to this day, because I often talk negatively to myself even while out of depression. I'm obsessed with perfection, so when I do something wrong, I instantly launch into self-beration: "What a dumb thing to do. I'm a grown woman and can't even do [insert task here] right. Stupid stupid stupid," etc. (Liberally sprinkle that with cuss words and you'll get an even more accurate sense of what I put myself through.)

What I've started doing is to contradict the negative talk right away: "No, I did fine, I just have to try again." "It's not that bad, anybody could have done that, and nobody is going to kill me because of it." "I am not stupid, just human." (My awesome boyfriend actually started this by saying these positive things to me, but I've picked it up and am trying to turn it into a habit.) This technique helps because it breaks the chain reaction of negative thoughts and speech--otherwise, one negative thought generates another and another, and soon it's dragged you straight down into the fog again.

Note: I am NOT saying "just think positive," because we all know that is BS advice. I am saying "SPEAK positive to yourself." Even if you feel stupid saying positive things to yourself, even if you don't believe them quite yet, say them anyway. I hate to go all Stuart Smalley on you, but maybe Saturday Night Live had the right idea putting this on TV, even if they were making a parody of affirmations. It seems like such a small thing to do, but just filling your world with one more positive thing can be the tipping point between losing yourself in oblivion and starting to resurface into normal life.