Monday, September 3, 2012

Fighting hopelessness

Thank you for all your wonderful comments that you left on my last post. Words cannot adequately express how touched I was by all the good thoughts that you sent my way.
I am slowly coming out of the hopelessness I have been feeling, and I feel blessed for that.
My down period, I believe, came from a series of circumstances and my responses to them.
And I think it came in part from a change in medication. I think the change is ultimately good, but my body had to adjust to no longer receiving a medication it had been getting for at least two years.

One of the things I’ve done to try to help myself is to learn a little more about hopelessness.
I turned to The Cognitive Behavioral Workbook for Depression: A Step by Step Program, 2nd Edition, by William J. Knaus, Ed.D.
He writes that in some instances, hopelessness is the reality. An example he gives is the fact that we all age. “But you don’t have to feel miserable about this reality. Even when one situation is hopeless, you can find other opportunities” (p. 144).
Hopelessness thinking is different from the real hopeless situations: “Hopelessness thinking includes overly generalized beliefs such as these: ‘My future looks dismal’; “Nothing will ever work out’; ‘Whatever I do will be futile’; ‘I will never get better’; ‘This is the way I am. I always feel miserable’” (p. 144).
As Knaus says, “unfortunate events happen, but the fatalistic resignation of hopelessness thinking is optional” (p. 145).
An example he gives is that someone may have lost his or her job, but that doesn’t mean he or she will never work again.
I appreciated being reminded that there are some hopeless situations in life. But how we react to them is so important. Giving in to hopelessness thinking is a choice. It’s a choice that’s difficult to pull out of, but it can be done.

One of the techniques Knaus gives for fighting hopelessness is what he calls the “prove it” technique. You write down your hopeless thoughts, give examples of such thoughts, and then write down alternatives.
I tried this exercise. Here’s one of my outcomes:
Hopeless thought: I’m never going to feel better; I’ll never be happy.
Example of this thought: I’ve felt bad for many years.
Alternative: I’ve felt good, too, and I can’t predict for sure that I’ll always feel bad.
And here’s another outcome:
Hopeless thought: I’ll never be able to do what I want.
Example of this thought: I’m 49 and still not doing what I want.
Alternative: That’s not true. I am doing many things that I want to do and that can grow.
This exercise helped me. Writing down my thoughts gave me something to look at and work with. And writing out my reasons for believing the hopeless thought made me see the problems with it. With the alternatives, I could argue with myself, show myself that the hopeless thought wasn’t true.

It’s more work to sit and write down my thoughts than to wallow in the hopeless thoughts, but it was worth it in my case. I began to feel like I had more control over how I felt and how I responded to things.
I plan to keep trying this exercise when I get caught up in the hopelessness thinking.

So, dear readers, I feel like I am on my way back. Thank you again for your support and caring.

Have you ever worked on negative thinking patterns in a systematic way? If so, what did you do? Does it help you to write out your thoughts?

30 comments:

  1. Good Morning Tina!!

    Oh, I really like that CBT exercise, 'Prove it."
    What a good way to put things into a perspective of reality. I know when depression is worse for me- even trying to sort how I am really feeling & thinking is such a task for me. I like how the 'Prove it' sort of sets up the stage and with a simple outline to work out in my journaling pages.

    One thing that I really do tell myself when I am in a depression fog is this -I have been worse this before, and I HAVE come out of it and got BETTER. Reminding myself of this little truth, yet a BIG truth, helps me to believe that 'This too shall pass.' ... and I always keep my prayer going.

    I hope and will be saying a prayer for you that you are surely feeling the hope that has never left you, and that you may begin to feel uplifted soon :)~Deanna

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    1. Thank you for your prayers and kind words, Deanna. You're right--we can remind ourselves that we've gotten through the tough times before, and we will again.

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  2. Oh, I'm so glad you're starting to feel a little bit better! It's a process and it takes time, but sound like you are on your way up.

    I have to tell you that I love, love, LOVE what you quoted from Dr. Knaus' book. Those are such great examples of fighting the cognitive distortions that accompany depression. Really brilliant stuff in my opinion. Thank you so very much for sharing it.

    I know it is tremendous work to fight the depression, but I am so proud of you for pushing onward and doing things that are healthy for you in spite of the immense effort it requires. You CAN do this. Hugs!

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    1. Thank you for your encoragement, Sunny! Those cognitive distortions are sneaky, because they seem so real. I don't always recognize them as distorted thoughts. But things like Kraus' book really do help.

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  3. I'm so glad you're feeling better.

    I like that exercise.

    I sometimes have to use an exercise from the Anxiety and Phobia Workbook to work through negative fearful thoughts. Sometimes I blog those exercises and other times I just do them in my journal. Here is an example of a time I blogged the exercise:

    http://babysteppingit.blogspot.com/2012/03/weather-anxiety.html

    I see you actually already read and commented on that post at the time so you may remember the technique.

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    1. I do remember, Elizabeth, but I'm going to go back and refresh myself. Writing things out like that really do seem to help me. Thank you for the reminder! :-)

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  4. Tina, I'm so happy for you finding encouragement and support from comments and other resources, i truly am. I like the idea of this exercise, as a matter of fact when I get home from doing laundry Im going to try it. Just had a hopeless moment, out here in front of people, almost started to cry but I held back my tears because I knew they were going to be uncontrollable, i dont want to do that in public feeling a tinge better, clothes are in dryer.:)

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    1. Madison, thank you for your support and encouragement. I'm sorry you're having a tough morning. I hope the exercise does help. I think the act of writing stuff down is part of the help for me.

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  5. I so glad that you jumped into this book, and are finding it helpful. I find that when we write down our thoughts and feelings and/or speak them to someone - we are forced to really see them. And only in seeing them, can we deal with them. That is what my blog is for, for me - because when I can see it, I can figure it out.

    You are doing great work - don't forget that :0)

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    1. Thank you, Amanda! You are doing great work, too, with your blog and your studies. You're right--when we can see something, recognize it, we have something to work with.

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  6. OOOoooooo.....I LIKE this. He has some very good things to say.

    I, too, am really struggling right now with hopeless thinking. I'm trying to work through it. For me, writing things down gives me more time to reflect on what is REALLY going on...thus making it easier to think and work through the problem. On the other hand, it's HARD to come face to face with the problem and your weaknesses.

    I just started working on a 12 step program that my church, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, uses (adapted from Alcoholics Anonymous 12 step program) that not only helps people with a variety of addictions (alcohol, drugs, pornography, food, etc) but also helps the "victims" (aka family, spouses, friends,etc) of said addicts to find hope and healing through Jesus Christ and His atonement. (http://addictionrecovery.lds.org/?lang=eng)

    It's a wonderful program, AMAZING program, but it's still HARD to do. Fessing up to your inner most thoughts, actually writing them down, can be bitterly painful. On the other hand, that's where the healing starts. It's amazing.

    My hope is that your will continue "rising". I'll send a prayer heavenward for you.

    Your writing brings so much HOPE to others. Keep it up.

    Love,
    Melanie

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    1. Thank you so much, Melanie, for your encouragement and kindness. I agree--writing things down makes it easier to see what there is to work on, but it's hard to come face to face with what we're dealing with too!

      The 12 step program sounds intense, but sometimes programs and plans like that are what is most helpful. Good luck in going through the program!

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  7. Sounds like a great way to restructure your thoughts.

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    1. Lisa, that's a good way to put it--it really is restructuring my thoughts.

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  8. Tina,

    I'm in your corner. Thanks for your honesty and valor. Keep using whatever helps you to clarify your thoughts. Writing is an excellent way to do that.

    Write It Down, Make It Happen by Henriette Klauser is another book that explains the power of the written word on the page.

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    1. Thank you, Shirley, I appreciate it. Writing has always helped me figure out what I'm trying to articulate. Thank you for the recommended book. I'll put that on my list.

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  9. Love this exercise and the awareness it brings to cognitive distortions. Good for you for being so proactive, Tina, and really working to bring yourself out of hopelessness. You are an inspiration to me and many others!

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    1. Thank you, Janet, as always, for your encouragement!

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  10. I attend the hospital for my chronic fatigue syndrome and as well as looking at the physical they do include your emotional/mental well being. A sound insight into the fact chronic illness can affect you negatively when it impacts your physical abilities negatively. One of the excercises we had to do was what you have described, turning a negative thought round by speaking the opposite. I will never get well you had to voice out loud I will get well and so on. I think it just puts enough of a seed of doubt about how you see your current situation to cause you to have hope that maybe just things are not cut and dry and maybe you might be wrong and in my case I could get well. I found it difficult I do have to say in other areas of issues, life situations to continue this way of thinking but at times I still do use it and some times I find it does work. Well done for trying this and helping your self to get better.

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    1. Thank you! I'm with you on that fact that it's not always easy to do, but challenging my negative thinking can bring around a different perspective that can lead to me actually feeling better sometimes.

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  11. I always try to see the positive in the situation or see what I can make positive out of it. I reframe the story so I am not a victim of it but a responder. If I see that I have some power, I don't feel as hopeless.

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    1. Jodi, I have found that that is so important, to reframe things so that I am not a victim. I tend to first see myself as a victim, and that doesn't help at all. Thanks for your comment!

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  12. Well Tina, one of the things that pulls me out of hopelessness is reading your blog! What you write, and the comments made, are so helpful, thank you for that! Makes me realize I'm not alone in all this.
    I mostly must remind myself of the techniques I learned from my psychologist and start at the beginning of all that again, as I tend to want to move too fast and overload myself. In that way I do not get everything done I want to do and end up in a negative circle again. So I must just go back to basics and remind myself of what I do accomplish on a day to day bases.

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    1. Klaaske, thank you for your kind comment!

      I tend to want to move too fast too and get a lot done right away, and I, too, end up overwhelmed and, as you say, in a negative circle. And I think it's very important to remind ourselves of what we do accomplish on a daily basis.

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  13. Sometimes I down spiral into negative thoughts. It happens more often when I'm experiencing monthly hormonal changes or during the winter months when I'm hit with some seasonal affective disorder. I try to fight it with getting more sleep and staying busy, but I also find success with stepping into my morning shower, letting the negativity "wash" away, and praying at the same time.

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    1. Rebecca, I like your idea of letting the shower "wash" away the negativity. The metaphor could be very meaningful. Thank you for sharing that.

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  14. I have put my thoughts down on paper a few times and when I do so, it seems to show me how distorted my thinking is - or in a case of a contamination issue, how ridiculousness it is for me to have carried it that far out of the realm of reality. I need to do this - the writing - more often, than for the reminder that it works!

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    1. Krystal Lynn, I've experienced that, too--written down my thoughts and been able to see how really ridiculous my thought patterns were. It's a good way to put some distance between me and my thoughts.

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  15. I have been feeling pretty hopeless lately. I thought it had to do with the change of seasons, the fact that I have been alone a lot....I feel myself slipping....

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    1. Jen, I can empathize with you, believe me. I hope that you start feeling better!

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