Shah mi oshiet. Totie min noplay din ssasa. Qiok. Blah blah blah. I’m insane.
I really didn’t know how to start this post. I tried lots of different angles, but none really worked out for me. They all had a hard time getting to the point. And, truly, that’s what matters most.
I’ve known it for a while – about my depression. It probably started when I was a kid. I think I had a very good sense of guilt, being Catholic and all, and I think it went unchecked. My grandma tells the story of finding me, one day in my sixth year, facing the corner. My parents were unaware. My grandma said, “Miles, why are you in the corner?” My answer was, “Because I needed to be punished.”
The hideous truth of this disturbing, yet humorous, anecdote is that this need for punishment has followed me throughout my life, as I now find myself frequenting the fetish bars in and around Madison on a nightly basis. My handle is “Trigger”.
I did not grow up in an environment that fostered a sensitive boy. My parents despised and abhorred things like poetry, reading, and music. I found myself the victim of countless random beatings that my alcoholic father used to call “wussy-patrol”. My demure mother would simply cry in her room when she heard my screams, pretending it was all a dream. This paragraph is all made up, by the way.
I wouldn’t be able to put a name to the black, hideous face until a special girl came along. Her name was Megan Johanson. It was with this girl that I discovered that women, like nothing else, prod my depression into Godzilla proportions. I was more depressed than a button, and Megan had to be the first to find out just how psychotic I am. I got a book that year, called Feeling Good, but never read it. I made a lot of mistakes with Megan, and I am sorry. It was never your fault.
Things quieted down for a spell. After Megan and I, I was briefly imprisoned, I mean, hospitalized, but I soon made a complete recovery. Or did I? I appeared to get better, and I did get a little better, but my problems were not solved. They simply recoiled into the dark cave of my mind.
Two more girlfriends came and went. ALi Dietman and Elise Pederson both passed without a hitch. Depression would raise its ugly head for either of those two. At least, the head would not raise as far… from the ground.
Then another girl came along, another Megan. Her name was Megan Flynn, and things just started up again. Things were a little different this time. She had her own depression, probably worse than mine, but less reactive. We were a match made in heaven, except that neither of us were fixing our depression. Things began to break apart; we began to break apart. Now things are at a head.
I’ve given up fighting. I want to kill my depression. I want to burn it from my mind with the heat of a thousand suns. I picked Feeling Good back up and started reading. And what I’ve discovered is magical.
I have superpowers! Well, what Dr. Burns calls them is “cognitive distortions”, but superpowers is better. Here is the list:
This is the fabulous power to see everything in black and white. There is none of that gray-scale stuff, just true black-and-white (like Pi, the movie). “If your performance falls short of perfect, you are a complete failure.”
With this power you can percieve a never-ending pattern of events, based on just one! You can take one negative moment in your life and predict that it will happen over and over for the rest of your life.
This is like the Spidey-Sense of depression. With this ability, I can pick out the tiniest, but negative, detail and focus on it as if nothing else exists. In this way, it is “like the drop of ink that colors the entire beaker of water.”
This allows me to pick out true, positive statements about myself and the world around me. Once picked out, I can always find a way to discredit it. Insisting that it “‘didn’t count'”, by way of logic.
Taking it’s name from an old Johnny Quest episode, this power has two parts to it: Mind Reading and Fortune Telling. With the first power, I can read people’s minds and see the negative thoughts they have about me. I don’t need to check this out, because how could it be any different? The second power allows me to anticipate how badly future events are going to go. The soothing is so strong, that it might as well be fact.
Remember “Stretch Armstrong”? I don’t. But I’ve seen pictures and stuff for him on that VH1 show “Remember the …’s”. I think it was 1976. That, and he’s mentioned in a Family Guy episode.
With this power I believe that my emotions, the negs, reflect the way things really are. Have you ever heard that song “Emotion Sickness” by Silverchair? The lyrics go “Emotion sickness / Addict with no heroine / Emotion sickness / Distorted eyes / when everything is clearly dying” How poetic is that?
This is the guilt master. This is the ability to see every “should” and “shouldn’t” that is possible in every situation. With this power I can riddle myself or someone I love with a list of all the things they should be doing and things they shouldn’t be doing. The words “ought” and “must” appear frequently, too. So frequently that one colleague of Dr. Burns called this power “musturbation”. I got a big chuckle out of that.
This power allows me to find the most appropriate label for someone, including myself. In the book, Burns uses sentences like “I am a loser” and “He’s a goddam louse.” I’m not really sure about that last one. Apparently, though, most labels are mislabels. No one is really a loser, but that guy really is a louse.
I am the reason that everything goes wrong. At least, with this power, I can see how I caused every negative thing that goes on around me. Am I actually responsible for it? Maybe not. But the trick is in finding the connection. I call this the “Where’s Waldo?” power.
These powers, he says, account for pretty much all of a depressed person’s warped thinking strategies. Negative thoughts are automatic thoughts, as they happen automatically in a depressed person. How can you tell you are depressed? Let’s look earlier in the book, to the Burns Depression Checklist.
Burns has a list of statements, 25 of them, and you rate them (0 to 4) how closely they match your own thinking. The most depressed person would score 100 and the least depressed would score 0. Some of the questions could point to serious trouble. Like, “Would you like to end your life?”. Some of them seem like they are unfairly stacked. Like, “Which best describes you: a sad, depressed alcoholic (mark a 4), or a broom (mark a 0)”. Some of the questions would be hard to mark anything but a 4. Like, “Are you having difficulty making decisions?”.
My previous score on this, when I took it on 22 Oct 04, was a 59. My current score, based on taking it just right now, is an 80. Wow. That’s not good. But, to be truthful, yesterday was a really bad day. The score is based on how you’ve felt the previous week, and last week was pretty bad for me. Of course, the point of the book is to lower your score, not increase it. With his scale, a 59 is “severe depression”, and an 80 is “extreme depression”. The goal is to get down to 10 – 6, “normal but unhappy”, or even 5 – 0, “not depressed”.
So, with this “scientific” evaluation, I would have to say that I’m probably depressed. I also know exactly where my shortfalls are. So, how do I fix it? Well, that’s the chapter I’m on now. Wouldn’t you know it? I did learn one thing the other day.
Take a piece of paper. Make three columns and give them the headings of “Automatic Thought”, “Cognitive Distorition”, “Rational Response”. In the first column, write down all the negative thoughts you have. Write them as they pop into your head, or write down ones you remember, but write them down. Once you have them all, or a lot of them, down on paper, go back up to the Super Powers section. Figure out, based on my horribly paraphrased summaries, which one of those distortions is being utilized in your thought. There may be more than one. Do this for every automatic thought. In the final column, write out a response to the negative thought. The response should be based in solid truth, and it should be objective. For instance:
Automatic Thought : I’d like to strangle the bastard.
Cognitive Distortion : magnification; labeling
Rational Response : He acted like a pain in the butt. We all do at times. Why let this get to me?
(I’m really starting to hate this Vintage theme)
Just do this for every negative thought you ever have, and you’ll be fine. Well, not quite. This is more of an excercise designed to get the depressed person doing it to recognize when they’re distorting reality. Then, when they realize what they are doing, they can use the Rational Response to combat it. This is just one of the many excercises he has available to help beat depression. I started my own sheet along with the book, because I like to follow along. I got as far as writing all my negative thoughts, and then I started crying. Unfortunately, as I wrote, I started thinking, “Yeah, that’s a good point” and “That’s true” and that was the opposite of what I was supposed to be thinking.
According to the back of this bright yellow, Oh-God-My-Eyes, book, when I am done reading this, and if I really work on it, I should be able to recognize what causes my mood swings, nip negative feelings in the bud, deal with guilt, handle hostility and criticism, overcome addiction to love and approval, build self-esteem, beat “do-nothingism”, avoid the painful downward spiral of depression.
Right now, I just wish the jacket cover was mauve. The rest will follow. The rest will follow.