Friday, August 25, 2017

The Importance of Right Now

This is a theme I have touched on before, but I find it is relevant again. As much as I might need a good thought on the evils of procrastination, this is not about that.  This is more about the importance of perspective.

There have been a number of changes and transitions in my life lately, some of which were anticipated, and some of which I did not see coming.  Where I have had some clients leave therapy because the time was right to do so, I have had others who have stopped for other reasons. I expected to need a dental cleaning but not to have a crown fall out.  Life, I guess, is like that sometimes.

In those moments when I start feeling overwhelmed and chasing multiple rabbits down multiple holes, it is difficult to maintain a sense of perspective.  It seems like, however life is at any point, it will always be that way. This is great when things are going well, and we can feel optimistic. When things are not going well, time seems to slow down and illuminate problems in technicolor. Depression, in particular, is excellent at making painful moments feel like forever.

Aaron Beck, founder of a school of therapy called Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (or CBT), described a "cognitive triad" or "negative triad" of thoughts that occur in depression.  Casually phrased, the triad  of thoughts says, "I'm terrible, the world is terrible, and things will always be terrible."  While I'm not altogether sold on CBT, I think Beck nailed those thought processes.  When we are down in the pit of depression, it can seem impossible that there could be a way out or that we deserve one if we can find it.

I remember a few years ago being afraid that my life would be either staying at a job that was horrible for me or having to go back to retail for a living because things would only get worse.  Now, two years into starting my own private practice, I have a job I love that mostly pays the bills.  When the census drops or when financial stressors pop up, it can be hard to trust that things will rebound or that life will get better.  Experience, however, has shown that things generally do get better... perhaps not on my preferred timeline or in the manner that I would expect, but I have never yet lived in the pit forever.  This goes back to that old %100 success rate of surviving everything life has thrown at us so far.  We've all done it.

So, what do we do in times when we are overwhelmed, depressed, and scared? First, we can try to be grateful for what we do have.  I have a home I'm not going to lose, I have a loving husband and two amazing children, and I have a job that I truly enjoy. Being grateful doesn't mean we can't be sad, but it does help us remember that we are not without resources.  Second, we can try to show compassion toward others.  Recently, I've been listening to The Book Of Joy, written about a week-long meeting between the Dalai Lama and Archbishop Desmond Tutu in which they discussed what joy is and how joy can be attained. In that book, both of those wise men discuss the power of showing compassion to others.  When we feel compassion, we recognize our connectedness and feel less alone.  It's not about looking at others and being grateful that we are not in their place (this is not connection but separation) but rather recognizing that all suffer and that we are all human beings together. Third, we can practice whatever basic self-care we can: eating healthful meals, sleeping, exercising, spending time in the presence of safe others, etc.  One of my favorite self-care activities is snuggling -- with my husband, my children, my cat... Safe physical contact is a great healer.

All of us get in spaces where we feel trapped.  Sometimes, that trap is in our own minds. One of my favorite maxims is to "keep your perspective in perspective."  When I am aware that I am depressed, I am also aware that my perspective is off and that I am likely less able to see positive things, be creative, or think clearly.  In those times, I try to practice the above and reach out to my support system as I am able.  If you find yourself feeling trapped, I hope the above is useful to you. If it's not enough or if you just want another connection point, I hope you will come find me. Then, the two of us can walk your path together. We'll start where you are right now and move into whatever comes next.