*Please note that I’m not quoting research or speaking scientific fact. All of this is based on my experience in therapy, and daily practice and should be treated as such.*
I want to preface this with something. I am on Lexapro. If you follow me on Facebook (@katiejoyhealth) I posted a video where I got genetic testing done. I'm missing a gene that produces serotonin. I will always have to supplement. I also practice Functional Medicine and a lot of factors go into my journey. This blog is not to say that changing your behaviors is going to fix every problem you have. However, Anxiety and Depression are very much so mind disorders. Taking control over various thoughts and behaviors is going to help your mind so much. I hope you know that I come from a place of understanding, love, and experience.
When I did Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, I learned 3 important tiers. I have thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. What I quickly learned is, my behaviors weren’t going to change without intention, my thoughts would follow my behaviors (with some mindfulness practice), and my feelings were going to change based on how I handled the first two.
When I learned this, it blew my freaking mind. It may seem so easy to some, but depression makes you believe that it is impossible. Depression and anxiety are the opposite. Depression and anxiety say: I feel this way, which makes me think I’m this way, and therefore I can’t do the thing.
This is where I like the analogy “You have to fix the leaking pipe or else you’re constantly going to be mopping a flooding kitchen.”
Behaviors: No matter how hard, how infuriating, and how seemingly impossible, you have got to make yourself change behaviors first. It’s your manual function. This is fixing the leaking pipe. What is your vice? What is your depression telling you to do? For me, it’s binging netflix on the couch or staying in bed well past when I wake up and just scrolling on my phone. My head is telling me “Hey, you’re awake. You need to get up. I know you don’t want to, but the longer you stay here, the worse you’ll feel. Hey you need to feed yourself and shower and get stuff done. Okay. It’s now been 4 hours and you’re getting upset because nothing is done.”
What is going to make me get out of bed? Is it a pill, a book, a set of slippers, a cup of coffee, a group of birds to dress me and make my bed? Ok, the last one would probably work. However, in general, none of these. It comes down to the physical act and the sheer will to do so. Am I telling you depression isn’t real and you’re just lazy and life shouldn’t be hard so grit your teeth and get up? NO. I. GET. IT. I get it better than anyone. I’m going on 11 months of healing and staying in bed is still my biggest vice. Letting my depression keep me inside gets me often. I know it well. I am literally preaching to the choir here.
That’s step one: Change Behaviors. It helps when there is accountability, and this blog is a great source of that for me. If i continue to do the same things over and over again, what kind of help or hope am I giving anyone else? How can I say these things work if I’m not doing them?
Each day I try not to say “I feel like…” However, it’s another vice of mine. I’ve acted off of feelings my entire life. If you read my posts, my text messages or have talked to me in the last 5 years, every sentence starts with, “I just feel like…” I never knew how to change it until this year. Behaviors. Step one. Do the hard stuff. Do the things that suck. It will change.
I spoke to my sister about this and she shared her experience with me:
"This is where medication comes in and is sometimes necessary. Although I know that my muscles and bones and joints can physically get me out of bed, my mind, my will, and my emotions would not allow it. I contemplated wetting myself because getting up to use the bathroom was that difficult of a task. When your brain is so depleted of neurotransmitters and your body deprived of vital minerals and nutrition, you body will not cooperate. Sometimes you need to take medication to help you function enough to change those behaviors, so you can change your thoughts, so you can change your feelings. No anti-depressant ever made me "feel" better. But it gave me enough energy and clarity of thought to get out of bed, to make the coffee, to eat the meal, to shower, to go to the bathroom in order to make the progress. If you can't get out of bed, if you can't move, if your mind, will, and emotions cannot muster enough energy for you to complete you activities of daily living (bathing, toileting, dressing, moving.), it might be a next step to discuss medication with a psychiatrist or counselor. Medication got me out of bed enough this last year to make the progress I have. But I have done the work to change one day at a time. Sometimes minute by minute choosing to return to the leak to fix the pipe. I've spent a decade mopping up the water. It's time for a real solution."
Thoughts: Thoughts are the "If only this mop was more absorbent. If only someone would come help me. If only this wasn't my situation," part of the analogy. Thoughts and feelings are closely connected. I have to be so aware of my negative thoughts because they will easily change my day. Mindfulness has helped a lot with this. Any time I start to think, “I’m worthless, I’m lame, no one loves me, why am I even trying?” I go to the opposite extreme. When your self worth is so low and your mindset is always on how “awful” you are, go ahead and go to the other side. Aspire towards narcissism! Go ahead, I dare you.
From what I’ve gathered, the opposite of empathy is narcissism. If you are so in tune with others feelings and so overwhelmed by what others may feel, need, and desire, you’re most likely an empath. When you not only sense their pain, but you feel it with them, that’s empathy. If that’s your day to day and you struggle with these negative thoughts about yourself, go ahead and push the envelope to being a narcissist! The likelihood of someone who is genuinely an empath becoming a narcissist while doing this exercise is very slim. At the very least, you’ll develop a better sense of self-love and self-worth, and you’ll push yourself more towards the center of the scale.
For example, I have always had issues with my talent. I have always felt like I wasn’t good at anything. I genuinely believed that there was nothing there to love or cherish. Part of my therapy was to push the opposite thoughts daily. When I thought, “I’m a terrible photographer. Nothing I photograph is good, especially compared to so-and-so. Why did I even waste my money on a camera when I could be getting out of debt instead of into more?” I switched to “You are an internationally recognized photographer with a project that circulated multiple news outlets and got the attention of hundreds of thousands of people. People keep asking you to photograph things, which means they do like your work.”
I started doing this with everything. If I thought I was bad at my job, instead of self deprecating, I listed the things that I could do that no one else in the office knew how to do. Sometimes it was as simple as knowing how to get the scanner to work. I had to become mindful and focus on positive self worth. Let me tell you, when the behaviors changed, the thoughts got easier to experience. I got out of bed and did a load of laundry: “Hey! You did the thing!” I set up a shoot with a client: “Hey! You’re paying off the camera while using the camera! Not a waste!” I grocery shopped instead of buying fast food because I planned a list and a time when I could: “Hey! You don’t feel awful because you thought ahead and didn’t let depression win!” It took time, but one day I looked up and it was a year later and I loved my life.
Feelings: Oh, the feelings. Feelings are the "I'm still mopping this damn overflowing kitchen and I want to give up" part of the analogy. Feelings have been covered here. All I can say is, your feelings do not dictate your ability, your strength, or your worth. Feeling like you can’t do something doesn’t mean that you can’t. You won't have to keep mopping the damn floor if the pipe is fixed. Play a little game next time you have a feeling: “I feel like I’m too tired to function and I can’t get up.” Just get up. See if you can. I bet you can. You just don’t want to because you don’t feel like you want to. Depression or anxiety is making you feel like you can't. Do you have the physical ability to do so, though? The answer is most likely yes. The very idea that it makes you upset when you’re in that place or that nothing brings you joy means that you want to experience incredible change. You desire a different reality.
Lastly, This doesn’t have to apply to just mental illness. It can apply to diet, exercise, a tough job experience, family relationships, etc. Change your behavior first, replace the negative thoughts, your feelings will follow.
The feelings will follow. I promise.
Oils: Joy, Peace & Calming, Abundance, + Peppermint.