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Life is not black or white, it’s the full spectrum of color in between

Originally posted May 12, 2016.

Depression and the Symptom of Black & White Thinking

If you suffer from untreated depression, you may feel lonely and isolated. You may think and feel like everyone else (except you) is surrounded by a group of friends and family. The intense loneliness can feel crushing and all-consuming. You might doubt your value as a human being, as a person. As someone who has suffered from depression, I know is a valiant fight, battle after battle, for self esteem and self-worth.

Maybe most of the time the battle is won. Sometimes, though, there is a convergence of several stressful events: a chronic pain flares up, the lay-offs at work are grinding everyone down….you can fill in the blanks.

Fatigue can limit your access to learned coping and self-parenting skills. The self-created persona crumbles around you and there is a deluge of familiar feelings: shame, worthlessness and hopelessness.

Black and white thinking is a symptom of depression

And then there is that old beastly way of thinking, black and white thinking. You know what that is: that all or nothing feeling. Either/or, this or that, frick or frack, male or female, sad or happy, yes or no. No shades of gray exist when swamped by feelings of depression.

Then comes the inevitable conclusion of black and white thinking: “I’m no good, nothing will ever be right for me ever, no one will ever like me. I will never feel well again.”

This black-and-white thinking is actually a symptom of depression. It’s also a symptom of anxiety as well as other mental illnesses. Black-and-white thinking evolved so that we focus, assess and think quickly in survival situations. When you’re feeling very depressed, your body is stressed, and thinks you’re in survival mode.

So, maybe those thoughts of self-harm slithers into your brain. Yeah, you know what I mean. The pain feels so feels like you can’t stand it anymore.

It may feel that way, but you are important. It’s ok to be sad, and your life is important. Both these ideas can co-exist, on the spectrum of life.

If you are feeling sad and alone, there are lots of things you can do.

Imagine emotions and life as the spectrum of colors in between.

Allow yourself the luxury of some sad feelings, it’s normal to be sad sometimes.

It’s normal that after some time, our moods change, and we feel better after a while.

Don’t judge yourself. Let the feelings come and let them go, let them change.

Don’t be ashamed of having sad feelings, just accept that all people are sad sometimes.

  • Call a friend.

  • Call your family.

  • Journal.

  • Find an online chat room for some help.

  • Read a book.

  • Take a walk.

  • Go to the gym.

  • Go to the yoga studio.

  • Go to a movie

  • Paint, collage, draw with media or with your computer.

  • Get professional help. It is a form of strength and self-care.

It’s okay to feel your feelings. It’s ok to feel bad sometimes. It is normal. If it goes on relentlessly for over two weeks, get help. Talk to a friend, call a counselor, use the health insurance for which you already pay.

If you are feeling very bad, if you are thinking of harming yourself, and you need immediate help. access a crisis line. Here are some phone numbers and websites to use in a crisis. Drive to a nearby police station, or a nearby emergency room, where you get emergency care. If you cannot help yourself, call 911, and emergency services will come to you.

You are Not Alone. You Are Not to Blame.

With Help, You Will Feel Better

1-800-273-TALK (8255)


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