This is one of the key skills I must learn if I am to make sure depression is not my boss.
Asking better questions, not just hearing the voice of depression will keep me from making impulsive, rash, and often destructive decisions.
In the hospital, I was given a handout titled “How to Challenge Unhelpful Thinking Styles.” My thanks to the nurses at UVA 5 East for this information.
This list is has been very helpful on several occasions already. I did not use it before canceling our backup internet service right after getting out of the hospital, and the results were bad. Asking others would have reminded me of the plan and avoided the pain in the ass phone calls to reinstate the service.
But I did use the list recently to understand my motives for applying to a position that would take me out of retirement and back into the workplace full time. I utilized almost every question on the list and sought out trusted friends to run my thoughts past.
These questions really work.
Having to do the work of examining my idea from different angles slowed everything down. This really pissed off the depression. It had counted on me to run back to its underhanded, “I’ve got your back, but NOT really,” message.
I know at the beginning of the process, as I first began to explore other ideas than just blindly accepting the offer, I was not convinced these questions would help.
After all, depression had already told me what to do.
What other people thought, depression had shown me in the past I should ignore. In fact, keeping my ideas as close to the vest and as secret as possible was the way depression had wanted me to operate.
It reminds me of the way termites operate. You don’t see the destruction they are causing, because they are hidden in the dark. They build tunnels and get into your walls, joists, studs, the very framework that holds up the house.
You never see it coming when the house collapses.
Depression, just like termites, operates in the dark. It doesn’t take the credit for the destruction it unleashes; it saves that for you. Well, it always seemed to save it for me.
It would be off on vacation by the time I was dealing with it’s “shit for brains” plan that I embraced as my own. It let me take all the credit for the impulsive, destructive behaviors it carefully got me to embrace.
Keeping the house from coming down around me again is job #1 these days. I can identify, sometimes almost immediately when I dip back into an Unhelpful Thinking Style. If you don’t remember all of them, he’s a link to a post where I talk about them. Unhelpful Thinking Styles.
So, I am getting off my soapbox and will share the list.
I will leave up to you to decide if these questions are helpful. You know what I think.
How to Challenge Unhelpful Thinking Styles – 12 Questions
- How do I know if this thought is accurate?
- What evidence do I have to support the thoughts or beliefs?
- How can I test my assumptions/beliefs to find out if they are accurate?
- Do I have a trusted friend who I can check out these thoughts with?
- Is this thought helpful?
- Are there other ways that I can think about this situation or myself?
- Who or what else contributed to this situation?
- Can I look for shades of gray?
- Am I assuming the worst?
- Am I holding myself to an unreasonable or double standard?
- Are there exceptions to these absolutes (always, never)?
- Am I making this personal when it is not?
Using these questions and the worksheet I was given in my SMART recovery class; I was able to make a much better decision about going back to a full-time position in a non-profit.
I understood that I was running away from facing my real issues. It was about safety and avoiding the work of learning why I need a title in front of my name to feel valuable.
But here I am less than two weeks later using these tools again.
I will say it out loud, “I am in demand.” Having mentioned some months ago that I might be looking at a chance to solve problems within company policy, I have been told of a new position opportunity. It would be with my former employer.
Now I can hear you saying, “too soon.”
And that is why I am pulling out all the worksheets and questions again. I want to know what my life looks like if I am offered this position? What does my other business look like? What are the advantages and disadvantages of choosing to take a full-time job, if offered?
Since I have not been offered even an interview yet, I have some time to prepare.
I have a group meeting Wednesday night, where I might get some insight. But on Thursday, I will have an hour to discuss the ins and outs with my mentor. And I will also have my Friday meeting support group to ask. This group graciously gave me almost 15 minutes two weeks ago to let me talk out my idea using these 12 questions.
In the end, they helped me face myself.
I expect between the three groups and my other support people; I will have enough sounding boards to make an informed decision. This process, while new to me, has already saved me from making one big decision.
Understanding the reason why I wanted to make the choice was the biggest eye-opener for me. Knowing my motives, being open, and listening to others, I saw the truth about what I wanted to do, and more importantly, why I wanted to do it.
Using these 12 questions kept depression from starting me back down the road to hell.
I am grateful for everyone who has taken the time to listen, to let me talk out my plan. Not letting depression have me keep the whole thing a secret was a victory. Then to see why I wanted to make the decision was a double win.
Until I have a new job offer, there is no decision to make.
But I can be prepared, as I was the last time. Asking myself these 12 questions gives me confidence that I will understand why I am making the decision. It forces me to slow down and examine the consequences of the decision. The result is I can feel confident that it will be the right decision for me and my family.