One of the tools I use the most in my tool box is self-talk. When I realized that all my feelings came from my own thoughts, I now held the power to choose what l allowed to ruminate in my brain. I could let my thoughts run amok with no supervision, then later try to figure out what triggered a bad or depressed mood, or I could pay more attention to what I thought throughout the day and capture those thoughts and feelings as they came up.
It has taken a lot of work to get to this point of self-awareness. Even today, if I don’t stay on top of what I am thinking, I can slip back into old self-defeating behaviors, thatcan have horrific results. In the past, while in the depth of my depression, I would say horrible things to myself:
I’m so fat, and ugly, and stupid. I am such a loser. No one would care if you died. No one. No one would shed a tear because I don’t have any friends and I’m nothing but a fat, stupid, pathetic, worthless loser.
Thinking those thoughts over and over, day after day, can cause one to utterly lose hope. I don’t want to go there again, and if I do, I want to be able to pull myself out quickly.
I always thought that my therapy sessions would fix me. In actuality, what determines how fast you get well and stay mentally healthy is based upon the homework do in between sessions and the amount of effort you’re putting forth to get better. I think of the hour of therapy as a lecture in school – you learn the generalities of the subject, but to master it, you have to put forth the effort to actually own the material. And of all of this, one of the greatest things that I learned in therapy is that I have the power to change, by changing my thoughts.
One of the very first things I did on the road to self-discovery was to observe and listen to my inner chatter. It’s amazing how many erroneous thoughts run through the mind. What I noticed is that I had labeled myself as a horrible person. Everything about myself was bad: fat, ugly, stupid, dumb, loser, good for nothing, worthless. I decided to take all of those words and write the opposite on paper and read that every day. Every morning I would tell myself out loud that I am beautiful, smart, worthwhile, and good person. In the beginning I would roll my eyes and totally not believe any of this. Then one day I asked, “Why not?” That’s when I started to question my belief system. “Why can’t these good thoughts be true? What is truth anyway? Where did I get this negative believe system?” I started reading all kinds of self-help books, including “Think and Grow Rich” by Napoleon Hill. “What you think about is what you bring about” is the main premise of this book. Think you are successful and you will become successful. Think you are a failure and you will become one. I had never realized before this point that what I was thinking was affecting my moods, decisions, and behaviors. Once I learned this I had the hope that things can get better.
I kept checking in with my thoughts, and with every negative thought I would think the opposite. If I said I was stupid in my mind, I would tell myself how smart I am and try to think of an example. I would defeat my own thoughts with self talk and new thoughts – I was learning to become my own therapist.
We are the only ones in control of our life, our feelings, or mood, and our destiny. No one else holds that power over us unless we let them. Try observing your thoughts for a day and see what you find. Were you surprised at the results? Try writing down all of the bad and then make a list of the opposites. If you think you are stupid, not only write out that you are smart but give examples. I’m sure you have some. Even when I was at the depth of my depression I could think of one thing: I’m kind to animals. The list grew from there and continues to expand today.
My abuse and trauma is deeply engrained into who I am. Even with all the horrific things that happened (read my story here: ) I still hold the power to change, but only if I put the work into it every day with little or no slacking. I have a list of things I do every day to keep myself on the path of self improvement and self-discovery. This is my insurance that if I do indeed hit a rough patch, I can quickly turn things around by being my own therapist and apply everything that I know. Self-talk can be the key to me having a good day, or bad. Ultimately though, it’s my choice.