Depression brainwashes me into thinking negatively about myself and every event that happens around me. It’s not logically possible that I’m as horrible as depression has made me out to be in the past. For instance: I’m not a murderer; I’m generally a nice person willing to help other people; I’ve had people tell me more than once that I look nice/good/pretty wearing a particular outfit or on a night out. You will have too if you think back and are truthful with yourself. But, I, you, we have an illness that brainwashes us into thinking mostly negative thoughts. We need a counter-attack until we have the capacity for a balanced outlook again. One weapon is the Affirmation.
Affirmations in this context are positive statements about yourself. Example: “I am loveable” (aww). They are often in the first person and are useful in stemming the tide of negative chatter depression, anxiety and a host of other mental disorders routinely plague you with.
Affirmations, or positive statements, usually beginning with “I am…” can be used in several ways. You can write them down on large pieces of paper and stick them anywhere in your house/flat where you know you will be forced to see them. Personally, mine are stuck on the walls and wardrobes of my bedroom. I used the computer to give them borders and make them look all pretty.
Have you ever read a book and something positive has leapt out at you and “spoken” to you? You’ve suddenly thought, ‘Yes!! That’s true, that’s exactly what I do, or think’ etc. And for all of five minutes you’ve felt better and taken some bit of wisdom on board. But then, alas, that ‘feel good’ progress is lost to the deeply ingrained negativity coming from your depression (or other disorder).
I believe depression is a sort of brainwashing. It’s a constant tirade of negative insults and bullying comments ringing through your ears. Of course, brainwashing isn’t its only component; it’s a complex disorder with many factors contributing to its genesis and its continuance. I do think the negative mental talk we have inside our heads is something that feeds the depression though and helps it live longer. Affirmations are an intervention to this talk.
As I said you can stick affirmations on your wall; if you read something in a book that makes you feel better about yourself, write it down and stick that up somewhere; you can write them on small pieces of card to carry them with you in your purse or you can utilise them any other way you can think of that might be helpful to you.
All of my affirmations have come from books I’ve read because I generally find other people can phrase what I want to believe about myself in a nicer way than I can. Copyright probably prevents me from giving you the quotes that are strewn around my bedroom but I can give you a list of books that I’ve stripped affirmative statements from. Try:
DOROTHY ROWE – Depression: The Way Out of Your Prison (very firm-but-kind advice – a bit like listening to a wiser, older aunt. Good stuff.)
LOUISE L HAYE – You Can Heal Your Life (has a spiritual overtone)
PAUL MGEE – S.U.M.O (Shut Up, Move On) (a general live your life better guide. The author had chronic fatigue syndrome/M.E. himself. I found ‘The SUMO principles’ helpful for putting things into perspective.)
There’ll be a thousand other books that contain things appropriate for you; the above is a selection that I find helpful. My affirmations tend to be along the lines of “I have the power to change my life”, “I am in control”, “I am bloody lovely” – you catch my drift.
What if I don’t think I am loveable or nice or anything good?
If you feel that a positive statement such as “I love myself” is so beyond what you currently feel and believe, that’s okay. Just come up with something you can believe, like, “It is possible I am not as ugly as I feel I am” or even “I accept I have an illness that could be affecting my ability to judge my worth right now”.
Personally, affirmation-work wasn’t something I could engage with when I was severely depressed and waiting for anti-depressants to work. Now it’s something that can be helpful if I feel myself spinning downwards. I don’t do regular mantra work as is suggested in some self-help books but if I’m feeling down I do sometimes read the statements around my room. Sometimes I go back to the self-help books and dip in, read a paragraph or two.
Affirmation work, like any treatment for depression, is something you can try and, if it helps, GREAT! If not, there’s plenty of other things that might work better for you…