Placid waters – right?

I took this picture a few years ago when my husband and I were visiting Mount Gambier:

Blue Lake, Mount Gambier

Blue Lake, Mount Gambier

It was one of our best holidays ever, a short but delightful few days spent in each other’s company enjoying sunshine, beauty and peace.

The image of a lake came to me today as I sat here, before my laptop, considering my extensive To Do list. Yes, yes, I know it’s Easter Sunday – but this list isn’t going to go away of its own accord!

“That’s a lot of work to get done,” I thought to myself, realizing that although there were only eight items on my list, seven of those were quite complex. Ugh. I felt my mind begin to churn, ideas thrashing about, each little part of me wanting to have its say on the best way to do this or what to avoid when doing that; it wasn’t fun.

Anyway, that’s when the image of Blue Lake came to mind.

Blue Lake lies in the crater of an extinct volcano. It’s quite deep, and holds a lot of water, but on the surface it looks calm, doesn’t it? It could be just a shallow little pond or dam, lying innocently beneath a big blue sky.

I resolved that was how I would use my mind today. I know it has a lot of capacity and capability, but I will simply access those bits as I need them, one at a time, so my surface doesn’t become ruffled. I would have faith that what I need is there, beneath the surface, just waiting for me to use it; but there is no need to go rummaging around and making waves: what I need will come to me, at the right time, without agitation.

OK, back to it! I promised myself a little dose of electronic valium after I cross the next item off my list 🙂

Just wondering – does this image of Blue Lake speak to you at all? What does it say?

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It’s all just stories

Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about my mind’s capacity to tell stories. Of course, I’m not unique in this: story-telling is a gift, a way we make sense of the world; a heuristic which helps us interpret events and act quickly. This concept of the mind as story-teller is one of the tenets of acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT).

I came across this picture recently:

Halos

 

This galaxy of lights – some near, some far; some warm, some cold, some sharply in focus and others fuzzily defined – reminded me of the mind-as-storyteller model.

Let me share some of the stories my mind has been telling me lately.

“Catie, you’re just so stupid.” This one has been loud and clear! It’s in response to my reaction to stressors in the past few months. Funny old mind; I’m not stupid, but it’s a persistent story my mind likes to run to in times of stress.

“You’re brilliant!” This after receiving praise for a piece of research I completed and delivered to the client on Monday.

“Nobody wants me, because I’m such a deeply flawed individual.” I’m looking for work at the moment, which as we all know can be a demoralizing experience as those rejection emails keep pouring in. Obviously, not getting shortlisted for a job means that nobody in the entire world accepts me.

“I’m definitely going to get this job! Woohoo!” Upon being invited to interview for a really exciting position.

I could go on, but you get the picture: my masterful storytelling mind can switch tales faster than a cheesy soap, and is quite indiscriminate about which story it picks up in the moment.

My point is, they’re all just stories. Sometimes I behave stupidly. I am also capable of brilliance. As an individual I have flaws. I may get that job, or I may not, and whether I do or not isn’t entirely within my control, because I don’t know who else has applied and what experience they bring to the table.

I talk a lot with my therapist about being “outside” the story or “inside” the story. When we’re wearing our depression goggles, it can be easy to live “inside” the story: to become totally invested in what the story’s telling us about ourselves; to suspend disbelief and accept its premises without question. On the other hand, being “outside” the story, by reminding ourselves that our mind is a storyteller and we don’t have to accept everything it says at face value, helps protect us from the story’s impact. A simple and effective tool for moving from inside to outside the story is to say to yourself: “My mind is telling me …”.

Two final quick points on the mind-as-storyteller: It’s not a bad thing that our mind tells us stories. It’s an adaptive strategy which gives us many advantages in the world. The problem only arises when we take stories as reality which don’t accurately reflect reality and then have thoughts/feelings/behaviours originating from them. It’s also worth noting that the seemingly positive stories, like “I’m definitely going to get this job!”, can cause problems too. We’re less likely to challenge these positive stories, because they feel good, but they can also be maladaptive.

What do you think of the mind-as-storyteller model?

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The Intern

Internships aren’t really big in Australia. There are a few theories about why: Australians’ commitment to fair wages, and the ambiguity under employment law, are probably the leading two reasons. However, three weeks ago I advertised for a volunteer intern, and was receiving quality applications within twelve hours.

Claire has been helping me out with social media for Doing Defies Depression. She is an absolute star! We meet once a week to talk strategy, mutual support and mentoring. I am learning a lot from her, and I hope the feeling’s mutual. I’ll let her use her own words as introduction:


 

Hiya!
I am very excited to be taking on this internship with Catie, and I look forward to connecting with you all! Allow me to tell you a little about myself…
I have a background in performance including theatre Acting, Screen Acting, Immersive Theatre, Improvised Performance, Puppetry, Hosting, Directing and various other behind the scenes roles.
Since forming a theatre company last year with other creative professionals (TBC Theatre) I found myself managing our online marketing, I enjoy the work so much that I am now studying full time at The University of Melbourne doing a Masters of Marketing Communications.
Mental health has been a huge factor in my life, whether it’s the little devil on my back, weighing me down and swinging me around. Or it feels like the old friend who welcomes me back into the dark corner where I can cry and never leave the house.
The great thing about working as an actor (or one of the great things) is that I was forced to take a good, hard look at who I was deep down and start working with what I had, I couldn’t ignore it anymore.
Personal management, especially when your sinking, is the hardest thing to do. I believe that I am my own hero when I’m lost, and sometimes I need some guidance to give me the strength to be my hero.
This is why I find Doing Defies Depression a very inspiring business, I believe there needs to be an open community of support, so we can find our potential and strength to be our own heroes.
Once again, I look forward to connecting with you through Facebook and Twitter (and soon Instagram!).
Thank you for having me.
– Claire

 

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Short Story Writing Competition

Doing Defies Depression is hosting a short story writing competition which has categories for both Australian and international writers.

The entry fee is $5, and authors can win up to AU$250. The winning and highly commended authors’ stories will also be published in a paperback anthology!

The closing date is 31 March, 2015. Details, and the online entry form, can be found here.

Happy writing!

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Eating disorders: Getting better without “recovery”

I highly commend this read as an example of someone who has identified their own vision of mental health, and come up with workable strategies to achieve it. Kudos!

I don't want to exist. I want to live.

Anorexia

I realised that I haven’t mentioned my eating disorder in a while. The reason for that is that it isn’t as large a part of my life and thoughts as it used to be. I thought it might be useful to write about how I am doing and how I got to this point. I want to make it clear that I am not recovered nor am I aiming for recovery but I am doing much better. I believe there is a middle ground between choosing recovery and staying sick. I am living in that middle ground. It is a place where I work on having a better quality of life but I don’t constantly challenge the eating disorder because I am not completely ready to let it go and it takes a huge amount of energy to always challenge it.

I’ve struggling with an eating disorder since I was…

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