Tag Archives: strategies

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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Filed under Living Well With Depression

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:



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?


Filed under Living Well With Depression

Belly Laughs and Bitching

Boy, has this week been an emotional roller-coaster! I was happy to notice that I had been able to distinguish my “stuff” from someone else’s “stuff”; then I was lured into a low mood by that bullying, before realizing that this up/down state of affairs showed that I was in transition from a former, less adaptive way of dealing with stressors to a newer, more healthy one.

This week I’ve been fortunate to hold a range of conversations. My therapist helped me to put these events in their proper context; my confidants comforted me by pouring scorn on the source of the hurt, and my sister not only provided further context but also made me laugh and laugh and laugh, until my sides hurt.

While I am, as always, grateful to my therapist for his wise counsel, I must admit the other two types of conversation provided a more instant gratification! Belly laughs and bitching, the latest DB prescription for when life places a bastard in your path.

May your path be clear of bastards; but if one should appear, may their influence disappear in a cloud of muscle spasms and four letter words.



Filed under Living Well With Depression

Dealing with Rumination

Being someone who prefers to get along well with everyone, I found myself ruminating over the situation I described in yesterday’s post. Despite reassurances from friends that the person in question had behaved poorly, this evening, my mind keeps returning to the matter:

Cycle 1

Ugh! So, just now, I spoke to my dearly beloved about three strategies I’m going to use for the rest of this evening to avoid rumination:

1. Take a reality check. I asked my partner to review the triggering events with me. Easy, and rewarding! He gave me a phrase: “I don’t care.” Love it. Let’s pare this thing back to basics: a person I don’t know, who has no place in my life, was rude to me. Let it go, woman!

The reality check is like a little bomb, disrupting the cycle:

Cycle 2

2. Discipline my thinking. If my mind circles back to that topic again, I’ll consciously acknowledge it, remind myself that I don’t care, and turn my attention to something else. Note that I’m not trying to avoid thinking about it; that’s not helpful, as repression leads to unhelpful expression!

Disciplining my thinking in this way is like turning one arrow in the sequence outwards, breaking the cycle:

Cycle 3

3. Understand the deeper issues. No need to go into details; let’s just say all those years of therapy are paying off!

Holding this insight in my mind helps put the rumination cycle in context:

Cycle 4

Now that’s a much better picture, isn’t it?

As I now look forward to a rumination-free evening, I’d like to throw the question open: how do you cope if your mind keeps going back (and back and back and back) to an unpleasant topic?


Filed under Living Well With Depression

Their Stuff!

Today I had a reminder about personal boundaries, and being able to differentiate between my “stuff” and another person’s “stuff”. Thankfully, I was instantly able to do this, but it reminded me how letting other people’s “stuff” affect us can impact on our mood.

Someone – a person I’ve had limited interactions with, and those online – made a derogatory comment about me in a Facebook message. To be fair, he probably thought he was being funny, but I did NOT find it amusing.

In the past, I know I would have experienced his comment as a barb. Do you know the sort of thing I mean? A sharp, stinging, painful thing, which would have slid oh-so-easily past my defences and HURT! Perhaps it would look something like this:

OuchHowever, looking back on the event today, I can see that I most definitely experienced it like this:

Me Not Me


Beautiful, clear, pristine boundaries, with a delightful space between “Me” and “Not Me”. That other person? Their stuff isn’t my stuff. What’s more, I did so without having to think it through, or analyze the dynamics of what was going on.

So: a little “yay” moment for me today!

Are you able to deal well with other people’s stuff? I’d love to read your comments.



Filed under Living Well With Depression