The fundamental, underlying belief at the core of depression is the perception of absolute worth-less-ness. Believing that what you are doing in life, whether it be one area of life, or all areas of life, is not meeting your expectations because of your own fault. Your perception over your lack of ability to get your life ‘right’ makes you feel like you have failed at your life (or that area of it).
When talking about postnatal depression you feel like this predominantly in the area of motherhood.
Before depression, you first begin at psychological stress where you draw the conclusion that ‘life is not going to plan’ and your life’s quality or your self-worth has diminished because of it.
You are in direct conflict with the reality of these situations occurring in your life because you are stuck on the way it was ‘supposed to go’.
When you progress into depression, your self-worth is at its lowest. You have concluded that because life has not ‘gone to plan’, you have failed at life. Through this lens of thinking, you start to see that every time you try to succeed in this area of your life, you fail again and again and again, so you start to give up. You think ‘why bother trying, I will only fail again.’
As I have mentioned before, we are all operating with the fundamental desire for pleasure and the avoidance of pain. Viewing your life through the perception of you constantly failing causes much pain. It’s not a good feeling to feel like you’ve failed at something, especially when you are talking about motherhood, where most of us have been taught ‘should’ be the most natural thing in the world.
If you feel like you have failed in an area of your life, that causes you pain and in order to stop that pain, you stop setting goals in this area of your life. You are protecting what little self-worth you have by avoiding doing anything in the area of your life that you feel like you are failing at.
An explanation of how depression leads to suicidal thoughts
Suicidal thoughts begin when your self-worth has reached an all time low. For the purposes of this explanation, let’s say that you believe that you are only 20% worthy and you have depression already. You feel this way because you feel you have failed in an area of your life. Events have not gone the way you expected them to and you feel like you are to blame. You feel that you should be doing something different. Perhaps you feel like your child is missing out on the mother they deserve. You feel like a useless partner, or perhaps unattractive or undesirable. And you have a long list of self-criticisms to describe your inabilities and shortcomings.
Because your attention expands in the direction that you send it, through this lens of how you perceive yourself and the events of your life, you start to see more and more evidence of you being this ‘failure’ and all areas of your life and all of the other self-critical ‘labels’ you place on yourself. This causes you more and more pain. You begin to see every area of your life taking more and more of your self-worth away.
The more you view life this way, the more you start to feel only 15% worthy, then 10% worthy, until finally you start to think about ending your life. The rationale behind these thoughts are either:
a) I need to leave this life before I am worth absolutely nothing to anyone; or
b) The thought of going through any more of this pain and feeling any more worth-less than I already do is too painful in itself, so you start to think about exiting the world.
Suicide occurs because of incorrect perceptions on self-worth to begin with and because of beliefs about what defines a successful life.
In order to reverse these thoughts and feelings you need to start seeing why you are valuable to this world, what you contribute that is beneficial. Everyone is always contributing to this world, just by being in it and the more you start to look for how you are valuable and how you’re contributing to the world, the better you will feel.
If you have suicidal thoughts then you need to literally reverse the process of how it came to be this way. To get to suicidal thoughts you were viewing how each event was taking away your self-worth. To stop suicidal thoughts, you need to start looking for how each event is adding to your self-worth by seeing how special you are.
This can be extremely difficult to do sometimes, so if you are feeling suicidal than it is really important that you speak to somebody who can help you to find why you are great just the way you are and help you to see how your existence is valuable to the world.
This at least, will get you back to the point of just having depression again, whereby you can start to apply the Mind TRACK to Happiness Process and move out of depression altogether, which is what I’m going to show you now.
Applying the Mind TRACK to Happiness Process to your Depression
Step One: Thoughts
Identify your thinking. What are you saying to yourself about the situation? These are the memes that are causing your depression. With postnatal depression, it is all about your self-worth and how your lack of abilities and qualities (in your mind) are detracting from your quality of life, or how your quality of life is effecting your enjoyment of life.
Clouded by all of this thinking, you struggle to see any value in yourself or your worth and give up trying too. This type of thinking has been handed to you primarily from childhood. It can often happen too over time, because of an abusive husband, or even a passive aggressive partner who has ridiculed you over time to the point where you eventually take on his opinions as truth.
Regardless of when and how it has occurred, you now have habitual thinking that has been essentially trained to see you as being a failure no matter what you do, so your self-esteem (your rating system) is at an all time low.
Understand that this is NOT truth. Remember that this first step is about awareness and detachment. Become aware of these thoughts and remind yourself that they are occurring only because of the physical neural connections in the brain that have been formed over time because you have been exposed to the repetition of specific statements or environmental conditions. Because of this, you have been taught to view life through this lens and though this lens, experiences you have confirms and strengthens these beliefs (and the physical neural connections in the brain) and you believe them to be truth.
You must spend most of your time working on the upgrades to this thinking (the reality thinking model) in order to grow new connections in your brain and for the old ones to literally die off (called synapses pruning). It is really important to your ability to detach from your thinking to remember the physical process of your thinking so that you can understand why you think this way.
Understanding why you think this way stops you attaching this thinking to your self-worth. You are not broken. Your brain is not malfunctioning. You have simply been consistently fed wrong information that has brought you to incorrect conclusions about your self-worth and the way life ‘should’ be
Now what needs to happen is to be consistent and repetitive with applying The Mind TRACK to Happiness process, focussing on the reality thinking model, setting goals (without attaching them to your self-worth) and finding solutions that will get you to your goals, and develop the ability to learn from the times when you don’t get to your goals and simply re-set some more.
Do not spend a lot of time ‘rolling in the mud’ of your past. What has happened has happened. I would suggest that when you are feeling at your lowest, to write 1-2 paragraphs at the most about what you are thinking, then move onto the reality step. You have rehashed your thinking for long enough and going over and over these same thoughts is only re-inforcing the physical beliefs in your brain that you are trying to get rid of.
It’s time to replace that thinking by deliberately and consciously changing how your view your life.
Step Two – Reality
Once you have written your two paragraphs (at the most), now apply the reality thinking model to your life.
I am not using specific examples in this lesson, as there are usually many different factors that contribute to somebody feeling like they are a complete failure. Unplanned c-sections, not being able to breastfeed, lack of sleep, an unsettled child, financial burdens, relationship problems, family issues, moving to a new area and not knowing anyone, adjusting to the change of life from career to motherhood, body issues and so on. It is usually a mixture of all of these things going on at once that makes someone feel like giving up on everything.
In light of this, I will show you how to use the reality thinking model in general to give you ideas on how you can begin upgrading your own thinking in reference to your unique situation. Again, this is the point where I urge you to use the Q&A Forum to get help on how to apply it to your life if you are having difficulty.
The reality of the situation
Whatever is happening in your life, it is occurring because of everything that has unfolded in your past leading to now and cannot be changed. This situation or situations are here now and you have to begin accepting their presence in order to move forward from here. By acceptance I don’t mean that you can’t do something about them. It simply means acknowledging that what you are experiencing has occurred and you had no control over how it unfolded.
If you continue to roll around it thoughts about how ‘wrong’ this situation is, how it’s not ‘supposed to be this way’, how it should be different, how much you are missing out, or your child is missing out, how if only you had’ve done this, or had’ve done that, or perhaps this person should have behaved this way, or if only your child would behave in a certain way etc, then it will only keep you entrenched in depression.
Whatever is in your life right now, is in your life for a reason and there will be benefits to this situation that you are not seeing. But before you can begin seeing their benefits you must first stop being in denial about what’s happening.
If you had a c-section, then you had a c-section. It’s done. You have now moved out of the labour stage and are now in the raising stage of being a parent.
If you are struggling to breastfeed and have to give it up, then that’s what need to happen. Your child needs to be fed and if you are unable to do it for any reason, then alternatives must be sought. This is reality.
If you have a child not sleeping well, then this is the reality that you now have to deal with. What’s the solution?
If you have limited finances right now, then this is where you are at because of what unfolded in the past. You can move on from here and create it to be different in the solution part of this process, but right now this is where you are at, and that cannot be changed.
If your relationship is struggling or has ended, then this is what has occurred also because of how the past has unfolded. There were the two of you contributing to the unfolding of this relationship, only able to operate with the beliefs, knowledge and priorities that you had AT THE TIME, and your experiences of life and each other have all merged together to this point in time right now. This is reality. So what is your next move?
You can’t change what you don’t acknowledge. Reality is what is happening right now which has occurred from before now which is unchangeable. So let’s move forward and change your perception of what’s happening right now.
The reality of being a parent
It’s a HUGE learning curve this parenting business…absolutely huge. It changes you physically, mentally, emotionally, morally and ethically. You are never the same person you were before you had children. Everything in your life changes and sometimes this can be very difficult to adjust to, especially if you have your self-worth pinned to aspects of the person you used to be like the career woman, the slim and attractive one, the organised one or the affluent one. If you believe that this is what defines your worth and you are unable to live out these roles anymore, than this can be good grounds for depression also.
Using the reality of being a parent portion of the reality thinking model is about being able to acknowledge and accept the new responsibilities and situations that come with being a parent. The reality is that you now have a child and your life has changed. There will be good time with your child and bad times that you will experience, just like anything else that happens in life (career, relationships etc).
Your child will develop, go through good periods of behaviour, bad periods of behaviour, bring you joy, cause you grief, make you want to cuddle them, make you want to throttle them and give you an overall experience unlike any other experience in the world.
With that you will make sacrifices but you will also gain a lot of pleasure. However, it will always come down to how you are percieving this experience. If you allow yourself to get tied up in the little moments that challenge you and allow these moments to define your whole experience of being a mother, than you will learn to resent and dislike this role.
You’ve got to look at each experience with your child (good and bad) as part of the whole parenting experience. This is the whole point to expanding your mindset with the Reality thinking model.
The reality of Life
Ups and downs, learning and contributing: This is what life is all about. The whole purpose of life is to learn and grow, building the character of who you are and teaching others as you go. It’s not about getting life right 24/7.
We are bombarded with ideas, beliefs and imagery that teach us to hinge our life’s success on what we do, are or have, making us believe that we must ‘get life right’. This is not reality!!! We all mess up. We all have to learn new things, that often come with new information and new experiences, and none of us are ever getting everything right. At the same time we are experiencing good times too and there is always something that we can be grateful for in our lives. It all depends on how you look at it.
At this point on the reality thinking model you need to expand your mindset to looking at the ‘hidden good in the bad’, looking for what you are grateful for and seeing this current event as just a part of the whole experience of ups, downs and learning you get from living life.
There is no right or wrong way for your life to unfold, there is just the unfolding of life and the lessons you get while living it.
You can see that as you keep expanding your mindset, your thinking gets less about the current situation and more about the reality of what this situation really means about your life. Life is a journey of ups and downs. You win some, you lose some. You are good at some things naturally, where other things you need to seek out the information you need and practice it to get good at it.
This is exactly what I had to do with my own thinking. Over my life I adopted unhealthy thinking that led to my postnatal depression and I’m guessing, since you are here right now reading this, that you are in the same boat.
Keep expanding your mindset and deliberately shifting your attention onto the reality thinking model and you will begin to change how you feel.
The reality of Self-worth
Here’s the big one to get your head around for the depression sufferer. You are 100% worthy just the way you are! I know, I know, I have said this a thousand times before in this program.
Now you need to actively seek out why. I could repeat that statement until I was blue in the face, but until you see evidence of it for yourself, you will not believe me. The evidence is there, my friend. You just need to look for it.
Look for how you are contributing to someone else’s life. Look for how you have contributed to something in the past to someone’s life. Look for what you do in your life to make something function. For example, in the home, you cook and keep your children/husband healthy. You clean up and keep the place hygienic. You speak to your friends and contribute your knowledge, opinions, ideas and observations that influence their decisions, opinions, knowledge and how their life unfolds. You may contribute to the work place. You contribute just by being a consumer and buying food, clothes, entertainment, paying bills, supporting your favourite footy team. No company or group can exist without the members that contribute to its function. Everything you do forms part of the collective whole. You don’t have to be, do or have anything in order to be worthy. You are already an important role player in society because of your existence.
Your self-worth always being 100% is often easy to grasp in concept, but what stops you believing it? Only your self-esteem – your learnt rating system that has habitually been taught not to view yourself this way. The way to increase your self-esteem (improve your rating system) is to continue to consciously put your attention on the benefits to your situation, looking for the ‘hidden good in the bad’ and finding ways that you are personally contributing to the very situation that you belief makes you worth-less.
Remember that just because the situation is not ideal or not matching your beliefs on how it ‘should’ be, it doesn’t mean that everyone involved is suffering or that it won’t prove to be a very important lesson learnt.
Applying step two of the Mind TRACK To Happiness process – reality is probably the most important step for you to do if depression is what you are going through. You must continue to work on deliberately and consciously changing your mindset if you want it to go away.
Depression often goes away for people after the event has corrected itself, only to discover that it comes back again the next time a series of events occurs that is ‘not in the plan’. This makes it look like it is events that cause the depression, but it is the same mindset that is not accepting the current situation and viewing it to mean that you are a failure because the events have unfolded this way.
Change your beliefs and you change how you feel, then you stop your depression for good.
Once you have changed the way you view your present life’s situations, you can then move onto steps three to five of the process.
Step Three – Aim
The most crucial part of the aim step to remember, if you are a depression sufferer, is that achieving a goal or aim does not define your existence.
All you ever have in life is experiences. Some go well, others not so much. Sometimes you get what you want, sometimes you don’t and other times you have to find numerous ways to get there, but you do get there in the end and then other times, your window of opportunity passes altogether.
This is all part of the reality of life unfolding, not an indication of your life’s worth or your self-worth. That kind of attachment is just society’s ‘get your life right’ thinking kicking in.
Whether you get the goal, don’t get the goal and on your way to the goal, you are learning, growing and contributing what you have learnt to the unfolding of the people around you and subsequently, the collective world.
So set an aim, go for it, try your hardest to get it, but don’t attach your self-worth to it and believe you are a failure if it doesn’t come to fruition. Remember that there is value in everything, you just need to search for it.
So knowing this, set your aims and use your questions to check them before moving on.
- Why do I want this (my aim)?
- Is my aim in conflict with reality?
Step Four – Choices
Seek out ‘how to’ achieve your aims. If you knew how to get where you wanted to be, you woud probably be there by now. What you need is new information to apply. So, go ahead and find it. We cannot be expected to know everything there is to know about life, and none of us do, so rather than wait for the information to come to you to resolve itself, get out there and actively seek the information you need in order to get yourself moving towards the aims and life that you want to live.
Don’t wait for anyone else to be responsible for your life!
Get out there and learn from all the resources you can find – books, internet, experts, people who have been on your leg of the journey before that can help you. Anywhere that has information pertaining to your subject – research it, find it, test your beliefs on it and collate a list of all the things that you think could help you to reach your aim.
Step Five – Know your plan & action it
Your final step on this process is to Action your plan. Devise your choices from the last step into an actionable plan that you can follow.
Do-able steps is what you are looking for. A plan that you can use like a road map, just like if you were going to get in your car and drive to a new destination. However, be aware that sometimes you have to detour. If there were some roadworks on your way to your new destination you would need to find an alternative route. Sometimes this happens in life too.
Just go back to step four on the TRACK process – choices and resource a new plan of attack. Nothing is set in stone and the key to happiness lies in flexibility and non-attachment.
Overcoming your depression is simple in concept. The 5-step Mind TRACK to happiness process shows you exactly how to overcome your personal postnatal depression.
However, it’s not easy. There is nothing anyone can ever tell you or teach you that is going to miraculously cure you. This is because YOU are the only one that can change your life. YOU are the only one that has control over what goes on in your head, so YOU are the only cure for depression.
So keep working on your mindset. Keep reading new information, books and articles about how to change this thinking. Keep applying the reality thinking model and any other exercises you come across along your way that will help you to grow these new neural connections in your brain and change the habitual thinking to be thoughts that align with the happiness that you are after.
I’ve been through what you are going through right now. I’ve had to do the work. I’ve had to change my mindset and I’m still working on that as a daily process. But it does get easier as you do it more consistently.
In tomorrow’s lesson, we will take a look at anxiety and how we use the Mind TRACK to Happiness process to stop it.