I have two favorite kinds of negative thoughts: self-flagellations and paranoia. “You should have said this,” or “You should have done that.” I go over and over past actions, reminding myself how I have screwed things up yet again. Then for the paranoia, I think about the fact that my friend P never calls me back and probably doesn’t want to be my friend any more. After that, I start on the list of artists and writers who are doing better than I am, and how unfair the world is. After a while, all I’ll be able to do is go to bed and hide there.
Now when a mild depression hits me, I know I have a choice. I can give in to it, which has its own perverse pleasures, or I can decide not to go that route. For four days this week, I was depressed, which meant my energy was low and my enthusiasm even lower. But I didn’t give in to the impulse to nurture my negative attitude. I just kept plugging along with daily activities, not paying a whole lot of attention to my mood.
It helped that I had a lot going on this week that I had to take care of. Adrian had cataract surgery and needed my help. Thinking of others always helps us to forget about our own problems. Then one day I picked up my grandkids after school, and we played in the snow for an hour. That hour was probably the best therapy of all.
Of course, when deeper depressions hit, it isn’t always possible to keep on trucking and ignore them. But if we can catch a downturn early, we may be able to prevent it from getting worse. The trick is to know yourself and what you need to do in order to make that happen.