Gloom, Despair & Agony on Me
"Gloom, despair, and agony on me
Deep, dark depression, excessive misery
If it weren't for bad luck, I'd have no luck at all
Gloom, despair, and agony on me"
(Buck Owens & Roy Clark from the TV Show Hee-Haw 1969-1992)
Remember this song? I bet you do! Now raise your hand if you can relate to it! I imagine that I see a lot of hands raised out there. I know...me too.
If you suffer from depression these lyrics can be your life theme song. I want to talk today about how people with depression perceive the notion of "luck" or fate. There is a fancy terminology for all this including words such as "internal and external locus of control." I have to refer back to my Psychology 101 days when I was a little undergraduate studying theories of human behavior. Okay to refresh my memory I looked it up on-line. Thank goodness for the internet! You can read more about this theory of Locus of Control here.
Back in the 1950's a guy named Julian Rotter theorized that people are on a continuum of how they perceive the causes of personal life events. The question posed by this theory is this:
"Do you believe that your destiny is controlled by yourself or by external forces (such as fate, god, or powerful others)?"
People with external locus of control believe that control over their life is out of their hands and is guided by fate, luck, or other external forces.
People with internal locus of control believe that their life events are the result of their personal decisions and efforts. They believe that they have control over their life.
And of course most people fall in between these two ends of the spectrum. But primarily research has found that people suffering from depression usually lean towards the belief that life is determined by the fates or other external forces and that they have little power to change things. What is more, people suffering from depression usually think that the external forces always give them bad luck or catastrophe.
Now I will relate to you some of my personal experiences. When I am in the thick of my depression I believe that nothing I do matters and that I am a modern day Sisyphus, the Greek Mythology dude who had to continually roll a boulder up a hill and then it would roll down and he would have to start all over again. There are days I feel trapped and without choices and where I feel that no matter what I do, the boulder will come rolling back down for me too. I feel my efforts are useless because obviously someone or something in the universe has it out for me. I am the bad luck magnet.
And when I am in this horrid depressed state I also believe the following:
* The only luck I have is bad and despite the fact that this isn't controlled by me, I am still to blame. I am bad because I have bad luck.
*If good luck happens then something bad will happen to take the good things away. I am always expecting the other shoe to drop if you will.
Now if you look at these beliefs with any logic at all, you will see that there are holes in them as big as the Grand Canyon. But this is what we do to ourselves when we are depressed. It is a never ending bad feedback loop. Because we are depressed we tell ourselves things which will keep us there in that state, such as things are not in our control.
I am here to tell you that all these beliefs are a bunch of BS. Seriously they are. I know you don't believe me but it is true. One of the ways to combat depression is to confront our own illogical belief system.
Here is the truth about things. There are some things we can control and there are some things we cannot control. We always have choices in life. We just might not like our present choices. Life is a mixture of the good and the bad. And whether you wish to believe it or not, you do have the choice to invite more good stuff into your life.
The problem with our little depressive minds at times is that when we are in this state of melancholy we can only see and point out the bad. The good stuff, we dismiss because quite frankly we don't believe it! Seeing the good is hard believe me I know. But if you put up a wall in defense and say and believe that only bad things happen to you, well then by golly that is exactly what will happen.
I think in all of us we have our little core beliefs, little voices which become big voices depending upon our mood. Think of holding two seeds in your hands. One seed is the seed of self destruction. The voice coming from this seed says things like, "Life sucks. I suck. Nothing good will ever happen. Why bother?" So then we go out into the world in search of things which will validate this belief. And if you search long and hard enough you will absolutely find things to validate your misery. In the other hand you hold the seed for growth. The voice springing from this seed says things like, "Life can be enjoyable. I can feel happiness. Good things can happen to me. I can appreciate my life." Now which seed would you like to grow into something? I am not talking about being a Polly Anna or being in La-la land. Everyone has bad things going on in their life at times. The trick to living, it seems to me, is to hold onto that belief that things can get better.
I will tell you a little story. Back in my twenties I became pregnant for the first time. It was a surprise. It took just several days for me to know that this was a good surprise. I wanted this baby. I was seeing a therapist at the time and I was all aglow. He asked me this question: "Do you now believe that good things can happen to you?" And I shook my head hesitantly with an "I don't know."
As it turned out, I lost that baby early on. I could have gone back to my therapist with a resounding "I TOLD YOU SO!" But I didn't. I knew then that I wanted a baby and my husband and I began to try. I found out that I had some fertility problems that I did not know I had. After two years we finally had our first born child. My son was nothing short of a miracle. But the time in between was a living hell. I was so depressed but I kept holding onto hope. It is a strange thing to say but had I not experienced my miscarriage, I would not have known that I wanted a baby so badly. I would not have known that I had fertility issues. I would not have worked so damn hard to have a baby and know without a doubt that this is where I wanted my life to go.
This horrible bad thing of losing a baby could have been the end for me. I could have just used it as just another life event, out of my control, and as a case that the universe was malevolent towards me. I could have given up and I almost did. But the question my therapist had posed earlier, stuck with me, of whether or not I believed that good things can happen to me. I would like to answer that question now with a resounding "Yes good things can happen to me."
There are no simple answers. None of us are static cartoon characters stuck in a bad luck role. Yes bad things happen. The bad stuff is always lurking right around the corner for all of us. But there is good stuff too. I promise you that. You just have to allow it to happen. And sometimes you have to get up and work for it. You have a lot more control than your depression allows you to believe. Don't trust your depressive beliefs. Trust in yourself. Do you believe that good things can happen to you? I would love to hear your answers.