Week 1 of the Pessimist to Semi-Optimist Project
Happy 2017 I guess. 2016 was really really horrible with so many deaths, so I’m glad that it’s over.
In case you are wondering, I’m using the acronym PTO because it’s shorter than PTSO, that’s all. I thought PTO would be easier to remember…ok, let’s get on with this…
Life is a shipwreck for me at the moment. I often think that ‘life sucks’ when crappy things happen: failing a test, getting beaten up at school, being unemployed, losing a job, breaking up with a boyfriend and the worst thing of all, a loved one dying. Many things can happen again – you can do better on a test, find another job, attract another boyfriend; but when someone dies there is no going back. Death has a finality to it and you have to learn to live with regret, guilt and remorse which really tears the heart apart.
No matter what you are grieving, you probably think that everyone else must be doing better than you. Social media lets people display trophy life moments and let’s admit it; the posts and pics are only a small part of their lives – the bad stuff rarely gets put out there. When horrible things happen, people retreat into their shells and keeping up a normal or super happy appearance on social media is the least of their worries.
Brain-xercise Week 1: Life Events Chart
Every week I’ll suggest an exercise to do to change our negative thought into a semi-positive ones. Hence, the term brain-xercise (hahaha!). Some of these are inspired from my treatment with cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) or picked up from Eastern (Buddhism, Chinese medicine) or Western cultures (Christianity, North American views). The source doesn’t matter as long as it helps me with my goal of becoming less depressed.
In one of my CBT sessions a while ago, I was moaning about how I wasn’t sure if I can survive life without my father. The therapist asked me to map out good and bad times in my life with a depression score for each, which looked like this:
Basically his point was that life was not always going downhill. Every time I fell, good things would happen afterwards and I would get back up again.
Similarly, I recently heard a story about how we are all passengers on a bus that is really rocky, goes by scenic sights quickly and drives really fast then slows down for no reason. When a passenger tried to complain to the driver, they discover that there is no driver and that no one was in control of the bus! We can not control this bus called life, but we can control ourselves and how we react when the scenic sights or rocky times appear.
In Christianity this is giving up control and giving God the reins. In Buddhism this is acceptance that nothing in life is permanent. I grew up with these two religions in my household and these are my references points during difficult times. It’s funny how childhood teachings and memories comes back to us when we need some help.
Brain-xercise Week 1 steps to creating a life events chart
- Pick out events in your life that impacted you for better or worse in chronological order
- Assign a depression scale number (0-most depressed to 100-least depressed/happy)
- Put into a graph with events on x-axis and depression scale on y-axis
Your chart might have more ups than mine or more downs. Everyone’s life is unique and who’s to say which chart is better than others?! No one should judge your life and it’s a waste of time/energy to judge other people’s lives.
Semi-optimistic thoughts: Nothing is permanent in life. Try to enjoy the good times which pass quickly and when sinking into darkness know this is also transient.
Right now I’m at rock bottom, which means I need to climb back up into a less depressive state of mind. Some days are fine and others days I keep crying. Since I’m the “sensitive” one in the family, I’ve been turning to friends and counselors for help who understand me a bit better – but most importantly, if I don’t help myself, no one can. I hope that writing this project will help others who are experiencing their own struggles.
Song I’m listening to this week (music helps a lot!):
“Tomorrow” by Alicia Morton from the musical “Annie”
The sun’ll come out
Bet your bottom dollar
There’ll be sun!