We generally assume that our thoughts are true and logical and don't stop to examine them. Depressed people, however, habitually think negative thoughts that are exaggerated, unrealistic and often untrue, and the more negative thoughts you have, the more depressed you become.
How do you get rid of negative thoughts? First, you have to become aware of them. If, for example, you often think, "Nothing I do ever turns out right," you need to check the validity of that statement. Would it be more accurate to say, "Often the things I do don't work out"? How about, "Sometimes what I do doesn't work out"? Depressed people have a tendency to look only at those examples that back up their negative ideas and ignore the facts that contradict them. Beware of thoughts and statements that use the words "always" and "never." They are likely exaggerations and not a true representation of the facts.
Difficulty making decisions
Another trait of depression can be difficulty making decisions. Here's an example of how that ties in with unclear thinking: I once went shopping with a lady friend who was looking for some curtains for her dining room. After looking at a large number of samples, she found three that she liked, but was unable to make a decision, so she bought all three sets, charging them to her credit card. "I'll take them home and decide later," she said. I pointed out that since she charged the curtains, and she never paid her credit card up in full, she'd be paying a high rate of interest on all three sets until she returned the ones she didn't want. She shook her head. "But I really like all three. I just can't decide." I told her that if she really liked all three, it didn't matter which she chose. She'd have curtains she really liked. She couldn't see it. She was convinced there was a BEST choice, and she'd be miserable if she didn't make it. I don't know whether she ever made a decision, but whether she did or she didn't, I'm sure she ended up being miserable.
When I was teaching, students would sometimes approach me and ask whether I though they had writing talent.
I hesitated to use the word "talent" because so many people think that if you have talent, everything becomes easy.
They want to believe that they won't have to spend hours practicing and learning their craft.
On the first day of class, I used to ask my students to introduce themselves and tell the class what they liked to read and what they wanted write. One young man said he wanted to write science fiction. "And what authors do you read?" I asked. He replied, "Oh, I don't read much." He had no idea that the first thing writers do is read, read, read.
Otherwise, how are you going to know what's selling and what's already been done?
Another young man asked me, "If I write a story and send it to an editor, and it's rejected, does that mean I'm not a writer?" He had no idea that 99% of all manuscripts are rejected. Best selling authors have collections of rejection slips. Talk about unrealistic expectations!
Yet many people who think that everything comes easy to others tell me that their depression would vanish if only life lived up to their expectations.
More about unclear thinking next time.
Stephanie Kay Bendel is the author of EXIT THE LABYRINTH: A Memoir of Early Childhood Depression – Its Onset and Aftermath, MAKING CRIME PAY: A Practical Guide to Mystery Writing, and A SCREAM AWAY, a romantic thriller published under the house name, Andrea Harris. She has also written numerous short stories and articles on writing.