“I would really like to do something completely different with our therapy sessions, if that’s ok…” Perhaps it was a little abrupt to show up at therapy one day and inform the professional therapist that I, the first year psychology undergraduate, had decided to take control and totally refocus our time together.
Quite frankly, though, I was getting sick and tired of my recovery from depression being so, well, depressing!
I often spent my entire hour in therapy talking about what I was struggling with in terms of my depression, what had been difficult for me in the past week, what feelings had been overwhelming me, what negative thoughts I had been having, etc.
While there is certainly a place for discussions like these in therapy, I found it was very hard to stay positive in recovery when I was so focused on what I was recovering from that I had no idea what I was recovering to. Or, more specifically, who I was recovering into.
I found myself so focused on trying to find the “magic cure” that I stopped focusing on who I could be in the meantime- and my obsession with finding some way to get rid of “my tormentor” meant my depression was never far from my thoughts, which left little room for thinking about me; I was fading away.
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I found that for me, focusing on all the negative things I was feeling was making recovery an experience filled with self-pity rather than self-efficacy, and that my ambiguity about the future was making recovery an experience filled with apprehension rather than hope.
So about a week before my therapy “announcement” I decided that in my personal recovery efforts, I needed to shift my focus away from what I was suffering from and towards what I could do about it; away from what depression was like and to what I am like.
My therapist (who was quite supportive of my new focus) and I began to get practical.
We discussed the base things I was already doing to keep my depression as much at bay as possible: sleeping plenty, taking my antidepressant medication regularly, staying involved in things that I love like learning and mentoring, socializing even when I’m tempted to isolate, eating a healthy, energy filled, balanced intake, getting outside for a bit each day, journaling, praying/meditating, etc.
But perhaps most importantly, we began a process that turned out to be far more difficult, and far more rewarding, than I had originally anticipated: finding the Elizabeth whom I had let depression overshadow.
My therapist suggested we take a “crowding out” approach, since it was clear that thinking more about not thinking as much about depression was a pretty futile, and incredibly frustrating, approach that neither of us wanted to embark on.
So we started the process with the simple first goal of embracing my creative side.
For me, this involved journaling and writing about things related to anything and everything but depression.
Sometimes I wrote lists of little things that I loved, sometimes I wrote cheesy poems about beautiful things, sometimes I wrote suspenseful dialogues. Embracing my creative side also involved finding new outlets, one of which came in the form of a “smash-folio”. Halfway between a scrapbook and a journal, this little book has become my “happy place” where the only rule is that everything in it needs to awaken a passion in me! It is full of images, quotes, and little crafty things I have made.
Creating has a beautiful and unique ability to help a person connect with their passions in a deep and beautiful way, and for me, it uncovered parts of myself that I could love and appreciate. Creating helped me to take the deepest parts of who I am out of the often restrictive case of my suffering body and deposit them in a place I could see the real me, unhindered by mental illness, in all its beauty.
The second goal my therapist and I worked towards was finding my strengths.
For someone accustomed to self-hate and an at times obsessional focus on her weaknesses, this was not as easy as simply writing down a list. Rather, it involved a process of taking personality tests and carefully reading all the benefits and unique gifts of being the personality type I am.
It involved taking strengths tests, interest inventories, career skills tests, Gardner’s 9 intelligences tests, etc. and looking at my skills and the best ways for me to contribute to the world. It involved looking into areas I had not previously considered, and getting involved in areas that play on my strengths.
Lastly, it involved surrounding myself with people who would point out the good in me and who would help me continue to become a better person, and whom I could bless in a way that only I could.
What about you? Are you tired of how depressing your recovery is? Are you feeling overshadowed by your mental illness? Are you feeling ambiguous about who you’ll be if you fully recover?
I hope that perhaps the goals my therapist and I created can inspire you to create your own goals, personalized for you, complete with steps to achievement that help you discover the real you!
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The opinions and information shared in this article may not represent that of Libero Network Society. We hold no liability for any harm that may incur from reading content on our site. Please always consult your own medical professionals before making any changes to your medication, activities, or recovery process.