I am growing. Whatever is in my path today is a tool.
Working through depression has taught me that mindset is everything, and I can choose my mindset. It’s not always an easy choice, and I don’t always make the best choice, but it is indeed a choice.
Real life doesn’t run perfectly according to plan. In fact, the more I plan my days, the more God seems to enjoy showing me my plans are nothing compared to his. I can view the kinks in my schedule as obstacles, or I can see them as tools.
Traffic is an opportunity to practice patience (and mercy…); an unexpected phone call presents a chance to develop a relationship; emergent issues at work sharpen my professional skills.
If I look at whatever comes my way as a tool to sharpen my skills or develop my resiliency, then I control how my brain accepts the obstacle. It’s an opportunity instead of an obstacle. It’s a good or neutral thing instead of a harbinger of doom. I control the narrative instead of depression brain. Depression brain works more like Eeyore, which is fine some days, but it’s no place to live every day.
Choosing the narrative also keeps me from being the victim of circumstances. I can’t control my circumstances, but I can control how I react to them.
I don’t have to eat a metric ton of chocolate because I had a bad day at work. I can choose to eat a half-ton instead, or none at all, and find a way to learn from the bad so I don’t keep repeating it. I know it sounds hopelessly optimistic, and extremely Miltonian to my fellow lit junkies, but I can make myself miserable or happy based on how I think about something. Taking every thought captive to make it obedient to Christ is definitely a Biblical perspective on positive thinking (2 Corinthians 10:5).
No one else can say enough good things about me for me to believe it if I don’t already believe for myself: that I’m a beautiful person and a talented writer and anything else that’s true about me. No one else can fill you up if you aren’t seeking your identity from your Creator and believing what he says about you: you are a beloved, chosen child of God.
It has taken me years of repeating that to myself and building on it to get out of depression brain mode all the time. Mindset and how I talk to myself have been the biggest game changers in my coping toolbox. I choose to listen to and repeat the positive until I believe it. I choose to give less volume and air time to the negative. I choose to evaluate and learn from negatives as a tool instead of letting them be an obstacle.
It’s simple work. But it’s not easy work. It gets easier as I go, but it was hard work changing my thought patterns. It’s also ongoing work that I can never slack up on – depression brain is just waiting for me to fall asleep at the wheel and run me right back into the mess I’ve worked through. As long as I keep growing, I won’t be crashing out of the race.