Depression comes with a critical inner voice. You are being very harsh with yourself all the time, you tell yourself off for something you have done or not done, you beat yourself up constantly. Fighting this voice is one of the most difficult things to do, especially when you are feeling low. Here is how to do it.
How to spot how harsh you are with yourself
The day I realised how strong was my critical inner voice was in May 2015, when I was attending the Matthew Hussey retreat.
Matt takes you through this powerful exercise when you bring this voice out (he calls her the worrier) and listen to her. Once she has said her piece, he calls out your leader, the voice who tells you that you can do anything you want and that you are strong. And you finish the exercise by getting your leader to have a chat with your worrier. I know; it sounds a bit schizophrenic but it does make sense when you do the exercise.
This was one of the most emotional exercises of the retreat for me. Matt’s retreat is about getting rid of your emotional baggage so you do go through a lot over five days, but this exercise was particularly revealing for me.
At the time I attended the retreat I was actually in a really good place. I was in a newish relationship with an amazing man that I loved very much. I had signed up for the retreat 9 months prior to the actual retreat when I was not doing as well. By the time the retreat started and although I was on medication I felt like my life was perfect. This happiness did not last long but that is a different story.
So when we went through this exercise I was pretty surprised about what my worrier had to say. She was saying that depression would always be in me, holding me back in life, that because of it I would never be a fit mother (special thanks to an evil ex for that one – don’t worry I dump him not long after he said that!) and that it would be better if I never had children and end the suffering with me. She also said that life was not worth living without having children and that therefore my life had no meaning and I should end it. And it went on and on. I could not stop crying. My worrier was the meanest person on earth. Sadly I recognised all these things. Those were words that I had said to myself times and times again.
Fortunately my leader was there to save the day. My leader told me that I had survived a lot worse than that, that I was a warrior, not a worrier, that many people actually looked up to me for all the things I had achieved in my life and that I could and would beat depression. My leader told me that I could and would live depression free because I was strong. I had always been and would always be.
We all have these different voices inside of us. It is up to us to choose which one we listen to.
Since that day I have learnt to spot my worrier. When I hear her starting and telling me that I am an idiot, I stop myself straight away and correct her. No, I am not an idiot. I am actually quite clever; I just made a mistake.
How to stop your negative inner voice
And when things are tough, I use the trick Matt taught us at the retreat: what would you say to your own best friend if she was you right now? You would probably not call her an idiot or tell her that her life has no meaning and that she might as well end it now.
Instead you are more likely to remind her of all of the tough times that she has already survived. You might tell her that she is stronger than she knows. You will probably remind her of how much you love her and all the good things you love about her. You will also point out that this feeling of despair or sadness will pass because it always does eventually (even if that can take months) and that she just needs to be patient. And if you are really good, you will probably try to change her mind a little and make her laugh.
Your best friend might not be around 24/7 but you are. Be your own best friend and learn how to be kind to yourself. Forgive yourself for your mistakes and your setbacks. It is not your fault that you have depression so stop blaming yourself for it. Instead look at everything that you have already been through and survived and be proud of it, own it; it makes you who you are.
You are a warrior, not a worrier.
Another great tool to work on your negative inner voice is to use affirmations. I tell you how to do this in this article.