An old friend suddenly messaged to ask how I am doing. These days, I usually just say “what a difficult question” if I am not particularly in a chatty mood and “not so good” if I am. It was very tempting to answer “I am ok” or “I am fine”, but I really try to avoid these vague responses. I know how it feels like to be on the receiving end, and it is awkward at best and leaves you feeling helpless (or speechless) at worst. Good thing I replied honestly, because apparently, he has read my blog yesterday, the very reason why he reached out in the first place.
He is a nurse and is working in a healthcare facility in the United States with patients who are mentally ill.
S: here in the Philippines depression is not taken seriously. When someone hints at feeling depressed, he or she is called “maarte” (nitpicky or pretentious, according to Google) and is told to get over it quickly
J: it is the opposite here. Depression is very common. In my opinion, some of the situations our “mentally ill” patients are in does not really warrant hospitalization. I guess Filipinos are just more resilient that way. These guys will have a very difficult time surviving in a 3rd world country, if at all
S: there are lots of expats who live here in the Philippines. I am certain the transition was not easy, and I am not sure whether they are mentally healthy, but they are surviving
J: I am generalizing. It is just that here it seems like everything is provided by the government. Some (lazy) people does not even work anymore because the government will take care of them. Single mothers have more babies because they get benefit for every child they have. “Poor” people wears Jordan shoes and you can see them shopping a lot
S: here in the Philippines, make more babies and don’t work, your children will go hungry, or worse, get into prostitution
J: that does not happen here. So I think depression is more common because when people do not get what they want, they easily feel down. And it does not help that it is considered “normal”
It got me thinking… Is the Filipino culture of belittling mental illness sometimes beneficial? I do not mean to offend people who are seriously suffering from depression or anxiety, etc. I am writing with the premise that I am having a difficult time right now but maybe could not accept that I have depression, that this is just still “normal” sadness and feelings of despair. Of course I took the BDC yesterday ( https://toabettersarahraisingsophia.wordpress.com/2021/07/25/would-you-rather-mind-over-matter/ ) and I am relatively “happy” to say that I really have got nothing to worry about.
Your emotions result entirely from the way you look at things. It is an obvious neurological fact that before you can experience any event, you must process it with your mind and give it meaning. You must understand what is happening to you before you can feel it.
If your understanding of what is happening is accurate, your emotions will be normal. If your perception is twisted and distorted in some way, your emotional response will be abnormal. Depression falls into this category. It is always the result of mental “static” – distortions.
Definitions of Cognitive Distortions
1. All-or-nothing thinking: You see things in black-and-white categories. If your performance falls short of perfect, you see yourself as a total failure.
2. Overgeneralization: You see a single negative event as a never-ending pattern of defeat.
3. Mental filter: You pick out a single negative detail and dwell on it exclusively so that your vision of all reality becomes darkened, like the drop of ink that colors the entire beaker of water.
4. Disqualifying the positive: You reject positive experiences by insisting they “don’t count” for some reason or other. In this way you can maintain a negative belief that is contradicted by your everyday experiences.
5. Jumping to conclusions: You make a negative interpretation even though there are no definite facts that convincingly support your conclusion.
a. Mind reading. You arbitrarily conclude that someone is reacting negatively to you, and you don’t bother to check this out.
b. The fortune teller error. You anticipate that things will turn out badly, and you feel convinced that your prediction is an already-established fact.
6. Magnification (Catastrophizing) or minimization: You exaggerate the importance of things (such as your goof-up or someone else’s achievement), or you inappropriately shrink things until they appear tiny (your own desirable qualities or the other fellow’s imperfections). This is also called the “binocular trick.”
7. Emotional reasoning: You assume that your negative emotions necessarily reflect the way things really are: “I feel it, therefore it must be true.”
8. Should statements: You try to motivate yourself with shoulds and shouldn’ts, as if you had to be whipped and punished before you could be expected to do anything. “Musts” and “oughts” are also offenders. The emotional consequence is guilt. When you direct should statements toward others, you feel anger, frustrations, and resentment.
9. Labeling ang mislabeling: This is an extreme form of overgenaralization. Instead of describing your error, you attach a negative label to yourself: “I’m a loser.” When someone else’s behavior rubs you the wrong way, you attach a negative label to him: “He’s a goddam louse.” Mislabeling involves describing an event with language that is highly colored and emotionally loaded.
10. Personalization: You see yourself as the cause of some negative external event which in fact you were not primarily responsible for.David D. Burns, M.D. – Feeling Good (The New Mood Therapy)
Just to be on the safe side, however, I will be more conscious of my thoughts from now on. Every time I feel overwhelmed, I will write down how I am feeling to see what kind of mental distortions are causing my unhappiness.
Right now, my top 3 concerns are:
- After over 16 months of continuous lockdown, the situation is still not under control. Just last week, the local government has become even stricter again, closing the amenities so Sophia could not swim and play with her friends. (Mental filter)
- My last relationship went down the drain, because according to my ex, he could not stand the separation and uncertainty. I am hesitant to trust a man again, and every time I see a similar pattern (whether a promise, the same words, similar plans), I am afraid the same thing is going to happen and I will have my heart broken again. (Overgeneralizing, emotional reasoning, personalization)
- I made all these wrong decisions in the past, and now I am struggling. I have worked so hard and I am afraid I am going to lose everything, and I will not be able to recover. I am a loser. (Mental filter, jumping to conclusions – the fortune teller error, magnification, labeling and mislabeling)
Can you recognize a mental distortion you are having right now?
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