My Situation is Hopeless

I want to tell you about the Thought Challenge CBT exercise in which I challenged my automatic negative thought “My situation is hopeless.”

I was sitting in front of the computer looking for jobs feeling, very depressed, and decided to do a Stress Log CBT exercise. I identified some automatic negative thoughts I had in my mind at the moment. Then I chose to challenge “My situation is hopeless” because I thought it was the automatic negative thought that bothered me most, the one that made me feel most depressed. You can read more about this Stress Log exercise in my blog titled: “A Running Stream of Negative Thoughts – Unemployed and Hopeless.”

So, is my situation really hopeless? Is there any chance I’ll be able to find a job?

The first step in this thought challenge exercise will be to describe all the evidence I have to support the belief that “my situation is hopeless”. But before I even start doing that I need to clarify what I mean by “my situation.” At the time I was feeling really down and I was thinking about my situation being hopeless, “my situation” meant my whole life. I was thinking that every single aspect of my life was hopeless, not only my job search. Now I understand I was overgeneralizing.  Overgeneralizing is a type of distorted thinking common in people that are depressed, like me. You can read more about it on my blog titled: Cognitive Distortions and Depression.

So, to be more specific, I’ll describe the reasons I have to believe my job search is hopeless. They are:

  • It is very hard for anybody to find a job right now
  • Being hired at age 59 is even harder
  • The whole internet application process is cold and stressful

Now I’ll describe the reasons I have to believe the statement “My situation is hopeless” is not true. Here’s the evidence against this automatic negative thought:

  • There might be a chance that my resume will be a good fit for some job
  • Finding a job online is not my only hope of having an income again. I could find a job through the people I met during my years of work

I’ll finish this Though Challenge exercise by writing a more balanced statement, to replace the original “my situation is hopeless”:

“My job situation looks very tough, but I might be able to find ways to keep us afloat financially”

In this balanced statement I am not trying to fool myself into thinking that things will be great, but I am no longer overgeneralizing. I am being more specific and clear in the exercise (and hopefully in my mind) that my problem is lack of employment and its resulting financial pressures only. I am also opening my mind to consider that finding a job online is not the only way to avoid bankruptcy.

I am honestly not feeling that cheerful after this exercise, but my feelings of depression are certainly more bearable.

Here’s a picture of this Thought Challenge exercise:

My Situation is Hopeless

CBT for Depression – My Situation is Hopeless

For more examples of CBT exercises please visit CBT Examples.

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Cognitive Distortions and Depression

I had a good session with my cognitive therapist. I have a much better understanding of how cognitive distortions are making me feel depressed. Just the fact that there is some way of understanding what I’m going through gives me hope.
I was reluctant to buy the whole thing about not thinking negatively. If my situation is terrible I need to be aware of it, and not allow any therapist to convince me to think happy thoughts. I don’t want to be a happy idiot that ignores the truth.

But the more I get into this cognitive therapy treatment, the more I realize I have been distorting my thinking. I trust my therapist now that she will help me identify cognitive distortions and that she will not try to make me distort things in a positive way either, but simply help me interpret my current situation rationally.

I sure have nothing against thinking rationally, and if it helps me feel better and get my life back in order, well, that’s a no brainer.

I guess I am not the only depressed patient that has cognitive distortions because people have bothered to even put the different types of cognitive distortions into categories. It turns out I tend to fall into the following types of distorted thinking:

Black or white thinking:
Lately I’ve been frequently telling myself that I am a complete loser, a failure, that I have no chance of ever working again, that I’ll run out of money and my wife will leave me. I can see now how every single one of these phrases was distorted thinking. Every one of these statements takes something that is partially true to the extreme. I might not be very successful in my career, but I am not a complete failure either. My finances will deteriorate sharply if I don’t find a job soon, but it is unlikely I will be completely broke. My chances of working again are not great, but they are certainly not zero. The relationship with my wife might get worse, we might become more distant, but she might not leave me.
Anyway, I am clearly far away from having any “happy thoughts”, but avoiding the black-or-white all-or-nothing thinking has helped me avoid the deepest feelings of depression.

 Overgeneralizing:
They say one bad apple spoils the other apples. I guess it’s the same with thinking. I am going through a tough phase in my career right now, but I generalize it and tell myself I’ve always been mediocre at work. I know I haven’t always felt that way.
I also tell myself nobody wants to be around me anymore. And it’s true that my wife keeps avoiding me. And I understand I’ve been irritable around her. Again I overgeneralize and include other people that have not avoided me at all. In fact my children are calling me often. Talking about my children here’s another cognitive distortion I’ve caught myself falling into: “discounting the positive.”

Discounting the Positive:
I honestly felt ashamed when my therapist asked me about any positive feedback I had ever got at work or from my family.
I hadn’t thought about those things for a while, but when she asked I remembered.
I remembered every time my ex-boss called me to his office to thank me for a good job I had done (well he actually said great, but I can’t help myself still discounting the positive a little bit).
I remembered the time my son told me he was proud of me and the many times my wife has told me how good a father I am.

It’s really amazing how I’ve blocked all these positive memories from my mind when thinking what a failure I am. It’s like I already made the conclusion and I only look in my memories for evidence to corroborate my negative thinking.

Practicing my therapy homework with online CBT activities will help me think rationally and avoid these cognitive distortions.

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A Running Stream of Negative Thoughts – Unemployed and Hopeless

While searching for jobs online, I was barely aware of the running stream of negative thoughts in my mind.

I’ve spent hours a day looking for employment online and trying to improve my CV. I remember many years ago looking for jobs (on the newspaper back then) I used to feel good about it. Why is it now such a terrible experience?

Most of the time I spend searching for jobs online I feel down and frustrated. Sometimes I have to stop just because I can’t stand my frustration any longer.

My therapist told me that many times the thoughts that bring the most negative emotions  happen at a subconscious level, but can usually be brought to consciousness easily. He helped me identify these thoughts by asking what I was thinking or assuming about myself and the situation when I was feeling distress. Here’s the Stress Log exercise I did:

For more examples on how to use Stress Log exercises visit the CBT Examples website.

Thought Challenge – Will my wife leave me when I run out of money?

Last time I wrote I was feeling very depressed. On top of being unemployed – and old – I was thinking my wife was going to leave me when I ran out of money.

I talked to my therapist and did a Thought Challenge exercise and I feel a little bit more optimistic now. More important than optimism, I am feeling more in control of my life.

The first step was becoming aware that my feelings of sadness and anger have a lot to do with the negative thought “When I run out of money she’ll leave me”. I was not conscious of this negative thought. I had to ask myself what her comments meant to me that made me feel so upset. I interpreted her comment that “everything will be OK” as a threat to leave me if things were not OK. That’s what was so depressing and irritating about it.

So will she leave me?

I started  this Thought Challenge exercise by writing down all the evidence and facts that support the idea that if I can’t find a job she’ll leave me. I wrote down examples of moments when she has left the house to get a break from me. This helped me see that if she indeed leaves me it will have more to do with my temper than my lack of funds.

Then I wrote down evidence against the idea that she’ll leave me. It helped me see our relationship in the context of our many years together and all that we’ve been through.

I finished this Thought Challenge by writing down a more balanced and neutral statement: “If I stay this irritable my wife might start avoiding me more, but she probably will never leave me. It is up to me how much I isolate myself.”

Here’s a picture of this CBT exercise:Thought Challenge Depression

 

Unemployment, Depression and Self-esteem

Having dinner with my wife. I’m just looking at my bowl of soup, stirring it, thinking. But my wife is trying to make conversation, trying to cheer me up. How’s the soup honey? It’s good. Is it warm enough? Yes. Then she stays quiet for a while, but I can feel the tension before her next statement: “I am sure you’ll find another job”.

I just couldn’t stand it. I got up and went to our bedroom, closed the door behind me. I wasn’t hungry anyway.

I am sitting on the bed now, trying to calm down, asking myself why I got so upset with my wife. I try to practice what my therapist told me. I try to examine all the garbage thinking in my head. “It is not the situation that upsets you”, my therapist said, “but how you interpret it”. So I am wondering: What was it about my wife saying I’ll surely find another job that upset me so much? Or was it the silence that preceded it that bothered me?

She has no idea whether I’ll find a job or not. But she feels the need to say I will. This to me means she doubts I’ll find one. It also makes me think that she won’t put up with me if I don’t find a job. It’s like she’s saying “don’t worry, you’ll find a job and my life will be OK again”. But this implies that if I don’t find a job, then her life won’t be OK, that staying with me won’t be OK. So how am I supposed not to feel the pressure? Could she really think she’s being supportive? She is only making things harder for me. I already know I am a loser. Why would she want to stay with me?

Depression Stress Log by Don

Don does a Stress Log on depression, unemployment and low self-esteem

I did this Stress Log exercise – in the picture above – to identify all these negative thoughts. I understand it is quite obvious that this thinking would make anybody feel depressed. I understand all these negative thoughts have a lot to do with how depressed I have felt lately and with how low my self-esteem has been.

I can’t wait to talk to my therapist about this.

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Am I a Loser?

I’ve realized that thinking I am a loser plays a big role in me feeling so depressed.

I understand now that one cannot just say things like “I feel like a loser”. It doesn’t get you anywhere. How do losers feel anyway? Feeling like a loser needs to be more accurately described. I think I am a loser. Yes, a total loser. And knowing that I am such a big loser makes me feel tremendously sad and disgusted with myself.

My therapist tells me that this is an automatic negative thought that I need to challenge.

She is not telling me to just think positively. She is not denying I am a loser. She is simply saying that I need to make sure such a powerful statement is actually right. What would be the point of telling to myself all the time that I am such a big loser if it wasn’t true? Self-punishment? I surely don’t need that right now.

She recommended I do the exercise I have attached here. It is a “Thought Challenge”.

I chose to challenge the negative thought “I am a loser” because it was clearly the thought that was causing the deepest negative emotions in my First Stress Log.

I first came up with some reasons for why I believe I am a loser. Then I tried to write down some reasons why I might not be a loser. Then I finished by coming up with a more balanced statement.
I agree that I would never feel so extremely depressed if every time I say to myself “I am a loser”, I could, instead, tell myself something more neutral. Here’s the more balanced thought I came up with: “I’ve had some success in life, some mistakes. Right now I’m going through a rough moment, but it’s up to me to make the most of it.”

You can learn more about Thought Challenge by visiting MindQuire.

 

Thought Challenge Depression

Thought Challenge for Depression – Don’s first thought challenge

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My First Stress Log

I found a cognitive therapist. We are going to meet every week to talk about what’s going on in my life, how I’m feeling and how I am processing any stressful situation.

She has asked me to do some exercises during the week; psychotherapy homework.

I am supposed to write down a description of the situation that is bothering me, how I’m feeling and then also try to write down what’s in my mind. She said it was important to include my automatic thinking, that rather running commentary in the back of our minds that always has an opinion or interpretation about what’s happening and an implied or explicit judgment of ourselves.

Here is a picture of my first Stress Log:
Stress Log Depression Example

 

A cognitive therapist?

My eldest son, Tim, stopped by last night. It seems my wife talked to him. “We are all concerned about you, dad”, he said, “Talk to somebody”.

I have to admit I am not getting better and I might need help getting out of this hole. But I am not going to just talk to a stranger about my personal problems.

I’ve been seraching online about different types of psychotherapy approaches. It seems that what is called “cognitive therapy” might make the most sense for me.

I have noticed that I tend to feel the worst when I am thinking very negatively. It’s not a coincidence that I feel the most depressed and drained of all energy when I am thinking stuff like “I am a loser”, “I will never find a job” or “I’ve failed my wife”.

Well, it seems that cognitive therapy focuses on finding out how thinking patterns affect your mood and changing or challenging negative thoughts could treat depression. I am not sure how anybody can help me think differently, but if I keep seeing things the way I’m seeing them now I will only get more depressed.
I’ve decided I need to find a cognitive therapist.

 

Feeling like a loser

I am laying in bed, trying to take a nap. Falling asleep would be really nice, but my mind keeps going on and on. How can I be such a loser.

It’s been about two weeks since I lost my job. At first I felt relieved I didn’t have to deal with that new boss anymore. I couldn’t stand him. He wasn’t even 30 and had no respect for me. But after two weeks of having nothing to do, but worry about money and how difficult it will be to find a new job, I am really starting to feel down.

I feel like a total loser, unemployed, with little savings and no chance of ever working again. I can’t even talk to my wife anymore. I know she feels pity for me. Pity! For me! I can still remember how she used to admire me when we first met. How could it ever come to this?

I didn’t know I could feel so sad and angry at the same time. I wish I had the energy to do something about it, but I don’t.

I know I need help to get out of this hole, but I can’t talk to my wife. Should I find a therapist?