If you’re struggling with depression, it’s easy to get caught up in regret, to overthink past experiences, or ruminate over the stories that you’ve built up about who you are, what you do, and why you may find yourself in this situation.
It can be a hard cycle to see when you’re in it, and it only gets harder the longer you’re experiencing depression.
That’s why it’s so important to get professional help, and combine that with other tools that work for you to help pull your perspective and attention away from these unhealthy or unproductive thought loops.
In my own experiences with depression, I’ve also found it vital to create new stories for myself — some type of “North Star” to strive towards. This helps to bring a clearer picture into view and offers me a goal to work towards, thereby reducing the uncertainty and fogginess that fuels my anxiety and depression.
If you’re constantly ruminating about where you’re currently finding yourself or where you’ve been in the past, how will you know where to go next? How can you know which direction you are going?
You may be able to achieve more clarity with counseling, journaling, and other goal-setting activities. In my own exploration of photography as a creative tool, I’ve found that creating a photo and story about my best self can be especially powerful while battling mental health issues.
Do you know who your best self is?
Who are you at your absolute best?
Where will you be? What will you be doing? How do you act? What fills your days and time?
If you’ve never asked yourself or reflected on these questions, it might be a good idea to explore them, on your own time or with a trusted friend or mental health professional.
Recently, I asked members of The One Project community to create stories that show their best selves outside of their mental health struggles to help provide some examples and kick start their own journeys toward these visions.
I have been feeling the anxiety build up again — it’s always there, but it’s staying in my throat more. I want to feel like I felt in this photo all the time. Grateful for this moment; grateful I have something to dream towards.
— Kate Marie
So, what exactly does this look like? How can I be sure that today I improved something by one percent? Each night, I try to make a mental log of my day and determine if there is something in my day that I have done differently, that has improved my mood or simply moved me forward in my personal goals.
Some days I fall short and come away identifying that I did not make my one percent, but I do not identify this as defeat. I do not look at this as a reason to give up. I do not beat myself up or call myself a failure. No, instead I look forward and identify how I can do better.
These simple steps each day keep me moving forward to my best self.
— Crystal Miller
Triumph doesn’t always need a trophy.
Sometimes you need to reward yourself by saying, “Damn, look at the amazing week I had! Keep it up, look at my progress, look at how fast I recover from a panic attack now. Keep doing those mantras, keep up the self-talk and sharing your feelings.” And sometimes it’s OK if you don’t want to acknowledge it at all and just be, but I’ve realized a good lesson again: that after feeling good for a while I seem to “forget” or not want to recognize that I’ve been doing good until I’m NOT doing good. I get so wrapped up in being OK I forget that I’m “sick,” per se. I don’t work on myself. I let things slip and I don’t watch the signs and then BOOM! Overwhelmed, angry, and back to the beginning.
I really get down on myself and feel so guilty and bad for taking things out on someone else or getting too worked up over nothing and I realize that even when you’re feeling good you have to work on yourself every day. It’s even better to do it then, to ensure that each time lasts longer and relapses are easier and shorter and seen better. I forget sometimes that I don’t have to carry the world on my shoulders. I don’t need to and I don’t want to. No one’s going to look at me funny or be mad when I say I need a little help still. To me, realizing this is a trophy all on its own.
— Trena Pearl Wall
Everyone’s best self will be different. There is no right or wrong answer.
It can be easy to fall into comparisons when you start on an activity like this, so try to go old school on a piece of paper with a pen and turn off all your devices to give yourself the proper time and space to complete it authentically.
Often, when I’m anxious or starting to struggle more with depression again, it’s because I’m in a transition after lots of changes, so I need to reassess and make a plan. Your best self-portrait and story can be a great way to set your plans in place for where you’re headed.
Once you have it, it’s something that you can refer back to when you’re feeling uncertain or struggling with low self-esteem. Now you’ll have your own “North Star” to guide you forward.
For more information on how to manage depression, reach out to your doctor or healthcare team.
DEPR-US-NP-00066 JUNE 2019