Depression can make you believe some really horrible things like “you’re worthless,” “nobody likes you,” “you’re pathetic” or “you suck.” Even worse, depression convinces you those thoughts are true. And when you have a little extra energy, you may find yourself wanting to fight back with a little sass and tell depression where it can shove it.
Of course you’re not always going to have the energy to fight off those negative depression thoughts. When you can, it’s actually a therapy skill in disguise — thought reframing.
According to New York-based psychologist Regine Galanti, Ph.D., negative self-talk is part of a cycle of thoughts, emotions and behaviors that interact with each other and govern how you feel. In this case, negative thoughts feed your depressed emotions. If you reframe a negative thought with an alternative, you can begin to break the negative thought cycle. If you try cognitive behavior therapy (CBT), you’ll likely encounter thought or cognitive reframing often.
The first step in thought reframing is to catch negative thoughts, which Galanti said can sometimes be so automatic we hardly notice them. Try grabbing onto a feeling first and then trace the feeling back to the thoughts. Notice the feeling and then “say, ‘OK, what am I thinking?'” Galanti told The Mighty. “If you’re in a comic book, what would be in your thought bubble right now? What would be above your head?”
After you’ve identified those depressive thoughts telling you horrible lies, counter the negative thought with an alternative. This doesn’t mean conjuring up thoughts of rainbows, unicorns and puppies (though you can if you want). But if somebody just told you you’re worthless, what might your loved ones tell you in response? Reframing negative thoughts neutralizes them before they make you feel even worse.
For those days when you’re feeling up to reclaiming some headspace by kicking those negative depressive thoughts in the teeth (and reframing them in the saltiest way possible), here are 12 Mighty comebacks you can use when depression tells you “you suck.”
1. ‘Not today, Satan!’
“I pull a Bianca Del Río and try to say ‘Not today, Satan.'” — Mighty community member Meghan Ashley G.
2. ‘I’m busy now. Can I ignore you some other time?’
3. ‘I fought death and won.’
“My most common is that’s not right, I fought death and I won. That means something!!!” — Mighty community member Molly S.
4. ‘I would like to confirm that I do not care.’
5. ‘I wrote down all of your opinions that matter to me and put them in a box. It’s empty.’
6. ‘The door!’
“I take my finger and point it at the nearest door and say ‘THE DOOR.’ It’s a joke from a vine. #iamzoie” — Mighty community member Emma T.
7. ‘Go sit on a cactus.’
8. ‘Sit and swivel!’
“I simply tell it to sit and swivel because I am better than my mental illness and I am more than my mental illness.” — Mighty community member Niamh
9. ‘While you’re stabbing my back, you can kiss my ass too.’
10. ‘My teeth are brighter than your future.’
11. ‘You’re too weak to even last a year.’
“When it tells me that I will be depressed forever — I tell it that it’s too weak to even last a year. — Mighty community member C.L.
12. ‘The difference between pizza and your opinion is that I asked for pizza.’
We realize it’s not always possible to fight those negative depression thoughts. Even though a laugh every once in a while is good, it doesn’t fix everything. So if you’re feeling stuck and struggling, know you’re not alone. Reach out to loved ones or enlist the help of a mental health professional who can support you. As Mighty community member Kate said, you deserve love, compassion and kindness even though depression might try to tell you otherwise:
The one thing that works for me — if a friend were telling me they were depressed, would I be saying they were a failure, or stupid, or to get over it? Or I would I tell them it’s ok to get help and support, and that they needed to be kind to themselves, and that their feelings are real and valid. I always think that I should be treated differently, and actually, we all deserve to be treated with respect when we say we have a mental health problem.