Managing a mood disorder is a little like searching for the word zygodactylous in word puzzle.
My technique? I find all the Zs and then I look at all the letters surrounding those Zs, which is sort of the same thing I do when I’ve spun a web of depression and anxiety around myself.
The crossword puzzle, in cognitive behavioral terms, is called the REBT method, or the Rational Emotive Behavioral Therapy, which is based on the premise that our emotions and behaviors are born from our thoughts. Several psychologists have developed different exercises based on this model.
One that I use a dozen times a day is the ABC exercise psychologist Steven Curtis, Ph.D. shares in his book “Understanding Your Child’s Puzzling Behavior.” Of course, it’s my puzzling behavior I’m trying to get a handle on, but the title of this book makes it convenient for me to pull out in public.
The ABC worksheet has four columns and however many rows–or upsetting events– you want to analyze. The first column says “setting event,” the second “antecedent” or “A,” the third “behavior” or “B,” and the last “consequences” or “C.” You start with the B column. Describe the upsetting behavior.
For example, I recently came home from a doctor’s appointment and bawled my eyes out because the doctor was very condescending and I felt discouraged. My “B”: Doctor is a Big Bossy Bird-Brained Bully.
Then I consider A, the antecedent, what came before the behavior … well, I was experiencing a lot of unpleasant side effects from a medication and I was exhausted from trying to manage my poor health with a fulltime job plus motherhood. My “A”: Was exhausted and sick.
Third, I go to the C column, for “consequence,” and I write down the consequences of my behavior: I decided to stop taking the medication that made me sick and to look for a new doctor. My “C”: Yah, baby, taking back the power!
Finally, in the “Setting Event,” I listed the underlying situations or conditions that increased the chances of the upsetting behavior: Since the little square is too small to list my medical history, I just said, “I can be a tad emotional and unbalanced at times.” In other words, my “Setting Event”: Long, neurotic history!!!
This process is helpful in outlining some possible contributors to my behavior or the upsetting event, in clueing me in as to the effectiveness of the consequences, and in providing me with useful information I might use next time I’m tempted to go off on a doctor.
To read more Beyond Blue, go to http://blog.beliefnet.com/beyondblue, and to get to Group Beyond Blue, a support group at Beliefnet Community, click here.