Beyond Blue

Beyond Blue

Never Place a Period Where God Has Placed a Comma: Why You Need Friends

punctuation-marks2.jpgNever place a period where God has placed a comma.

That’s a line from comedienne Gracie Allen. Beliefnet’s faith editor, Ansley Roan, reminded me of that saying after reading my post last week about my bad book sales numbers and why I was tempted to never ever write another book proposal again, and why I might write the blog as a hobby and pursue some other occupation that doesn’t require putting yourself out there, at the mercy of popularity and numbers.
I’m at a better place this week, in large part due to your heartfelt comments on that post.

They reminded me of my own advice…that I have to trust God, even as that is so very difficult to do at times. And you also refreshed me on my very important mission–to be a companion and a support to those suffering alone–and that if that mission is God’s will, which I think it is, He will make it possible for me to do that. Regardless of bad book sales. Or blogging trends. Or a cut-throat, competitive publishing business. Or a housing industry that has little work for my architect husband. 
You also reminded me that it’s difficult–nearly impossible, really–to assess any situation when you are in the midst of a depressive cycle. Any kind of bad news that you get when you are already fighting like hell to stay positive feels like an atomic bomb exploding in your hard drive…one that holds about a half a year’s worth of work with no backup. I don’t know about you, but I am simply incapable of a fair analysis when I’m depressed. And, as I’ve been feeding, walking, and cussing out the “black dog” (a term Winston Churchill used to describe his depression) for a few good months now, I didn’t have the stamina to take on the last fight about numbers. 
So I simply shrugged and said, “I suck.”

That’s why you need friends and people in your life who will call you on the distortions in your thinking, like you did for me.

In his book, “The Feeling Good Handbook,” Dr. David Burns identifies 10 distorted thinking patterns:
• 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.
• Overgeneralization – You see a single negative event as a never-ending pattern of defeat.
• Mental Filter – You pick out a single negative defeat and dwell on it exclusively so that your vision of reality becomes darkened, like the drop of ink that colors the entire beaker of water. 
• Disqualifying the positive – You dismiss 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. 
• 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. 
• 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.” 
• Emotional Reasoning – You assume that your negative emotions necessarily reflect the way things really are: “I feel it, therefore it must be true. 
• 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, frustration, and resentment.
• Labeling and Mislabeling – This is an extreme form of overgeneralization. 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. 
• Personalization – You see yourself as the cause of some negative external event which in fact you were not primarily responsible for.
Many of you were able to point out to me the black and white thinking, catastrophizing, jumping to conclusions, disqualifying the positive, mental filter, and overgeneralization in my own thinking.
Why are good friends essential to your recovery?
Because they notice patterns that you can’t pick up on.
For example, my friend Michelle said to me, after she read the “Don’t Mistake the Middle for the End” post, “You always go back to teaching high school religion when you’re depressed. The next time I start to get worried about you, I’m going to follow up the question ‘When is your next visit with Dr. Smith?’ with ‘Have you been thinking about teaching high school religion?'”
Maybe your symptoms aren’t as noticeable as my saying “To hell with the writing. I think I’m going to go teach high school religion.” But I’m sure you have idiosyncrasies and patterns of thought that your friends recognize. Moreover, everyone needs a person or ten in their life to remind them that God is in charge, that He really will give us what we need, that He is directing our paths, even as we think he could use a GPS system, and that he uses lots of commas, but rarely ever a period.
Thank you, again, for your support, for your affirmations, for your faith, and for your rational thinking, at a time when I needed all of them.

Click here to subscribe to Beyond Blue and click here to follow Therese on Twitter and click here to join Group Beyond Blue, a depression support group. Now stop clicking.

  • Elizabeth

    I am so pleased to hear you are feeling better, Therese!
    YOU ROCK and don’t ever let a “number” suggest otherwise to you :-)
    Your blog has been a source of support to me for a few years now and I read your books almost daily.. even though I’ve already read them thru at least once :)

  • marie

    Your blog is a lifeline to me. I look for it everyday. Your honestly is far more valuable than any book sales and says far more about who you really are and how open and willing you are to put your life on the line to help others. Bless you.

  • Madoka

    Hi Therese,
    Although I’m not a person that is lucky enough to believe in god or gods or anything else, I find your blog to be very insightful. I was wondering if you have any plans to publish your “pocket therapist” book digitally, and to make it available in Europe? I happen to live in a non-English speaking country and, it would be really convinient if I can buy your book via my Kindle. I think the pocket therapist book is a great idea because, frankly, your therapist can’t be with you at all times, and can’t be called up in the middle of the night unless it’s an emergency. :) Good luck!!

  • Keri

    It’s been such a blessing from God to have recently discovered your book Beyond Blue and your blog during a very low point in my struggle with depression and a series of setbacks in my life. I can picture some of my past shrinks scoffing at the priceless, interactive encouragement that goes on here, snarking that it’s “the blind leading the blind.” Fuggedaboudit! It’s not between us and them, it’s between us and God, and He knows heartfelt help when He sees it.
    I love Mother Teresa’s “Do it Anyway” peptalk poem. In case anyone hasn’t already read it, here it is:
    People are often unreasonable, illogical, and self-centred; Forgive them anyway. If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives; Be kind anyway. If you are successful, you will win some false friends and some true enemies; Succeed anyway. If you are honest and frank, people may cheat you; Be honest and frank anyway. What you spend years building, someone could destroy overnight; Build anyway. If you find serenity and happiness, they may be jealous; Be happy anyway. The good you do today, people will often forget tomorrow; Do good anyway. Give the world the best you have, and it may never be enough; Give the world the best you’ve got anyway. You see, in the final analysis, it is between you and God. It was never between you and them anyway.
    Happy Mother’s Day, Therese. God bless you in your work, family life and friendships and may He shower you with His peace that truly passeth all understanding when a low point like the book sales numbers game hits you.

  • Michael

    Therese – I read your blog everyday and find it enormous helpful. I also read your Beyond Blue book; haven’t read Pocket Therapist yet but will soon. Don’t give up on writing. You have a perspective on the black dog that you are able to effectively put into words. It provides a valuable service.

  • Laurie

    I read most of your blogs in the Google Reader. I share some of your insights with trusted friends too. Keep it up. This was a great post.

  • calicali

    It is so very hard to trust God when we are in a valley, also bec. we want to be in control instead of allowing Him to be. Hold on, Therese. Thank you for your blog, it has helped me so much. You are not alone in what you are going through. Friends help so much to remind us that this too will pass. Blessings to you and your family.

  • Barbara Bowman

    Hey Therese,
    You know, there are two sides to putting yourself out there. Yes, there are those who will use the opportunity to take potshots (and heaven knows there are plenty of those people on the net). But in your lowest times, by making yourself vulnerable to your readers, you have surrounded yourself with friends who care about you, and are ready to lift you up when your own legs are wobbly.
    You could have been one of those people who fight depression alone, withdrawn from society. But by the grace of God, you have a loving husband and children, and you’ve been given a gift which blesses your readers, and who in turn, bless you. I know that these encouragements can’t “fix” depression. But it is one weapon in the arsenal to fight the toxic thoughts…
    With much love as you continue to fight the battle…

  • Mary Anne Thompson

    I have been cracking up and crying while reading your Beyond Blue book. I take it with me to the therapist ofc then when someone asks me what I am reading I can plug it for u, ha! I really love your honesty and openess and want to thank you again for being the brave soul u are. U are our mentor…alot of us lost souls depend on you and your posts, this site, your love and your sense of humor. I think the only #’s u ought to be concerned with are US! The #’s of friends and readers who are the ones who matter!
    Anyway, I wanted to write and wish you a Happy Mother’s Day ! I appreciate you and hope that you have a day of recognition and appreciation on Sunday that will brighten your day!
    Love & light, Mary Anne

  • Diane Williams

    I got some bad news about my performance at work this week. I thought I had been doing better with depression but now my therapist is wondering if the meds are affecting my concentration and motivation. In the middle of this, I was reading The Pocket Therapist after reading Beyond Blue a month or so ago. Both have helped me so much and I expect I will often refer back to them. I really hope you will be able to continue to write books because people like me need them in addition to your great blog.

  • veronica

    I read your posting every day and they give me information and encouragement. I have had a
    “depressing” time in the last few weeks, and it has been so helpful to read your words. When each
    day brings “another situation” and you are blindsided and it happens just when you think you have
    the other situation almost handled, wow….. Thank you, God Bless. You are truly a good person
    and a fighter… survivor …. a resource of strength for us all.

  • David Stein

    Hang in there Therese, you bring up some great points about trusting God and depression. I guess you could say that I am a non-practicing Jew. I have not been to temple in almost three years and I really do not identify myself with the Jewish community. Currently I am pursuing a Masters degree in Theology with an emphasis in Early Christian Text.
    And yet, I find that I have become more spiritual and more religious over the years. Like you, I have had a great deal of experience with depression, whether it be due to my work, school or just emotional state, I have to remind myself that God has a plan for me and that unless I submit to it I will never be at peace.
    I am continually amazed at how you intertwine faith and mental healing. Your blog brings me hope and shows me a potential direction my life can take. Stay strong and remember the words found in Psalm 23:
    1 The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not be in want.
    2 He makes me lie down in green pastures,
    he leads me beside quiet waters,
    3 he restores my soul.
    He guides me in paths of righteousness
    for his name’s sake.
    4 Even though I walk
    through the valley of the shadow of death, [a]
    I will fear no evil,
    for you are with me;
    your rod and your staff,
    they comfort me.
    5 You prepare a table before me
    in the presence of my enemies.
    You anoint my head with oil;
    my cup overflows.
    6 Surely goodness and love will follow me
    all the days of my life,
    and I will dwell in the house of the LORD
    Psalm 23, for me sums up our internal struggle and even though it is constantly used, I use it as a way to remind myself that our relationship and trust in God will bring us peace.
    David A. Stein

  • Rebecca R. Trocki

    I just finished reading your book. We have a lot in common. I grew up in Cincinnati, went to Catholic school, went to Georgetown and your story is almost my story with of course differences. We are the same age and there are lots of people out there just like us. We have a lot in commons and I have learned a lot about myself in that book. I have a partner, the only major difference is that I don’t have kids but I have the same catholic guilt and we both understand what it is to be “nuts”, in fact that is his nickname for me, “nut”. I am going to a good doctor and well into recovery. I don’t drink or smoke and put myself into grad school to fill a huge void. I am also dignosed with bipolar type II (pepsi light). I have lots and lots of cats and have God to thank for everything. You are my soul sister. Boundaries a problem with me also. I usally go to Hopkins Mood Disorder Conference in April. They are great and I buy lots of books. Love, becky, my email is BTW, your book is wonderful as you are!! You go girl!!!!

  • J

    I read you everyday. Your writing is my reality check and right now I need that very much. Perhaps you can know and perhaps not; you are saving lives. Thank you.

  • MG

    I have Beyond Blue and the Pocket Therapist and as some one who is just coming to terms with depression and PTSD please do not stop writing. Your blog and your books will continue to touch people. I am telling everyone I know about them. I truly appreciate your candor and just you.


    you just freaking awesome, therese! You and Therapy Doc are the best things ever for mental health :) you are my favorite bloggers!

  • Michael Yuda

    I have never identified with anyone regarding the depression/anxiety issue like I have with you. I have read your book a couple of times and read your posts daily. You are great at what you do. I’m a CPA, and when an episode hits me, I think I am a phony, suck, etc. Great to hear I am not alone because actually, I am an awesome CPA, etc. :) As you have pointed out repeatedly, the negativity is a symptom. No one has told me that before. Thanks Therese!!

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  • Laura

    How is it that you (and God, I suspect) manage to get inside my head and tell me just what I need to hear?

  • blanche

    Hi Therese.
    I’m so happy you’re feeling better. Don’t ever sell yourself short. You’ve helped thousands (maybe a million or more by now over the years)of people coping with depression, bipolar… we love you.
    Thanks to Keri for posting Mother Teresa’s poem. I’m going to copy it in my journal.
    Keep on atruckin’.
    Love, Blanche

  • chloe

    Just what I needed to hear. You are great. I am leaving my husband and getting a divorce after 22 years, and feeling pretty low. I have to move in with relatives because I don’t have any money. It was an abusive marriage, just emotional now, but bad enough. I’m 48, haven’t worked in a long time, have a chronic back condition. I’m scared. But, I know I have to do it, or I never will. Or I will be sitting in the same place 10 years from now. I’m hoping I will only be at my sisters temporarily and I can get my life back. Part of doing that I know will involve extensive therapy.
    I do the same thing. I label everything like it’s all my fault, I screwed up, I’m never going to be happy again. I’ve just wasted too much time! It is hard when everything is lousy, to keep a positive attitude. But, I try and hope that maybe someday I will fall in love again with a good person, and my life will have some fun in it. So, everyday I try to keep a stiff upper lip and put a smile on my face.
    Be glad to hear from anyone in my situation!

  • http://Yes Pat

    Yes, I have had times when I felt unworthy, or things have gone so wrong you question, why me? But most things turn around in time, and once you are back on track, life becomes easier

  • http://Bigamber Louise

    Good Day to you,
    Your insightful views are the reason I stick with your blog.
    I’ve looked all over to find Positive and realistic approach to what
    I deal with everyday. I try to live in my wellness verses my
    Illness. Looking for all that God has bless me with.
    Thank you for sharing your lows as well as your triumphs that you
    encounters. You are one of my Blessings.
    Much Love from Maine

  • Donna

    It’s more than a coincidence that this very article came to me today. It has truly re-established my trust in God and myself. Keep writing through the road blocks, Therese! You’ll get there soon enough as you have the ability and talent.
    Chloe: I have been in your shoes and can tell you that things can only get better and you are brave and strong!!

  • Ralph

    Hello and thank you for what you said today about friends,that is what caught my attention.Then iread all the comments,seems you have a lot!!This is the first time i have commented on here.I really enjoyed the comments too! I have been isolating myself for the past few months,i know i shouldnt and its not good for me.Thats why i needed to hear what you said today about friends.I am blessed to have friends,but i just have not been communicating with them of late.I am a male 55,with fibromyalgia,arthritis,degenerative disc and deppression.I also live alone and yes it gets very lonely sometimes.I know i need to get back out and in touch with my friends!!Thank You and those who commented!! I hope you get to felling better,and thanks for listening!!Ralph

  • Marie Miller

    “Becoming Your Depressive Illness vs. Having a Depressive Illness”
    Quick idea.
    You might want to read a chapter called “The Depressive Narcissist” in Joan Lachkar’s book How to Talk to a Narcissist.
    She presents an interesting idea.
    She says Depression is unique as an illness because people tend to totally “Become the Illness”.
    Other illnesses or diseases people tend to simply have on the side while carrying on with their life and complete positive self identity (i.e. I have a cold, I have lymphoma, not I am a cold).
    Whereas often with Depression, people begin to loose their original positive self identity and begin to think and behave as if “I am the disease”. Rather than simply “I have sad thoughts”, depressives completely become the thing they feel and lose the totality of who they really are and have been.
    The author then offers a series of possible internal discussions where one holds on to their original whole personality and positive personal identity and simply deals with their depressive feelings as just feelings.
    She presents this in an interesting way and compares it to parapalegics who “become their disability” rather than keeping their original whole identity who just happens to also have problems with their legs. She says in both instances when we “become our illness” we become paralyzed and stuck.
    Just some new food for thought.
    Hope it helps.

  • Sue

    Wow, so true, especially the 10 distorted thinking patterns. This is so very true of me and I haven’t even met Dr. Burns. Also true with the “ISFJ” Myers-Briggs personality that I am. I’ve been trying to read a few self-help books lately to learn about myself and why I keep ending up in the same spot over and over and over again. So, I took this test and I am an ISFJ. It actually made me feel good in that it validated me and it helped me realize that there are others out there like me. But yes, the distorted thinking patterns do really match up with me. I will have to look into this book by Dr. Burns.
    I’m so glad you are in a better place today. Depression for me is “hell.” I’ve treated for it for over 15 years but have definitely had it most of my life. God has helped me tremendously but I have the most trouble accepting myself as the person I am, especially when I’m going through a hard time. I went through a lot of abuse both physically and mentally when I was a child and then emotional abuse as a teenager but God has helped me deal with a huge portion of this. My problem comes with accepting who I have become as a result of the stuff I went through. I am mostly a positive person and try to live my life as an example of God’s love and acceptance of us. I just get stuck sometimes and it feels so easy to fall back down into that black pit of hell.
    Anyway, thanks so much for sharing, for all you do in helping and encouraging others, and for allowing God to work through you to reach His people.
    God bless you and continue to be with you, Sue

  • Shannon

    Therese – I’ve read your blog off and on for the past couple of years and I so admire your honesty and tenacity in battling your depression and anxiety. I, too, have lost my head many times…never been hospitalized, but come very close…and I know how hard it is to fight for sanity when your brain chemistry is askew. However (don’t you just love those howevers and buts), I sometimes feel you don’t realize how lucky you are. Perhaps I’ve missed posts regarding the blessings in your life, but you have a husband who loves you and supports you and two children, a boy and a girl even. Who cares about books sales? I get it…you do. But in the long run, book sales don’t matter. The people you’ve loved, the people who’ve loved you, the joy and heartaches you’ve shared…relationships are where its at.

  • SuzanneWA

    Therese – even when you’re “down in the dumps,” you bring an honesty and a humorous discourse to your blogs. I’m sorry to admit that I haven’t read your books – being a bipolar, my concentration for reading is dulled by the meds – but I’m sure they’re as clever and pithy as your blogs, even more so. As you can tell by all the readers who have replied with encouragement to you for your “failing book sales,” we are “out there” pulling for you, and praying that your “Black dog” won’t stay around. Just keep on keepin’ on, and sooner or later, you’ll be inspired to “take the plunge” and write another book that will “top the charts!”

  • Shelley

    Thank you for the article you post about yourself. Hang in there. God has given you a special gift of writing to others about yourself with truth and honesty. What a gift he has given us in you. I’m sure he isn’t finished with you yet. I will pray for you that God gives you the strength on your uphill climb. He certainly has given you many friends to help you with a hand up on your travail.



  • Rita

    If I may politely beg to differ — Therese I do not think you suck. I would buy both of your books, if I had a little more money.
    St. Ignatius would call the “black dog” desolation. His advice? When in desolation don’t make any decisions and pray like crazy.
    I find I remember dumb or unsuccessful things that I did decades ago. Geesh.

  • Kevin Crosby

    Where’s the Facebook Share button I want to see for your article?

  • yogi

    Therese, you made me come out of my blues so many times. Please keep writing. You definitely lift many out of their mental lows, though they may not be posting comments (I am posting this after my 5th visit here to your site). Please keep writing good words. They definitely work wonders.

  • Jill

    Very nice article, religious stuff aside.

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    Which came first, the chicken or the egg?

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