Start your Journey to Recovery

It’s great you’re serious about conquering depression. Here I’ll share all the information you’ll need to set you on the road to recovery. Sound too good to be true? Well all I can say is that the tips and techniques I share will you on this website, worked for me and that is why I want to share it with you. You might feel overwhelmed and that too is understandable. Faulty thinking is the root cause of depression, anxiety, anger and even perfectionism. It took many years for your thinking to develop into what it is today, so… depression recovery will take a while, but the main factor is determination, especially a determination not to give up. 

Don’t feel overwhelmed!

depression recoveryI promise you there is light at the end of the tunnel, rather than the headlights of an oncoming train! Just the fact that you are reading this shows that you are serious about conquering depression. It really is a debilitating place to exist, so well done, let me walk with you on your journey to recovery.

Many people blame their depression on life events, or their upbringing, or their spouse. Does that sound familiar? The problem here is that you become a victim, depending on others for your happiness. Yes, bad things do happen to good people, but I’m sure you don’t want to live the miserable life of a victim. BE A SURVIVOR!

One step at a time

depression recoveryIt’s a huge topic, so whenever I start to feel overwhelmed I just remind myself of “how do you eat an elephant?’ To which I reply ‘one bite at a time!’

Depression Recovery

Depression Symptoms

Have a look if you recognize yourself in these depression symptoms. You can evaluate the severity of your depression by filling in this Depression Inventory. Good idea to print yourself a copy so you can keep a regular check on how you are progressing. Please don’t hesitate to ask your doctor for medication – doing so is a sign of strength, not weakness. Don’t listen to friends who tell you not to take medication – these friends are usually quite ignorant about the medical aspects of depression. Depression isn’t just a psychological problem. It is also a physical illness that needs treatment. 

Chemical Imbalance

Many people blame their depression on having a chemical imbalance. Yes, that’s true… BUT usually not the only cause. Take the medication but also learn to change the way you think. Stressful thoughts lead to the chemical imbalance and so learning to change the way you think will help sort out the chemical imbalance.

 Suggested order of reading

1. Some questions and answers about depression

2. Understand how depression progresses into a physical illness. In this article  I work through the below diagram to give a better understanding of many aspects related to depression such as stress, medication and why it’s important to learn to change the way you think. Remember knowledge is power.

depression progression


3. Cognitive Distortions List

Please print out this list of faulty thinking, (pdf) of cognitive distortions. You can also view it here for a quick look, but a printed version is really essential.  I cannot emphasize how valuable this list will be to you in your recovery. Have a look at the list.  Can you see where your thinking is going wrong? Good. Even people who aren’t suffering from depression recognize themselves in this list. Recognizing yourself is great as it will indicate your areas of weakness in your thinking. The second page gives step by guidance for checking out where your thoughts could be going wrong, reevaluating your thoughts and replacing your thought with one better grounded in reality. Okay this might sound complicated. It is a big topic, but believe me, it will become clearer further along the road.

4. Mood Analysis When you reach  this point you’ll have a greater understanding of depression. Now you have to put what you have learnt into practice. You need to practice listening to what is going on inside your head – listen to the thoughts that are directing your behavior. Just think about it as like driving a car. when you were learning, you had to think about each action. However after years of practice your driving becomes automatic. The same with our thoughts. They become automatic and… Well read the article…!

5. More examples on mood analysis here. It’s REALLY important to come to grips with this.

6. More  Examples of faulty thinking … I can’t emphasize enough how important it is to come to be able to analyze and replace ones thoughts.

7. And finally here are some more coping skills for when you feel like giving up or procrastinating as is so often the case with depression.

I have several posts that relate to depression and the easiest way of finding these is to look at Categories and click on depression or whatever takes your fancy.

Book recommendations

My all time favorite book for overcoming depression is Feeling Good – A New Mood Therapy by David Burns. If I had to recommend only one book on depression, this would be it – it changed my life and could do the same for you. Follow my link to Amazon for this book as well as a selection of his other books.

David D. Burns - The New Mood Therapy

David D. Burns – The New Mood Therapy

For more of my book recommendations click here.

Love your Inner Child

chinoI came across this amazing series of photos, “Imagine Finding Me” by the Japanese London – based photographer Chino Otsuka. With incredible skill she digitally inserts herself into old photos, so that she is standing next to her younger self.

The images got me thinking about “the inner child” ...

We were all children, that’s a no-brainer but what most of us are not aware of is that we still have that child living within us.  Whenever you think, feel or behave in a way you did when you were a child, it is your inner child that is acting out. A lack of awareness of your inner child will leave you wondering where so many of your behavioral, emotional and relationship difficulties stem from. Usually they can be traced back to your “inner child” acting out.

Ask yourself…

You’re an adult, but have you really grown up?
Is your unconscious inner child, the emotionally wounded, hurting child, controlling or influencing your adult life, trying to make your adult decisions?

For many it is a hurt, fearful angry little boy or girl (in an adult body) who is making adult decisions.  No wonder our relationships go wrong, and then we feel anxious, insecure and inferior, all the feelings we had as little children when we did something “wrong”.

Can you recognize behavior or reactions that you don’t like, that could possibly stem from an inner child deciding how you should react? What about temper tantrums, sulking or plain irrational behavior. These behaviors might be appropriate for a child, but they’re definitely not appropriate for an adult -your inner child is acting out and having control!

Action Plan

1. Become conscious of your inner child. learn to recognize when the inner child is directing how you behave.
2. You have two ways of reacting to your inner child.

Hate: You can get cross with yourself, with your inner child, just as your parent did to you when you were little and did something wrong. Isn’t it true that we so often hear the reprimands of our parents in our minds. You can carry on hating and blaming your inner child for all your  ills and remain a helpless victim. You can futilely attempt to force others into fulfilling your infantile needs, but this is also doomed to failure.

Love: It is only through loving your inner child that this child will ‘grow up’. Take your inner child seriously, consciously communicate with that little girl or boy within. Listen to how they feel and what they need. Unfortunately for most of us, certain infantile needs were, maliciously or not, unmet by our imperfect parents and they never will be.  A child grows up when it receives proper parental supervision, protection and support. But the only parent who can now do this is YOU, the Adult you.

Visualization: When the inner child reacts badly, reassure your inner child. Close your eyes and visualize yourself holding hands with a little version of yourself. Call that child “Little  ….. (insert your name)” and talk to that child in a loving non-judgemental way eg. “Little John. it’s okay you were trying your best, it didn’t quite work out, but don’t worry, I’m not going to leave you and together we will try again next time… we’ll keep practicing, til together, we get it right….)

The process of healing is a journey and not a quick fix and I wish you well on your recovery. If you want to ask me any questions, please don’t hesitate to ask something in the coment box.

For more on the inner child click here.

To see more of the amazing pictures of the adult Chino Otsuka inserted into the childhood photos of herself click here

Editing your life’s story for a happier ending – Lulu Miller

It was a rainy night in October when my nephew Lewis passed the Frankenstein statue standing in front of a toy store. The 2 1/2-year-old boy didn’t see the monster at first, and when he turned around, he was only inches from Frankenstein’s green face, bloodshot eyes and stitched-up skin.

The power of the pencil: Writing about a troubling event in the past can help recast it in a more positive way.

Daniel Horowitz for NPR

The 4-foot-tall monster terrified my nephew so much that he ran deep into the toy store. And on the way back out, he simply couldn’t face the statue. He jumped into his mother’s arms and had to bury his head in her shoulder.

For hours after the incident, Lewis was stuck. He kept replaying the image of Frankenstein’s face in his mind. “Mom, remember Frankenstein?” he asked over and over again. He and his mom talked about how scary the statue was, how Lewis had to jump into her arms. It was “like a record loop,” my sister said.

But then, suddenly, Lewis’ story completely changed … Read More…

Nelson Mandela (1918 – 2013)

Nelson Rolihlala Mandela

I spent much of this week watching TV on the life of our beloved Nelson Mandela. What an extraordinary man we had as our President who brought about democracy in South Africa. Humility, forgiveness, empathy and love are some of the many lessons that we can learn from this man who spent 27 years in jail and emerged as a world leader.

When I counsel I often advise people to look at themselves as an actor in their lives. The script for your life is not set in stone. You can change the script! Look at your behavior and weigh up whether the consequences are what you would like. If not… then change the script.

So I was interested to read something along these lines in an obituary written by Mark Gevisser in the Mail and Guardian (December 6-12 2013, page 4).

In prison, Mandela had time away from the spotlight he had time to think about life. Mandela “learned about human sensitivities and how to handle the fears and insecurities of others, including his Afrikaner warders. He was sensitized by his own sense of guilt about the family and friends he had used during his political career. Mandela was racked by remorse about his absence as a husband and a father. By coming to see himself as an actor – a perpetrator, if you like – as well as a victim, he developed his most admirable quality: a capacity for empathy.”

He used this ability to empathize as a strategy to get what he wanted – for himself while in prison, for his people, and for his country. Empathy is the ability to ‘walk in another person’s shoes’ and so even the prison guards were won over. And to empathize you have to be a good listener, which he was, making people feel at ease.

This ability to empathize was the root of his almost inhuman lack of bitterness and forgiveness as well as his desire for reconciliation. Bitterness which leads to anger and a lack of forgiveness would have resulted in a different couse of events in South Africa’s history. Even where goodness wasn’t evident in others, his attitude and respect to others, that is,  his empathy, elicited the goodness he knew was embodied in every person.

He used his humor to help other relax or to disarm them or both, depending on the circumstance. He did not take a step – or do a jig – without calculating the odds. For the Rugby World Cup in 1995, Mandela insisted on keeping the Springbok emblem, which was strongly associated with the white oppressors. Mandela’s bigger purpose was reconcilation and it worked, the white people of South Africa were won over by his action. Mandela thought about the consequences of his actions. He certainly was a leading actor on the world stage.

So often we get bogged down by the small details of our lives, filling them with bitterness and unforgiveness, which ultimately affect how we behave. In Mandela we have a role model who experienced the worst that life could deliver, but his attitude to life and to others meant he reached great heights.

Lessons we can learn

  • Believe that there is good in all people. Even when people appear to be trying to do you harm (like Mandela’s captors) still believe that there is good within them, a goodness that needs to be coaxed out. Empathy is what makes people feel loved and understood. Try to understand others before you try to get them to understand you.
  • Listen well and forgive. Forgiveness is for your own sake as without forgiveness, bitterness takes root which is so destructive to the human spirit.
  • Weigh the consequences of your actions. There is the well known saying “If at first you don’t succeed, try and try again.” WRONG ADVICE! Change that to: “If at first you don’t succeed, reevaluate what you are doing, form another strategy and then try again.”

Hamba kahle, Tata – Go well, Father!

For excellent advice on learning how to deal with anger by using empathy please click here.


Victims attract Rescuers

Pamela Williams
Pamela Williams

I’ve just had the pleasure of reading Full Circle, a collection of South African short stories by Pamela Williams. Her stories are amusing and many of the quirky endings were unexpected and gave me a good laugh.

Many people who struggle with depression fall into the category of ‘victim’ or ‘rescuer’ . Victims attract rescuers. You might even recognize something of yourself in this story. Hope you enjoy it.

Should you wish to purchase a copy of this book, you may do so via my contact form. Thanks Pamela for allowing me to share this delightful story.

CRY POWER by Pamela Williams

Judged by any standard, my sister Julie would not have been numbered among all things bright and beautiful. Neither bright nor beautiful, perhaps, but rendered strangely powerful by the air of helplessness, of defencelessness, which she exuded. Read more…