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  1. #1
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    Avoid hidden "Forks in the Road" to anxiety and depression

    Avoid hidden "Forks in the Road" to anxiety, depression
    January 6, 2007
    By A. B. Curtiss

    We don't think of a "fork in the road" as an integral part of daily life. Usually it indicates some defining moment of change ? the end of a marriage or the beginning of a new career. A recent news headline declared "Nuclear talks reach 'fork in the road' " ? one fork leading to armed force, another to negotiation.

    The accepted thing about forks in the road is that they are obvious to everyone ? if not before, at least after the fact. The Enron scandal gave everybody a hindsight look at those executives who, when they came to their ethical fork in the road, obviously took the wrong one.

    As a psychotherapist, I see the damage that happens when people take a wrong emotional fork in the road. They do it because these forks are not so obvious. They are hidden in habit. They don't appear to be forks in the road. They appear to be momentary, sad musings or random thoughts of loss, failure, guilt or unworthiness. Actually, these transient thoughts are the very important wrong forks in the road that lead to depression and keep you in it.

    Since these forks are hidden, when you find yourself stuck in depression, you don't see any fork in the road to take you out of your pain. Yet depression is cyclical, meaning it always ends before the next cycle can begin. A fork in the thinking road does occur naturally, sooner or later, even in the most serious cases of depression, and people gratefully notice that suddenly they are in a different and better place.

    In a nutshell, my job as a therapist is to help people get to this place of okayness sooner rather than later.

    People can learn to spot formerly ignored small forks in the road so they no longer take them. Most important, they can learn to make a fork in their thinking road that can take them out of depression, anxiety or any other kind of emotional suffering.

    Forks in our emotional road are the stuff of our continual daily existence. Another word for them is options. If you don't see the forks in your road, you won't see what your options are. Therefore, you might believe you are emotionally powerless and helpless to do anything but go along with the pain and torture your moodswings lead you to.

    This is not necessary. You are not really helpless, you just feel helpless.

    You always have the power to take a different fork in whatever emotional road you are stuck on. Suppose you wake up in the morning feeling lonely, empty, depressed. You can continue on this same road or you can make a fork in your thinking and get the heck out of there. Depression is like living in a room of pain. You can learn how to leave the room.

    One symptom of depression is to stagnate ? hunkering down in bed or on the couch, thinking about your pain. You can make an action fork in the road of your hurt. You make a new fork in the road by actively thinking or doing something different. If you're depressed, get yourself up, up, up and do something physical. Jog if you can. Do a crazy dance and jiggle yourself alive again. Physical activity is a fork in the road out of depression.

    Another symptom of depression is the sense of helplessness and the isolation of self-focus. You must make a community for yourself. Self-focus, thinking about yourself is the road to Hell. What can you do? Quickly make a community fork in the road by thinking about someone else, your dog even. Send a prayer to someone, or imaginary medicine to help a sick friend. Visualize a loved one finding that house or landing that job. Suddenly you are not alone and trapped in yourself. And in your effort on behalf of others, you are not quite so helpless. You have powered up.

    Feeling sad and blue? Many people have wandered down this emotional fork to full-fledged depression. Not to worry. Make a fork in the road called "Do some silly exercise right now!" Sing a dumb song in your mind to replace the thought, "I am depressed." I know what you're thinking: "This is ridiculous." It is. It is also extremely effective. The only problem is actually singing the song. Actually doing something else other than thinking about your depression is how you make a fork in the road out of it.

    True, you don't know for sure where any new fork will take you. But your experience tells you where the old fork is going, and you know you don't want to go there. Your road of life is prescribed by the emotional forks you take. It's okay to stumble and bumble and feel down and out. You can always make a new fork in that downer road. And get yourself up, up, up to a better place.

    A. B. Curtiss is board-certified cognitive behavioral therapist and author of "Brainswitch Out of Depression".

  2. #2
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    Re: Avoid hidden "Forks in the Road" to anxiety and depression

    great article, i really liked it. thanks david
    ~ our greatest glory is not in never falling, but in rising each time we fall - confucius
    ~ it is the journey, not the destination, that matters
    ~ keep hanging on, the sun will come shining through for you again

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    Re: Avoid hidden "Forks in the Road" to anxiety and depression

    I thought this part was really interesting:

    You make a new fork in the road by actively thinking or doing something different. If you're depressed, get yourself up, up, up and do something physical. Jog if you can. Do a crazy dance and jiggle yourself alive again. Physical activity is a fork in the road out of depression.
    While I understand her "fork in the road" theory and doing something different to get out of the depressed feeling, I don't think she has ever really suffered from depression or felt that extreme sadness or she wouldn't be suggesting that someone who is depressed just jump up out of bed and dance, jog and jiggle themselves alive. Is she serious? I can say that on a good day it takes most of my energy just to actually get out of bed and put my feet on the floor in the morning and to get through my day let alone trying to think of doing something physical.

    Again, I understand what she is trying to say but I interpreted the article to imply what many others in this world suggest which is to just snap out of it and think yourself better.

    Sorry, just my personal rant

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    Re: Avoid hidden "Forks in the Road" to anxiety and depression

    Quote Originally Posted by Nancy
    While I understand her "fork in the road" theory and doing something different to get out of the depressed feeling, I don't think she has ever really suffered from depression or felt that extreme sadness or she wouldn't be suggesting that someone who is depressed just jump up out of bed and dance, jog and jiggle themselves alive. Is she serious? I can say that on a good day it takes most of my energy just to actually get out of bed and put my feet on the floor in the morning and to get through my day let alone trying to think of doing something physical.
    Very good point.

    If you are sad, down, having a bad, day, etc., that's great advice.

    If you are suffering from a major depressive episode, going to the bathroom and brushing your teeth might be a major accomplishment for that day. "Dancing a happy dance" is just not going to happen.

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    Re: Avoid hidden "Forks in the Road" to anxiety and depression

    i hadn't thought of it that way, good point nancy. the way i interpreted the article was that it said to try and do something about it, no matter how hopeless or awful you feel. you can make decisions to help yourself. that's where cbt comes in where instead of letting your thoughts drag you down, you make a conscious effort to change those distorted thoughts. you have to work at it, and it's difficult and takes time and patience, but it can be done.
    ~ our greatest glory is not in never falling, but in rising each time we fall - confucius
    ~ it is the journey, not the destination, that matters
    ~ keep hanging on, the sun will come shining through for you again

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    Re: Avoid hidden "Forks in the Road" to anxiety and depression

    While I understand her "fork in the road" theory and doing something different to get out of the depressed feeling, I don't think she has ever really suffered from depression or felt that extreme sadness or she wouldn't be suggesting that someone who is depressed just jump up out of bed and dance, jog and jiggle themselves alive. Is she serious? I can say that on a good day it takes most of my energy just to actually get out of bed and put my feet on the floor in the morning and to get through my day let alone trying to think of doing something physical.
    The exact same thing went through my head Nancy. It all seemed so simplistic.

    jm

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    Re: Avoid hidden "Forks in the Road" to anxiety and depression

    this article says depression is cyclical, and i have read that more than once in different places. what exactly is meant by this? that it will always come back even when you seem to have recovered? or do they mean it has its "ups" and downs when you are suffering from it? (ie, some days the depression is worse than others)
    ~ our greatest glory is not in never falling, but in rising each time we fall - confucius
    ~ it is the journey, not the destination, that matters
    ~ keep hanging on, the sun will come shining through for you again

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    Re: Avoid hidden "Forks in the Road" to anxiety and depression

    I don't think the gerneral advice given in the article is bad - perhaps a little exaggeration for effect to illustrate how CBT can help.

    Ladybug, depression can be recurrent or cyclical for some people but that is not necessarily the case for everyone.

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    Re: Avoid hidden "Forks in the Road" to anxiety and depression

    All I can say is that I am glad that she is not my therapist telling me to do a "happy dance" when I am in one of my depressed cycles The most physical she would see would be me dancing my way out of her office.

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    Re: Avoid hidden "Forks in the Road" to anxiety and depression

    It's true that the article has some level of value, but takes it a bit too far. In that, it's really no different from any c-b stuff written before it.

    I agree with Nancy that a "happy dance" is not going to happen in a Major Depressive state (I rarely even brush my teeth on those days)....

    I think that there are ways that I already apply this kind of thing to my depression. But for me it has to happen while I'm "going down" and not when I'm already down. If I take care of myself and apply these types of strategies on the way down, I will still end up down but I think it is for a shorter period. But again it is not a happy dance but rather self-care choices like nutrition and med compliance and exercise.

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