Friday, 4 March 2016

Cause and Effect

Embrace your past is, strangely enough, all about exploring your past. And I believe that you can’t fully move on until you address the past.

This is where cause and effect comes in.
There is no one cause for my depression. The facets behind it are multiple. But by utilising the principles of cause and effect, I can identify what triggers certain episodes of my depression.

In ‘Get Out of Your Mind and Into Your Life’, Stephen Hayes and Spencer Smith talk about how we must leave our old path of avoidance and control, and move down a new path of acceptance and commitment. It’s how we can create the road map to a happier life.
So today I’m going to stop avoiding my mental illness and accept what can cause my depressive episodes.

Every effect, or end result, must have an associated cause that triggered or led to it.
To understand the root cause, we must first look at the effect and start to trace it back.

For example,
Feeling stressed and overwhelmed is an effect. But to establish why I felt that way, and to prevent myself from feeling like that again, I must find the cause.

Effect : Cause
stressed and overwhelmed : was overambitious and took on too much
Can’t sleep/restless sleep : worried about something

Tracing back helps identify the problem. In turn, you can then began work on solving it. Or, as is more appropriate when it comes to mental health, work to prevent it from happening again.

But cause and effect is an oversimplified version of the processes at work with a mental illness. Often, there are many causes, not just one.

For example, my Christmas 2014 breakdown was in part caused by a lack of stimulation. But there were other mitigating factors such as my difficulty adjusting to life after college, stress and burnout from work, and loss of close friendships. By engaging more and becoming active I got out of my funk. It took time and effort, but was only possible when I first identified the causes of my depression.

When I was 18 and first diagnosed with depression, understanding cause and effect would have been a useful skill for me to have. I had just moved away from home for the first time to a new city. I was struggling to make friends. I experienced a relationship break-up for the first time. I started to feel an extreme sense of loneliness, loss of appetite, inability to sleep and severe mood changes. But I didn't have the capacity to link the causes and effects.

Similarly, my low moods over the past few weeks can also be evaluated in the same fashion. While I have brushed off the subject every time I've been asked about it over the last month, the truth is that when I really look at the effect, the contributing causes are quite clear. The past month has been an extremely stressful time in my life, and I have felt under-prepared and overwhelmed by what I've been faced with.
  • Lack of free time, 
  • Travelling, 
  • Starting a relationship,
  • Work pressures,
  • Getting sick and injured.
It's a web of causes; with some of my causes having further causes themselves. My low moods have persisted because I haven't yet had the time to address them and work towards a solution.

There is a reason why things happen. Your past is not the past just because. It’s your past because of choices, changes, circumstances. Sometimes these are out of your control. Sometimes they're not.
Either way, when it comes to your mental health you hold ultimate responsibility. It's up to you how you come out of the lows, what coping methods you find, how you learn from the past.

And understanding and utilising cause and effect is a useful tool for doing that.

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