Recently I took an online test about implicit biases, ya know, because I like to party. Unlike explicit bias (the attitudes or beliefs that one endorses at a conscious level), implicit bias is the bias in judgment and/or behavior that results from subtle cognitive processes that often operate unconsciously without intentional control. Basically it can determine your unconscious discriminations.
I tested my implicit biases on skin-tone, weight, weapons, to see if I was a racist asshole who needs to join the NRA. New flash: I’m not. Then I looked at the section on mental health. My cursor hovered over the test: Do you implicitly associate yourself with being happy or sad?
I paused. I held my breath. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to find out the answer.
Throughout my life I’ve suffered bouts of sadness, at least since my teenage years – I’ve got the bad poetry to prove it. I can’t count the number of times I’ve been depressed. I have spent hours, days, weeks, and possibly years, actively hating myself; assuming that everyone else hated me too.
The summer of 2014 was a very dark time for me, probably my darkest yet. There were days I could barely get out of bed. I really, truly hated myself. I hated everything from my looks to my dreams and every decision I’d ever made. I snowballed all of my unlovable worthlessness into an enormous mound and slid into a pit of despair.
That summer there was a program in the media very similar to something I had worked on (and even pitched to the same producers in 2011) and every single day someone would message me to tell me about it; as if I wasn’t already aware of it. It felt like everyone was rubbing my failure in my face.
To make matters worse I had decided to spend the summer away from home. Unsatisfied with my career in Vancouver, and after 10 years of debating moving to Toronto, I decided to take 3 months off to try out the city. Shortly after I arrived I realized I’d taken a huge leap of faith and things were not falling into place the way I had hoped. I had the new-agey desire for ‘the universe’ to make the move easy for me and for the community to embrace me with open arms. In retrospect I can see that I was setting myself up for failure.
I moved four times in three months, which helped me get to know the city but kept me from feeling settled. I got an agent and auditioned every weekday but didn’t book anything in my short time there. Other than going to auditions my days were aimless. I couldn’t write. I didn’t know what to do with all my time. Money was tight and I started to fall deeper into a depression as I put more and more pressure on myself.
My best friend lives in Toronto. We’ve know each other since we were 14 years old and have seen each other through a lot of ups and downs, and one day we sat in a park and she watched me cry. She asked me to name 10 things I liked about myself. I couldn’t. I could barely come up with two things: my dimples and my friends.
At the end of August I went back to Vancouver tired and disappointed. The fact that I wasn’t in love with Toronto and Toronto wasn’t in love with me, I thought, confirmed that I was a failure. It wasn’t just that things didn’t go as planned, in my mind I blew it up to imply that I was an unlovable, unworthy human who was going nowhere in life. Then I thought about all the horrible things that have ever happened to me in my life. At some point I realized that I was caught in a horrible mental tape loop and I needed help. I couldn’t turn off my negative thoughts.
I had read about cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) somewhere over the years and I was aware that my thoughts were always what harmed me the most and that CBT had to do with changing one’s thoughts. The week after I returned to Vancouver I called the local CBT centre and put my name on the waitlist. Sessions were going to cost a lot of money but I was desperate.
I got a call a few days later from the CBT centre telling me that there was new psychologist who had an opening in her schedule, we spoke the next day and I was in to see her a week later. Over the next few months I retrained my brain and slowly lifted myself out of a major depression.
The other night as my cursor hovered over the implicit bias test on mental health I was anxious. I worried that I was hardwired for sadness at an unconscious level and I’d have to realize that no matter how much therapy I got I would always be sad. But, I did it.
I held my breath as the system analysed my answers.
I know it’s just an online test but it was wonderful to confirm that I have made huge leaps since the summer of 2014. I now have methods to deal with my negative thoughts which brought me into a depression.
I know that everyone can’t afford CBT (heck, I couldn’t) so in my next few posts I’m going to share the methods and actions which brought me here; strongly identifying with happy.
I hope it helps or that is comforts you and enlightens you in some way.