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How I Beat Depression with ACT: A Therapist’s Story

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There was a time when getting out of bed felt like lifting a mountain. My mind was a dark room with no doors or windows. That’s how deep my depression was.

But here I am, feeling alive and kicking, making over half a million dollars a year. Sounds like a dream, right?

But the journey from there to here was anything but a dream. It was really tough and full of lessons.

Let me tell you about it.

What Happened?

I remember the day that changed everything for me. It was my second ACL tear.

That injury wasn’t just physical; it tore through my mental health too.

I found myself sinking into a quicksand of depression and suicidal thoughts. It felt like life had thrown me off a cliff, and I was free-falling with no parachute.

But during this free fall, I discovered something powerful – acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT).

ACT wasn’t a magic pill. It was a set of skills. These skills taught me to embrace my thoughts and feelings rather than fight or run away. It was about committing to actions that align with my values, even tough ones.

This approach didn’t pull me out of depression overnight. It was a journey. It is a journey of small steps, tiny victories, and occasional setbacks. But each step forward was a step out of the darkness.

The Principles that Saved my Life

After I struggled heavily with a typical therapist, I scoured the internet and found ACT. ACT comprises six principles that all work collaboratively to prepare you for life. They are the following.

1.   Acceptance

Imagine you’re holding a hot coal in your hand.

Your instinct might be to drop it or fling it away. However, when it comes to painful thoughts or feelings, trying to throw them away often makes things worse.

Acceptance is allowing these experiences without trying to fight, deny, or suppress them.

It’s like saying, “Okay, this is how I’m feeling right now, and it’s okay.” This doesn’t mean you like or want these experiences, but you’re choosing not to struggle against them.

2.   Defusion

Thoughts can sometimes feel like they’re written in stone as absolute truths.

Defusion teaches us to see thoughts just as they are—words or images passing through our minds.

Similar to watching cars pass by on a street. You notice them, but you don’t have to chase after each one.

By defusing our thoughts, we reduce their impact and influence over our actions.

3.   Mindfulness

Mindfulness is living in the moment, fully aware of your current experience, without judgment.

This awareness helps you become more connected to your life as it happens rather than getting lost in your head.

4.   Self-as-Perspective

Imagine we all have a true self and a perceived self.

The true self is the essence of who we are at our core, unaffected by external circumstances or internal thoughts and feelings. It’s our constant, unchanging nature amidst the ever-changing experiences of life.

This self observes, experiences, and remains constant throughout life’s ups and downs.

On the other hand, the perceived self is like a mask we wear.

It’s the version of ourselves that we present to the world to fit in, be accepted, or live up to the expectations we believe others have of us.

The perceived self can change frequently, as our social interactions heavily influence it, our roles, and the pressures we feel from society.

It’s the self that worries about judgments, strives for approval, and often gets caught up in the stories our minds tell us about who we should be.

5.   Values

Values are like your North Star, guiding you in the direction you want your life to go.

They’re not goals you check off a list but ongoing qualities of action that give your life meaning and purpose.

For example, valuing health might lead you to exercise regularly, while valuing connection might inspire you to spend more time with loved ones.

Clarifying what truly matters to you helps guide your steps.

6.   Purposeful Action

Finally, purposeful action involves taking steps toward your values, even when complicated.

This is about doing what matters most, even when you’re scared or facing obstacles. It’s committing to living according to your values and creating a rich, complete, and meaningful life.

Together, these six tenets of ACT work synergistically. They help individuals develop psychological flexibility, which is staying in contact with the present moment regardless of difficult thoughts, feelings, and bodily sensations while choosing behavior based on the situation and personal values.

This flexibility is critical to transforming challenging mental health issues into opportunities for growth and fulfillment.

My Path

After I found an accredited therapist in ACT, I started learning and practicing constantly.

Every day, I committed to do something that mattered to me, no matter how small.

Some days, it was as simple as getting out of bed. On other days, it was sharing my story to help someone else feel less alone.

Slowly but surely, these actions started changing how I saw myself and the world around me.

This journey wasn’t just about escaping depression. It was about learning to live a life full of meaning and purpose. It led me to write my Amazon bestselling book, “Torn.” It’s also what drove me to become a therapist.

Today, I use my experience to help others develop the psychological flexibility that saved me. I’m living proof that it’s possible to go from feeling suicidal to being more successful than you ever imagined.

Don’t Give Up

I know some of you reading this are where I was. You’re in that dark room, searching for a door or window.

I’m here to tell you that the door exists, and it’s called acceptance and commitment therapy.

It’s a challenging door to open but worth all the effort. Psychological flexibility is a skill that anyone can learn, and it can take you from surviving to thriving.

Remember, it’s okay to ask for help.

Seeking therapy isn’t a sign of weakness; it’s a step of courage. Take it from a retired, stubborn football player: taking control of your life and moving toward what truly matters to you is the name of the game in mental health.

Whether it’s healing from an injury, overcoming depression, or pursuing your dreams, you can change your story. My journey from suicidal to successful is a testament to that.

So, to anyone feeling stuck, know this: Your current situation is not your final destination.

You have the strength to climb out of the darkness. It starts with a tiny step, one small action towards what matters to you.

And who knows? Someday, you might be the one sharing your story, inspiring others to find their way out of the dark.

To everyone struggling, remember, you’re not alone. I was there, and I made it through. And I believe you can, too.

Let’s walk this path together, one step at a time.

If you or someone you know experiences mental health issues, it is important to seek help from a qualified professional. Our Resource Specialists can help you find expert mental health resources and support in your community. Contact us now for more information on this free service.

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About the Author: Keagen Hadley is the owner of Keagenhadley.com. He is an Amazon bestselling author and passionate about health, wellness, and longevity.

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio: https://www.pexels.com/photo/a-man-sitting-on-a-metal-bench-3760280/

The opinions and views expressed in any guest blog post do not necessarily reflect those of www.rtor.org or its sponsor, Laurel House, Inc. The author and www.rtor.org have no affiliations with any products or services mentioned in the article or linked to therein. Guest Authors may have affiliations to products mentioned or linked to in their author bios.

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