Things I will ask myself when I feel like I hate myself and my life is a disaster:
1. Have I slept? Have I eaten? Do I have a headache?
My body has a phenomenal ability to translate physical discomfort into existential angst. I will not trust any life-shattering self-judgements made before I have had a nap, a snack, and an Advil.
2. If a particular event is upsetting me, can I describe it to myself in objective terms?
For example, if the upset is “I think X hates me!”, I will describe to myself the actual evidence I am basing that on: "I called X, and she sounded distracted on the phone. Later I emailed her and she hasn’t responded."
3. Are there possible explanations besides “I am terrible and everything is terrible” for this evidence?
"X was probably on her cellphone at work and distracted by work things. I emailed her 20 minutes ago and it is not reasonable to expect a person to answer all their email within 20 minutes."
4. If the event actually is bad, how significant is it to me?
"Y said something nasty to me! Augh! I’m terrible!"
"Wait. Do I even like Y? I do not. Does Y have the power to harm my career? He does not. Is Y likely to present a danger to me? He is not. Does Y know me well enough to have made a detailed analysis of my personality and life history, and do I honestly think he based his nasty remark on that? HAHAHA NO."
"So why do I care what Y thinks, again?"
5. If the event actually is bad and significant, what is the reasonable way to respond?
"My cable bill was due a month ago and I haven’t paid it! I’m going to be in trouble!"
"Reasonable ideas: pay it right now, call cable company to try to weasel out of late fee (worst they can say is no; see #4), ensure budget can accomodate late fee, make effort to pay future bills in a timely fashion. After this, no further action will be required of me and I may sleep well at night."
"Unreasonable idea: avoid looking at or touching the bill because it is a source of unbearable paaaiiin. If I feel like a cable bill is judging me, see #4."
6. If all reasonable actions have already been taken (or there is no possible action), how can I redirect myself from wallowing in paaaiiin?
"My cable bill is paid. But I still feel so bad! Comcast trusted me and I let them down! I am an oathbreaker! The worst kind of traitor! Waugh!"
"Okay. I am done with the reasoning-through process. It is time to just put shiny things in front of myself. This is a good time to go exercise, watch a movie, pet the guinea pigs, get ahead on homework, text a chatty friend, clean the kitchen, or anything else non-destructive that will force my brain to think about things other than paaaiiin."
"If I get all ‘but an oathbreaker doesn’t deserve to feel good!’ on myself, I will do it anyway. Tough noogies, self, I’m going to be nice to you whether you deserve it or not. I’m so mean like that."
Of course I don’t work through this process with flawless rationality every time. And I definitely need the meds just to clear my head enough that the answer to every question isn’t “waahhhhh.” But it’s good to think about.