I'm currently looking at the MoodGYM thing that anat0010 recommended, and it starts with a long questionnaire about "Warpy Thoughts". Now, before I start, anat0010, please don't take the following as criticism of you or ingratitude for the suggestion: I think it's a great idea and I'm going to work through as much of it as I can bear to. However...
As usual with these inventories, my answers to most of the questions are "mu". All of the following have the options "Strongly Disagree; Disagree; Neither Agree Nor Disagree; Agree; Strongly Agree" -- there's never an option for "Not applicable / not relevant / not understood". So, more for my own record than anybody else's really, here are my real answers:
--- The need for approval from others ---
1. If people criticise me, I am not a worthwhile person.
I do not feel like a worthwhile person. I do not know if I "am" a worthwhile person. (I do not know if that question is a meaningful or useful one to ask.) Please apply this to all relevant questions, as it holds true for all of them. As for the other part, criticism often upsets me (though it depends how/what they're criticising), but it's orthogonal to the fact that I feel worthless.
2. Other people's approval is very important to me.
I don't know. I don't know if/when I have other people's approval, so I don't have a clue if I'd be happier if they did and/or if I knew/believed they did. The question makes no sense.
3. I can make everyone like me if I just try hard enough.
Okay, this one I just flatly disagree with. I don't think it's ever possible for everyone to like you, whether you try or not.
4. The most important thing in the world to me is to be accepted by other people.
I have no idea, because I don't know what it feels like. I'm not good at having burning ambitions towards things I don't understand. I don't think people shun me or anything, most people seem fairly happy to talk to me, but I don't really know what "to be accepted" means in this (or any, for that matter!) context, so I don't think it can be the most important thing to me. Not-hurting-other-people is pretty important to me, though, if that's relevant. Making other people happy would be a good thing to do.
5. I find it impossible to go against other people's wishes.
Nah, I just disagree with that.
6. Unless I get constant praise I feel that I am not worthwhile.
Mu. I don't get constant praise; I don't want constant praise; I don't think I deserve constant praise; I don't think anybody does "deserve" constant praise; and even if they do, I don't think it's realistic to expect it. I don't feel worthwhile. I have no idea if these things are related. I know that praise does not make me feel worthwhile.
--- The need to be loved ---
7. Life is unbearable unless I am loved by my family.
I'm lucky enough to be loved by my family. Life often seems pretty much unbearable despite this. I'm fairly sure it would be worse if they stopped loving me, but then, if they'd never loved me, I might not miss it. Who knows?
8. If I am not loved it is because I am unlovable.
If I'm not loved by anybody, then yes, the common factor in all my failed relationships is probably me. If I'm not loved by a particular person, then it's not necessarily anything to do with me. I don't think I'm lovable, though.
9. If I love somebody who doesn't love me, I must be inadequate.
I feel inadequate. If I love somebody who doesn't love me, I feel rejected. If I carry on moping after them when they don't love me, I'm just plain stupid.
10. I need to be constantly told I'm loved to feel secure.
I don't know. I don't feel secure. Being constantly told I'm loved doesn't seem to help.
11. If I were a better person then somebody would love me.
I don't think I can make myself be loved by everybody (see above). I don't know what would happen if I were a better person. If I could imagine being better, I'd probably be better.
12. In order to be happy, I need someone to really love me.
I don't know. I am not happy. Being with somebody who says they love me and who I feel that I love makes me happy in the short term, but I don't believe that having "someone to really love me" is not going to cure depression. I don't think that's how it works; I don't think it is (I hope it isn't) a question of if-you-love-me-enough-I'll-be-happy. That would suggest that all the people in my life so far just haven't loved me enough, which would be fairly unfair to them. I don't believe it's anybody's fault except (perhaps) my own that I'm depressed.
--- The need to succeed ---
13. I can't feel equal to others unless I'm really good at something.
I don't know. I don't feel equal to others; I'm not really good at anything. I don't know if these are connected. I can't imagine being really good at anything.
14. I only feel valued if I achieve my goals.
I don't know. I don't know what it means to feel valued, though I believe that people value me (and this baffles me). I don't achieve my goals. I can't remember the last time I achieved a goal.
15. My success in life defines my goals.
I just plain don't understand this question. What is success? What are my goals? This is a nonsense question.
16. I need to be successful in all areas that are important to me.
If I do "need to", it's just tough tits, isn't it. I don't know many people who are successful in all the areas that are important to them.
17. Life is pointless if I don't have goals to chase.
Life is pointless, period.
18. Without success in life, it is impossible to be happy.
I am not happy; to the best of my knowledge I have not had "success in life". I don't know the answer to this. I fear it may be impossible for me to be happy; I don't know what "success in life" means for me. I don't think I'll ever achieve it, though. I suspect happiness is "success in life"; that is, if you are happy, you have succeeded. Which means I'll never have either.
--- The need for perfection ---
19. I see no point in doing anything unless it can be done perfectly.
I don't believe anything can be done perfectly. I have never done anything even nearly perfectly. In the grand scheme of things, I see no universal "point" in doing anything; in the short-term, in a localised sense, you just have to invent your own "point" to doing things. I often wonder what the point is of doing things. That doesn't mean I don't do anything.
20. There are no second prizes in life.
For fuck's sake. There are no prizes.
21. Things must be done to certain standards, otherwise there is no point in doing them.
Depends on the "things".
22. If I make mistakes then others will think less of me.
Probably. I don't know. People's opinion of me doesn't seem to correlate with what I do.
23. If I don't do something perfectly then I don't like myself very much.
I don't like myself at all. I have never done anything perfectly, and I'm not convinced it's possible. I don't know if these are related. People seem to manage to love themselves despite not doing things perfectly.
24. I never seem to be able to reach my own high standards.
I don't have high standards. I never seem to be able to reach even my low standards.
-- The sense of being able to influence other people's needs ---
25. I can prevent people being upset by thinking about what they might need.
Uh? No. I can minimise their chances of making them upset if I'm considerate and thoughtful. I can't control all external influences.
26. If I have a fight with my friends, it must be my fault.
Sometimes. Not always. I can't tell if saying "I disagree" to this would mean "It can't be my fault" or "It needn't be my fault".
27. I should be able to please everybody.
I don't expect to be able to please everybody. I don't believe it's possible. I think I should try not to upset/offend/hurt people as far as possible without compromising my own wellbeing.
28. I am responsible for other people's happiness.
Depending on what they mean by this:
- I don't believe that it is my duty to make everybody else in the world happy.
- I don't think I do much to make any other people happy, and I think this is a bad thing.
29. If people are uncomfortable around me it is my fault.
Sometimes. Not always. (See 26.)
30. If the people around me are upset, I usually worry that I have upset them.
Depends on the people, how close I am to them, what I've done/said to them recently.
--- Happiness is contingent on external things ---
31. I can only be happy if I have the good things in life.
I don't know. I'm not happy. I have good things in life. I don't know what count as "the good things" for the purposes of this question.
32. Unless I have expensive possessions, people won't approve of me.
33. If I were rewarded for the goals I achieve, I know I could be happy.
Who knows? I don't achieve my goals. I can't think of a "reward" I'd want except not needing the bloody reward. I am far from convinced that it's possible for me to be happy, irrespective of whether I'm rewarded for my buzzword buzzword buzzword.
34. If my friends are unhappy, then I cannot be happy.
I am not happy. I am likely to be more unhappy if my friends are unhappy too.
35. Everything has to be going well in order for me to be happy.
I have no idea. I don't believe that "Everything" will ever be going well, so if that's a necessary condition for happiness, then I will never be happy. This may be true anyway.
36. My happiness depends on others.
I don't live in a vacuum. Other people make the food I eat, other people write the music I listen to; everybody depends on everybody else for their happiness.
--- The sense of feeling deserving ---
37. If obstacles are placed in my path, it is natural that I would get angry.
I don't know if it's natural. Sometimes I do get angry and I can't help it.
38. Things should always go right for me.
39. If I do the right things, people should acknowledge it.
*shrug* Don't know if I've ever done "the right things". What are "the right things"? Who would dictate that people "should" acknowledge it? Who would have the power to police that? The question's just meaningless.
40. If I feel that I deserve something, I should get it.
41. If I go out of my way to help others, they should do the same for me when I need it.
Well, the more people out of their way to help others, the higher the chance that somebody will do the same for you if you need it. I don't think there's any "should" about it, because often the people you help aren't in a state to help you in return -- that's why they need the help. What goes around, comes around.
42. I shouldn't have to work so hard to get the things I want.
Where does this "should" come from? It all depends what I want. If, for (ridiculous) example, I wanted to be a GP, I would have to work bloody hard, and I don't think that's unreasonable. On the other hand, I think a courier service whose entire raison d'être is delivering stuff from A to B should be able to deliver something on the day they say they will, to the address given, without me having to make three irate phone calls. Reasonable expectations based on some kind of woolly heuristic involving the difficulty/importance/availability of the thing you want, etc.
All this doesn't help (and I say that not petulantly or frustratedly, just stating a fact); it just feels slightly bewildering and largely irrelevant. I feel as though I don't have the right context to answer the questions. ... Tangential ramble follows. My dad once filled in one of those awful consumer surveys, and one of the questions was "Do you drink tea?" He ticked "No", but there was no instruction along the lines of "If no, proceed to..." so he continued to answer the subsequent dozen or so questions, which were of course about the type of tea you drink, how often you drink tea, etc. Irritated by the poor design of the questionnaire, he wrote "DO NOT DRINK TEA" (that is, in the sense of "I do not drink tea" -- I don't think he minds other people drinking tea) after every tea-related question, sometimes with arrows to the original "No" answer. My sister and I thought this was hilarious, and "DO NOT DRINK TEA" has become something of a family catchphrase meaning "If you'd listened to my previous answer you wouldn't be asking this" or "Incorrect baseline assumption" or similar. As you'll have worked out by now, this questionnaire was a bit of a DO-NOT-DRINK-TEA thing for me, only it's more complicated than that, because the questions seem to interrelate in ways I don't entirely understand, and take as axiomatic all sorts of things that I don't believe, don't understand, don't regard as interesting/meaningful/relevant, or all three.
(I do drink tea, by the way. I'd be happy to answer questions about tea.)
It makes me worry slightly that I'm more messed-up than I thought because I don't even seem to be speaking the right language to "fix myself" the way people seem to expect me to be able to; but on the other hand, I feel the same levels of frustration with most polls/questionnaires/quizzes etc., from the most trivial to the most (supposedly) important -- I could often make a plausible case for any of the available options without lying about the way I feel. Perhaps this is as meaningless a quiz as "Which internet quiz are you?".
So I guess the real problem is that I don't know if any of the options are true for me. I don't know what "true" is. They all seem to be questions about things that everybody else either Feels or Just Knows; it seems to me that most people Just Know/Feel that they are worthwhile, in the same way that they know they exist, and the question "Are you a worthwhile person?" is as meaningless to them as these questions are to me. This isn't a random, hysterical "Everybody except me knows what they're doing," it's just a kind of bewilderment; it's also evidence-based: these are questions which people who are depressed are supposed to be able to answer, and despite being reasonably well educated and self-aware I don't understand how to answer them according to the rules in a way that gives a truthful and/or meaningful representation of how I feel/think/behave.
I feel as though some part of me didn't get wired correctly. It's like missing a sense that everybody else can report on accurately but that I just can't see/feel/touch/hear/smell ... and I don't even have a word for what it is I can't do.