What is a “baseline” and why is it important to your recovery from depression?
A person’s baseline is considered the primary reflection of his/her attitudes, beliefs, values and general personality in different situations.
Depressed individuals often struggle with this mood disorder because it has a “normalizing” effect that changes how a person sees himself/herself after the disorder has taken root. Affected people are unable to tell if what they are thinking or feeling at the moment is part of their former personality (before depression) or if it’s caused by the mood disorder.
Establishing your baseline profile will help you understand how your mood disorder is changing your personality. You will become better equipped to deal with the negative impacts of depression if you are fully aware of your genuine identity, beliefs and personality traits.
Some of your former traits will change depending on your unique experience with depression. You have the power to reverse these changes, but you have to recognize the changes first before you can take primary steps needed to “repair” your behavior and/or attitude toward certain thoughts/people/situations.
How else does the baseline profile help depressed people?
Creating and understanding your baseline profile will also help you remain grounded in normalcy even if the mood disorder continues to causes issues in your perception of reality. It is your personal reminder of who you are and what you’re not.
You can create your very own baseline profile by following these simple steps:
- Identity – Write down who you are and what type of person you were before the depression took root in your life. If you’re unable to write anything in the beginning, ask a trusted confidante such as a close friend or any member of your support system who knows you very well to give you a brief description of how you presented yourself to the world before you became depressed.
Listen very closely to the feedback that you’re going to get because in between the lines are fragments of your true self. You still have to interpret the feedback to remind yourself why you presented yourself in such a way to other people.
- Strengths & Vulnerabilities – Every person has known vulnerabilities as well as particular talents and strengths.
Make two columns in your journal or pad of paper and list all of your known strengths and weaknesses. Don’t overdo the “weaknesses” part because people actually have more strengths than weaknesses. If you think your version of the story won’t be accurate, again, you can ask someone you trust to recall these details for you.
If someone is going to narrate these details to you, do your best to recall other traits that you can add to the list. You should be in charge of the final list of strengths and weaknesses.
- Crystallize It – Now that you have the raw material that you need for your baseline profile, it’s time to crystallize all those details. Let the ideas coalesce in your mind and write down an honest profile of yourself. Here’s a sample profile:
“My name is John and I’m 37 years old. I am a generally happy person who loves the company of his friends and family. I love playing chess, golf and skiing during the coldest months of the year. I am emotional at times, but only when I’m really happy that something good has happened to me or someone I care about. I do not normally cry, unless I stubbed my toe and the pain doesn’t go away after a few second. I have many friends, before and after my depression, and I care about them because they are all crazy fun people. I enjoy the arts and playing games with my nephews and nieces.
My main weakness is my anger, because when I get angry I’m unable to control it and I say things that I don’t really mean. When I get sad, I try to cheer myself up by reaching out to my friends and family. I am a considerate fellow and I tend to be nice to everyone, even to people who are not very nice to me.”
How can you use your baseline profile?
You can read and revise your baseline profile as you continue with your journey to recovery. Bits and pieces of your old self will continue to “fly back” into your memory as you counter the negative impact of depression. If you feel that something important has been recovered, don’t be afraid to write down how you felt and why you felt it at a certain point in time.