What does God have to do with my depression?

 

I have heard this same question many times over the years. It is a very good question I might add. In fact, when I was going through my own valley of despair,  God wasn’t on my radar.  All I did know was that I was feeling  hopeless. I was at the bottom of a deep dark pit. Isolated and scared.

Fear was at the center of my thoughts, 24/7. I thought that I was losing my mind.   I wasn’t able to formulate anything that made any sense. It was beyond my state of mind to envision the light of a possible escape from the prison,   taking away all hope  of ever recapturing the person that I once was. Basically I lost all hope  as my helplessness swallowed up everything that I felt was me.

Still unknowing the reason for my complete emotional and physical collapse I begged God, the God of my understanding to do something–anything,  that would free me from the day in and day out grip  of this unseen demon.  Because of what I felt was happening to me, like feeling I was in the power of this demon who was cutting off any bit of strength that I had left. I also knew that Alcoholics Anonymous was built upon spiritual principles which Bill W., and Dr. Bob called the Twelve Steps of recovery. In fact, they wrote that it is our belief in a Power greater than ourselves that would restore us to sanity. And this belief is my belief.

So, to many of us, we had a hard time to see how God could do anything about our depression.  Some of us really didn’t believe in God or if we did we weren’t so sure if possibly God was just a figment of our imagination. But after we admitted that we needed help for this sadness, which was taking us, like a circling watery whirlpool deeper into the depths of blackness and despair to our utter destruction.

The God of my understanding took me seriously when I asked for help and I admitted I couldn’t do what I need to do  alone without some godly help. So for me, my belief in this Power greater than myself  began to free me from my depression experience. And yes, this belief brought God into my life in a very powerful and healing way. In fact, Bill W., who was an agnostic (didn’t know if there was a God or not) had a spiritual  awakening in his hospital room where he said that he met the God of the preachers. And it was this singular spiritual event that gave him an infusion of hope and  power to let the God of his understanding lead him on that daily path of sobriety and recovery. For the millions who use these spiritual principles of recovery in their daily lives, they each and every one find a new beginning and a sane and sober way to live out their lives. And in turn,  as a result of their recovery, they turn and help others, who like themselves, had chosen  to do it ” their way.” As most of us are so painfully aware, our way was  to  keep on digging a deeper hole. And so, the first spiritual principle, namely Step One tells us that “We admitted that we were powerless over depression , and that our lives had become unmanageable.”

Now it is at this next Step that God enters the picture. Actually, we call God, this Power, who is greater than ourselves, who we let come into our life, where “we made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood God.”

And whatever notions you may have about God, you can be assured that there is something that happens to people when they start the journey of working the 12 Steps of Depressed Anonymous. It is here that we learn how God has everything to do with our battling  depression in our life. If you read any of the more that 30 stories of people who worked the 12 Steps (Depressed Anonymous, 3rd edition) and who testify to the truth that God does respond to their plea for help.  God   helps turn our life around and brings us a peace that a clear conscience and a faith in something bigger and more powerful can make happen in anyone’s life who believe.

A sociologist by the name of David Karp interviewed 50 people who indicated that they had received a diagnosis of being depressed from a physician. And by spending time with these many people of all ages and professions he learned about their beliefs about their own depression experiences. and which he wrote about in his book Speaking of Sadness. It is a very interesting and captivating account of how persons respond to the pain and despair that comes with being depressed. But the thing that amazed me the most is what he said about  spirituality as playing an important  role in the coping and living with depression of those whom he interviewed.

“At the same time that my conceptual consciousness was being raised about the connection between depression and spirituality, I would leave  many of my interviews awed by the courage and grace with which certain people faced unimaginable pain and loss. I was especially impressed with those  who spoke of their depression as a gift from which they had learned valuable lessons. While I would not relate  emotionally or intellectually with visions of incarnation or explanations of depression as central to a god given life mission. I left many interviews with a sense that spirituality engaged individuals were in touch with something important.  The issue was not a matter of evaluating the truth of their particular  brand of spirituality. What I felt was a measure of envy of those who displayed an acceptance that seemed to me incongruous with accounts of exceptional pain. These people possessed  or knew something that I didn’t.”  David A. Karp. 1996. Speaking of sadness: Depression, Disconnection, and the meanings of Illness.  Oxford University Press. Oxford. Pgs 190-191.

 

 

 

“…spiritually engaged individuals (depressed)were in touch with something important…” David Karp

As a professor of Sociology at Boston University, David Karp  describes in his book SPEAKING OF SADNESS his spending  time interviewing 50 men and women about their own personal depression experiences. The following are some of his thoughts about  those persons whom he interviewed and who saw a connection between spirituality and depression.

I too found that  this connection  also  provided  me  with  a solid and healing plan for leaving my own depression.

I found a spirituality that produced my own personal transformation  by using the 12 Steps of Depressed Anonymous. These steps are based on the spiritual principles of the 12 Steps and take the depressed person through a process of incremental  healing actions  which gradually can loosen the bonds of their sadness.

Here are some of the findings  Karp shares with the reader of  his own feelings about  those who spoke about the power of  a spirituality   which provided them hope during their depression experience.

” I was leaving many of my interviews awed by the courage and grace with which certain people faced unimaginable   pain and loss. I was especially impressed with those who spoke of their depression as a gift from which they had learned valuable lessons. While I could not relate emotionally or intellectually with visions of reincarnation or explanations of depression as central to a God -given  life mission. I left many interviews with a sense that spiritually engaged individuals were in touch with something importantThe issue was not a matter of evaluating the truth of their particular brand of a spirituality. What I felt was a measure of envy of those who displayed an acceptance that seemed to me incongruence with accounts of exceptional pain.  The people possessed or knew something that I didn’t.”

SPEAKING OF SADNESS by David Karp. (1996), Oxford University Press, Inc. pg. 191..”

And K. Duff shares with us that

“…illness is an opportunity for enlightenment, that, seen the right way, we do not cure illnesses –instead, they have the potential to cure us. This happens when we realize that illness is “not so much a state of being as a process of transformation.”  In K. Duff, The Alchemy of illness(New York):Simon and Shuster, (1993). pg. 191.

In  our  Step Manual , Depressed Anonymous, 3rd edition,( 2011)Depressed Anonymous Publications. Louisville., a work which includes many stories shared by those who use the spiritual principles of the 12 Steps for their own recovery and transformation.  Also, this book is written by those who were depressed and graciously share their stories on how Depressed Anonymous transformed their lives.

Like Karp states in the  section quoted above how I too see my depression as a gift, as for the last 30 or more years my life mission has been to bring hope to those still suffering from depression. Almost every day I speak, write to someone , or continue to get the message out with  our DA publications how  I have been and continue to be transformed  by putting  to use in my own life  the spiritual principles of these Steps. For this  reason we continue to   establish   mutual aid groups for persons depressed.

In some of our next  blogs I will continue this most important discussion about depression and its connection to the power spirituality.

VISIT THE STORE for more information about our DA literature.

Empowerment comes from being informed

 

Empowerment comes  from being informed and making choices that help us change our lives for the better.  When I came to a Depressed Anonymous meeting I am making a first major step- namely, that I admit my presence at the group meeting that my life is out of control.  My compulsion to depress myself is at the root of my inability to take on the challenge of living life with risk and enthusiasm. But how can I possibly say that I want to depress myself? We are not blaming ourselves  here but are taking responsibility for our own feelings, behavior and thinking. Now that I am conscious of some negative patterns of my own behavior I can get on with learning new strategies for my own healing. With the heartfelt prayer of a monk, I now understand it is by sharing the story of my life – and with the conviction that someone is there to listen, that this can in time help me make it out of my prison of fear and sadness.

I can be empowered by taking the bull by the horn and choosing each new day, one day at a time and start to feel different. I now have the support of the group – support from people who have walked where I am walking.

I am investing in myself. I am making my recovery my highest priority. I may have been on all the antidepressant medications -I  may have seen all the best counselors, psychiatrists and doctors but now finally I am going to a room full of depressed people –  people who understand me and what I am going through!

These people I discover are investing in themselves. What will I find there? I will find some of the most caring people on the face of the earth. Some of the group will have been coming for months, and they say that they are having more good days than bad and it’s getting better. The more meetings they attend the better they feel and the more support they receive. They are feeling empowered. It’s the miracle of the group. Instead of living with a compulsion to repeat old negative and life negating thoughts and feelings we now have a compulsion to live with hope plus a desire for a brand new way of living — and not just the way that  we  once talked to ourselves.

We are going to get a new life. And here is how.

I now feel that that I am getting better learning how not to repeat my old way of thinking, feeling and believing and isolating myself when I fear –whatever. I now know that with work and patience I will get better. For most of us, it has taken us a few years to get here (depressed) so why not take the plunge today and work toward getting better–one day at a time – one meeting at a time —  and using the “tools” of the program.

It has only been when I began to examine the way I talked to myself (negatively) and how I gradually isolated myself from a life lived in serenity and hope,  that I realized I could change this pattern of diminishing myself . Others were doing it and so why couldn’t I? And so can you!

Hugh

SOURCE: (c)I’ll do it when I feel better.(2014) Depressed Anonymous Publications. Louisville.

(c) Depressed Anonymous, 3rd edition. Depressed Anonymous Publications. Louisville.

                     PLEASE VISIT THE STORE FOR MORE USEFUL AND INFORMATION.

Coming attractions!

How often do we  hear about “coming attractions” when we go to our local theater? There are always movies that are advertised to be shown in the future. They usually depict short clips from some of the movies  that will be coming  soon.

Now, today, as we go  about our day, our mind reviews some of the coming attractions that we will bump into this day. Have you ever noticed that the human mind, with its fears and apprehensions, usually attracts all those things that we fear might actually  happen to us. Let me give  an example of how “coming attractions” works in the brain. It’s very much like Murphy’s law which tells us that if you think something bad is going to happen–it usually does. It is a strange phenomenon but it actually works out that what we fear many times actually occurs. It’s almost like the negative fear attracts the very thing that we fear. Let’s say we are thinking about a person who is a big pain and suddenly there they are -right in front of us. How does this happen? Is  there some mysterious magnetic force in the universe that  makes this fear become a reality? Or another example: I go to a room filled with strangers and I think, “nobody will want to talk with me.” And almost magically we find ourselves standing in a corner watching everyone else interacting with others.  We just knew that this would happen. This is one of those “coming attractions” to which  our mind alerted us. And then again, how about this situation. You are at the grocery or market and you  see someone you’d just as well not want  to see . So you go down another aisle in the store and head for the check out lane. Lo and behold, guess  who pulls up their cart right behind you. Yep, you guessed it. It’s one of those “coming attractions” that our mind makes happen. Negativity attracts negative events. Negativity thoughts  attracts more negative thinking.

Can there be a reverse side of this “coming attractions” business of the mind?  I believe so. It is just as true that our mind attracts whatever we put into it. If we fear this or that,  make a mountain out of a molehill, but then reflect and see it for what it is, and reduce it to its appropriate size, we will not get stuck in the cycling negative thinking  of how bad it is or might appear to us at the time.

In Step Three  of Depressed Anonymous we  read that “we came to believe that a power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.”   This is one of my favorite “coming attractions” that has proved time and time again to be so true. Over time and with practice,  I no longer waste my time thinking about what is going to happen to me in the future  with its promised catastrophic end. So now my positive thinking abounds in a positive outlook for my life. I just know that whatever comes to me today I can handle. I just know that the Promises of Depressed Anonymous are as true today as when they wewre first written back in 1935. I also believe that all I have is today–just this 24 hour period. That is all God gives me. One day at a time. And whatever the “coming attractions” are  for me today–God and myself can handle them. I am going to have a great day  today! How about your day?

For more about the “coming attractions ” for your life,  read what will happen for those of us who choose the  way that leads out of depression. In the program of recovery we call them the “PROMISES.”

“If we are painstaking about this phase of our development , we will be amazed before we are halfway through. We are going to know a new happiness.  We will not regret the  past nor wish to shut the door on it. We will comprehend the word “serenity” and we will know peace. No matter how far down the scale we have gone, we will see how  our experience can help others. That feeling of uselessness and self pity will disappear. We will  lose interest in  selfish things and  gain interest in our fellows. Self  seeking will slip away.  Our whole attitude and outlook upon life will change. The fear of people and economic insecurity will leave us. We will intuitively know how to handle situations that used to baffle us. We will suddenly realize that God is doing for us what we could not do for ourselves. Are these extravagant promises? We think not. They are being fulfilled among us – sometimes quickly, sometimes slowly. They will always materialize  if we work for them. ”

SOURCE:   Depressed Anonymous, 3rd edition(2011) Depressed Anonymous Publications. Louisville. Page 109.

The Promises (2002) Depressed Anonymous Publications .Louisville.

Believing is seeing: 15 ways to leave the prison of depression. (2014) Depressed Anonymous Publications. Louisville.

VISIT THE BOOKSTORE FOR MORE INFO.

Does mid-life = half-life?

I accepted that God, as the God of my understanding is loving and forgiving. The 12 Step group and our God is the pillar of our strength and healing. The #2 STATEMENT OF BELIEF  of Depressed Anonymous.

In  depression the first thing that we must do is to take charge of our lives and incorporate a planned pleasant activity in our daily lives.  If  I don’t, I will continue to linger on alone and live a half-life. Nothing beyond my reach can absorb my pain of isolation and feeling worthless. This is especially true for many of us in mid-life where the dreams we once thought possible  remain stillborn. We seem to have lost the time to do something positive with our lives. We feel stuck. I want to get involved with  a  fellowship of persons who are learning new ways of living with a sense of purpose. We want to live our lives  with hope.  Step  Two of Depressed Anonymous states that “we came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity. We will “let go and let God.”

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Comment: I am thinking this  morning and attempting to clarify some of my thinking about having a purpose for my life. I remember that it was at the  mid-life point of my life (45 years) where my life  gradually screeched to a   halt.  That is when my life, plummeted down to the   half-life point. My life’s meaning, instead of providing hope and purpose drew my resources down until the only purpose that I could envision was to try and get out of bed in the morning.  My concentration was focused–but only on my pain. Another way of looking at it is using  the   metaphor of looking at the gas gauge on your car’s dash and seeing that it reads empty.

When I discovered a group of people, just like myself, in the 12 Step recovery program  did my life began to happen. My experience with depression and living daily  the recovery process has provided me with a wealth of purposeful living and meaning. My half-life became a very full  life. Everyday I am blessed to be able to communicate with person depressed, be it locally or from the far corners of  the world. Whether it is with emails, SKYPE or to meet  face to face with fellow members sharing their  experiences and who are  desiring a  way out of their depression.

I know from personal experience that mid-life or really any part of one’s life  there may be a need for a reexamination of what our life is about and possibly for it to take a more purposeful direction. And no matter where our life stands today we are always poised on making it purposeful and filled with meaning. A full life is one filled with hope, service to others while embedded in a fellowship of persons like ourselves. For myself today, I know it is my fellowship group, Depressed Anonymous.

Take the plunge if you like and find out how you too can have a life filled with purpose, service to others like yourself, and part of a dynamic Depressed Anonymous 12 Step group.

SOURCES:  (c) Believing is seeing: 15 ways to leave the prison of depression (2015) Depressed Anonymous Publications. Louisville.

(c) Depressed Anonymous, 3rd edition. (2011) Depressed Anonymous Publications. Louisville.

 

DEPRESSION IS ABOUT LOST SELVES. DEPRESSED ANONYMOUS IS ABOUT THE DISCOVERY OF THE REAL SELF!

“Without the defense of depression the human race would not have survived. By shutting ourselves in this prison we keep out all the dangers and uncertainties that otherwise would overwhelm us.  By making every day in the prison  the same as the next, we deal only with the bare minimum  of issues that we can manage to deal with, and we make sure that nothing new gets in to frighten  and stress us.  By concentrating on just ourselves we do not have to face what is happening to others. Locked in our prison we can avoid acknowledging that the inescapable disasters that the human  race is prone to — death and loss and the tragedies that nature or our own  cruelties and stupidities bring upon us. In depression we can give ourselves a breathing space before we confront all this again, or we can keep ourselves safely locked away forever.`” (14)

Depression is about lost selves — and the struggle to regain the self. We are in a perpetual lock down! It is indeed a battle with one’s self to survive – that is why Dorothy Rowe calls depression a prison. We build the walls as a defense to keep us safe till we can combat our  demons and find which  way out is the best for us. ”

I found all this to be so true in my own life until I admitted that something was very much wrong with what was happening inside of me. I was always tired, anxious and feeling painfully hallowed out inside of me. I truly was imprisoned by my own fears and shame.  In time and with work I forced my prison door open as now I had a key–a key that allowed me to see that I didn’t have to stay here. The pain was so great that the only temporary relief was for me to be proactive and get moving. I walked. I walked some more. Everyday I walked.  I began to feel like Forrest Gump. And actually, for me, walking was the key that helped me to  walk out of the fog. Once my energy level came back, I came into the Fellowship of the Twelve Steps and there began to work on the things that brought me down in the first place. My experience from feeling lost to discovering my real self was all made possible through the working of the spiritual program that we call the Twelve Steps.

—SOURCE: I’ll do it when I feel better.  2013. Depressed Anonymous Publications. Louisville,. Kentucky   40217. (p.76)