+++ Recollections from the founder of Depressed Anonymous +++
“There was nothing I could do to shake those horrible and painful feelings. My mind was unable to focus on or to concentrate on anything. My memory was affected and it was impossible to retain anything I tried to read. With each new day, I felt my strength ebbing away. I was physically and emotionally drained. I knew that something was wrong – what was it?
The answer to those question seemed to lie within all the losses that I had acquired over the past months. I had slipped down into the slippery and dark world known only to someone who has ben depressed. I had to do something besides talking to break out of depression. I had to change the way that I had lived my life. First I had to admit that my life was out of control. I was powerless to overcome my symptoms of depression by will power alone. I needed to believe in a power greater than myself. I had to have a spiritual experience. Having been in the ministry for may years, I thought I had a deep spiritual experience, but I seemed to have lost it along the way.
I began to walk five miles a day inside a mall near my home to shake this awful feeling of emptiness that had taken over my life. I set myself this goal to force myself to walk until I starter to feel better. This was about a year following that day in August when I felt myself slipping into the abyss. After doing this exercise of walking day after day, I began to feel a little better. But then the old message came back and said “yes, but this good feeling won’t last.” Then I knew that since I had good days before that depression, I could have a good day again. I went on walking, and within time, I walked my way through the fog that had imprisoned me.
But I had to do the work! Did my symptoms have me imprisoned or did the meaning that I had created in my mind about my life have me imprisoned? I believe it was the meaning I had given to those losses in my life that gradually threw me to the ground, hog tied me, and wouldn’t let me go. I had to believe that somehow my walking gave meaning to the belief that I wasn’t going to let these feelings of helplessness beat me down. I just believed that I was going to beat this thing! I learned a great lesson here in that “motivation follows action.”
SOURCE :Copyright(c) Depressed Anonymous, 3rd edition. (1998, 2008, 2011). Depressed Anonymous Publications, Louisville. KY Pg. 21. (Autobiographical sketch of the founder of Depressed Anonymous, Hugh S., in Evansville, Indiana in 1985.)
In the mutual aid group, Depressed Anonymous, we make it OK to say “I think I am depressed.”
In Believing is seeing, an effort is made to help persons depressed as well as the friends and families of the depressed to know that there is a group that is there for them. In fact, once people come to the group and experience a meeting focused on the power of the Steps working in the lives of the fellowship, they soon come to believe and know the group members are speaking their language. It’s much like going to a foreign country and finding someone who can speak your language.
“Thank goodness, people can now go and find help –namely, the Depressed Anonymous group. Persons need to be educated about depression and that one is not losing their minds when the symptoms of depression begin to take over their lives. Their own depression experience and the symptoms that comprise it may enable them to seek help faster. They may be relieved to know what it is that is happening to them. I believe that a doctor or nurse practitioner would be more than happy to help de-stigmatize such a common and universal problem as depression or as some have called it in an earlier time, melancholia. In time and with our own advocacy as a mutual aid fellowship we will help make it OK to say “I am depressed.” We hope by that fact to help de-stigmatize this common and natural response to loss. Remember, to admit you’re depressed is the first step in recovery and the first step in getting yourself undepressed.”
Copyright (c)Believing is seeing: 15 ways to leave the prison of depression. (2013) Depressed Anonymous Publications. Louisville. Pages 17-18.
“As my mind began to heal and my thoughts became more lucid it became apparent that something inside me is changing. Depression, when you begin to examine the various symptoms up close, and deal with them, the experience becomes less threatening. Some say that depression is a collection of behaviors that are brought into play to defend us against things that are too painful to to face. Also, depression results when a love object is lost through death or that one feels abandoned. We have become so at one with our lost love, that we mourn the death of part of us. The love object and ourselves has become one. I believe we use the word codependence today.
At first I was frightened by my various symptoms of depression. The symptoms proved to be baffling. I was not able to get out of bed as well as being unable to concentrate or manage a complex thought. I began to worry that I was losing my mind and I often asked myself if I was going to survive. But now my ability to handle situations in a meaningful way is due to my frequent attendance at meetings, and by making a daily time of prayer and meditation and a feeling that my life has purpose and meaning. The more I am physically active, that is, going to meetings even when I don’t feel like it. Working in my Depressed Anonymous Workbook, reading my 12 Step literature.
This behavior is where my freedom begins. And yes, I do feel lousy at times but I know that nothing can stand in my way to make choices in my own behalf. Previous to my involvement with the group I had no idea that my depression was not so powerful as to prevent me from even thinking that I could choose to feel differently.”
SOURCE: (C) I’LL DO IT WHEN I FEEL BETTER. (1986, 2013) 2nd Edition DEPRESSED ANONYMOUS PUBLICATIONS LOUISVILLE, KENTUCKY Pages 50-51.
This Promise really does work. I know from my own personal experience that once I had begun my recovery and began to deal with those things I refused to face that things lightened up. When I was in the pit of my own melancholia I couldn’t even begin to think that there was a way out — I just didn’t consider that as a possibility. But the more I read–the more I listened to others who had or were presently climbing out of their own pit of melancholia I felt hopeful that I too could choose to think differently and so feel different. With time, work and prayer plus having a sponsor I intuitively knew how to handle situations that at one time confused me. Things in my life became clearer and I began to examine those past patterns of behavior and thinking that put me in the pit. It was by living out the Twelve Steps and practicing these principles in all of my affairs that eventually gave me the freedom of making the choice to either choose to stay depressed or to choose to live life and find the path to free me from the bonds of my own depression.
I thought I was losing my mind. Why? Well, when I was depressed, when I tried to read something–anything, I found to my surprise that I couldn’t retain information that I just read. In fact I would have to go back and re-read what I had just read. After awhile it seemed futile trying to read anything and retain it. And here is the catch– this is where I got scared–no, not just a little bit worried–I was shaken. It was as if I lost my short term memory completely. I wondered what was going on in my brain? Was I suffering from some rare neurological disease or what? As it turned out I was also completely washed out. I couldn’t wait to get home after work and go to bed. And another thing is that if I saw someone laughing or having a good time — I hated it! What right did they have enjoying life when all I could feel was the pain of my melancholia. I was helpless and hopeless. I felt out of control plus unable to manage anything for myself that I would consider positive.
Quite a composite of symptoms all telling me that something was not right. But what was the answer? What could all this mean?
So, I decided to move my body and get out everyday and put some miles on my feet. Get some exercise. Get the blood flowing to my brain and wherever else it needed to go. Since these events were something new to me I didn’t really know what I had. I just knew I needed to do something–so, walking seemed my best bet. Over a year’s time it worked its healing and slowly my cognitive abilities returned. I began to feel more in control and a lightness came to me which had slowly evaporated a year previous. What I am trying to share with you here is that when and if these symptoms make up part of your living experience, just know that they won’t last forever.
One of the many treasures of the Depressed Anonymous group is that when I tell my story with all my crazy physical symptoms, and how over time they gradually left me, it is here that members of our fellowship knew they had come to the right place for help. They are no longer alone. And, they have a toolbox of skills, thanks to those who share their stories of recovery and how they too are no longer depressed. My story is their story!
What do beagles, rabbits and circles have in common? I know you must be curious. Well, first of all, let me tell you that when I was growing up in a small community in Indiana, my Grandpa took my brother and I hunting. We hunted a lot. We mainly hunted squirrels and rabbits. Grandpa also had some great help when hunting the rabbits. He had the assistance of Red and Dukie. They were awesome beagles! When you are out in the wild hunting rabbits it always helps to have your helpers stirring up trouble. That is where the beagles come in. They always made things happen. When you heard the beagles with their high pitch cries you just knew the rabbits had been found out. Here is where the circle come in. Maybe you are aware or maybe you are not aware that when rabbits are running away from danger, they appear to run in a circle. How do I know this? My grandpa told me. So one morning we three, my brother, Grandpa and myself heard Red and Dukie starting their high pitched cries, Suddenly through the opening in the brush, two rabbits whizzed past, right in front of us. Then here come the beagles in hot pursuit right behind them. Grandpa told me to stand on a stump facing the opening. He told us that they might come back this way. The cries of the beagles grew faint — but not for long, as Red and Dukie’s cries started to increase in volume. And then, presto! first one rabbit came through the brush, and then the second, I raised my shotgun, fired a shot at the second rabbit and missed. Those rabbits for some reason made a full circle and there they were again. I missed my chance.
So that was the day when I learned how some animals, who knows maybe all animals tend to run in circles. I do know that when I had gotten lost hunting squirrels and thought I was heading away from where I started I found myself back in the spot at which I started. What is it I thought? Why do we go in circles–does it have to do with a dominant foot always turning us left or right?
Somebody smarter than me will have to help me here with this one.
With my symptoms of depression, I too keep circling trying to figure out in my head why I am depressed. The more I spiral downward in the unending circle of despair, the more I return to those many places I have been before. None of these places gave me comfort or answers to the why I am depressed–only the fact that I have been here before. The mind when burdened appears to run in circles as well. What’s chasing us?