One of the great lessons of life, at least for myself, was the fact that the more I got up out of bed, put on my walking shoes. ignored the mental dialogue of how it was impossible to move, that I began to move physically through a fog that seemed impenetrable. It only seemed impenetrable as long as I stayed in the comfortable cocoon of my bed. Once I forced myself out of bed, got walking, it was five or ten minutes later that my mind message center informed my body, “wow, so glad I am doing this.” Surprise? Initially, yes, I was surprised. I wondered why was it so hard to do this simple thing like getting up and taking a walk. Well, because once I had slid, spiraled down into the dark abyss of my melancholia, I found that my will power no longer had the authority, force to make my body do what I wanted it to do. I was in a sense immobilized totally by the continued rumination of my mind that continued to produce powerful feelings of hopelessness and helplessness. I felt there was no escape from my thoughts of futility no matter what avenues of escape my mind offered to me.
Then, I had a choice. Fight or flight. Face my present deteriorating situation or just continue to pull the sheet over my head and continue to run from what was chasing me. The “what” of what was chasing me was guilt, shame, and fear. The fear of “what if” this were to happen or “what if” that were to happen. I then made a decision a night before I went to bed. That decision was to fight whatever it was that had me by the throat. I was scared. I chose to act in my own behalf and do something physical–anything to get my body moving. To do anything to get myself to roll out of bed. And then I discovered an important truth: Motivation follows action. Move the body and the mind will follow.
Here is a portion of my testimony in Believing is seeing: 15 ways to leave the prison of depression. (2015). DAP. Louisville.
“When I was going through my depression I forced myself every morning to go to a shopping mall and walk miles every morning. The jittery feeling was still there, but I kept at it and gradually I began to feel less jittery and less hopeless about my life ever being like it was. Another benefit – a big one- is that I didn’t lose my job.
The personal belief of mine that MOTIVATION FOLLOWS ACTION is especially designed for those persons who are depressed and who feel they don’t have any mastery over their lives. They also have no interest in former pleasant activities.
It is only when we get physically active and move out of our sad ruminations, which like a closed loop, keep circling painfully through our minds. The thoughts cause us to spiral down and continue our lifeless plummeting out of control into the frozen immobility which engulfs us….and so I learned the important lesson: Move the body and the mind will follow.” Page 35. Believing is Seeing (2015).
THE NEAR-LIFE EXPERIENCE
I was in the middle of working my way out of the fog of my melancholia(depression) when suddenly I felt a lift in my spirit. It felt so strange, this feeling of deliverance. It was the way I was before my disabling sadness imprisoned me. I was always a cheerful and upbeat sort of guy and in the blink of an eye, I was thinking the pain was over. Not so quick I thought–“this won’t last”. Right on. It didn’t. So, I continued my 5 mile walk through the mall and wondered about this near-life experience that I just had. It was back to that deadly hollow feeling in my gut with thoughts that traveled through my brain like cold molasses.
Because I didn’t have a clue what was happening to me physically, mentally and even spiritually, I knew something, whatever that something was had almost completely disabled me. It was torture to even force myself out of bed. I resented folks who were laughing and having a good time. And this intolerable hollow feeling inside of me continued eating away at me until I thought I would die. I knew I had to keep my job and keep on keeping on. My face became a mask. Inside I was dying. On the outside my persona continued as the nice guy, the upbeat and positive guy. My face turned me into a liar.
Gradually though, my very brief brush with a light feeling, a near-life feeling, became a life once known as a very welcome old friend. The hollowness disappeared. My inside feelings were the same that was on my face.
People talk about having a near- death experience. You know, the light at the end of the tunnel –being in another dimension and then suddenly coming back to the fact that you are not dead–and that you are alive. Most times this experience–this out of body experience makes you appreciate the time that you do have left to live and love others. You now have a full life.
Basically, this is what happened to me when I was so depressed I thought I was losing my mind, everything. I was living life but not on all six cylinders. Now, after coming out of my prison of depression and using the spiritual principles of the Twelve Steps for my own recovery my life is no longer just a near-life experience-it is a full life filled with fellowship friends and hope.
Are you wishing for a full life, filled with hope and serenity? You can have it. As it says in the PROMISES OF DEPRESSED ANONYMOUS, #7 “We now have less concern about self and gain interest in others.”
Read about the full life that is available for you @ DEPRESSED ANONYMOUS, 3RD EDITION (2013) .DEPRESSED ANONYMOUS PUBLICATIONS. LOUISVILLE, KENTUCKY.
“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.
Greetings and a warm hello to all. So many persons, from so many different cultures, race, spirituality and national groups come here to find a bit of light and hope. I welcome you all. I continue to write from my own experience with the darkness and invite you to share whenever and however you would like your own experiences.
In my own life, my own brokenness brought me into another 12 step fellowship years ago. It was truly the dark night of the soul for me. The darkness for me was like being in a dark cave, paralyzed by my own blindness – unable to find a way out. Then, because there was a lighthouse (12 step group) in my small rural community, I slowly came into the light of hope and found my way out.
Then once again, my life needed another shot of hope when I slowly slid down a slippery slope of hopelessness. It was then that I came to see that a group, which I had already formed, using the 12 steps for melancholia, came to my own rescue. I then began to help others form Depressed Anonymous groups. And gradually and slowly other depressed persons started groups in their own communities. Now here we are today, attempting to light and ignite hope in those who themselves want to discover how to leave the darkness of their own helplessness and darkness. For those who come and see how others have been able to climb out of the cave’s darkness into the light and use our spiritual recovery program of the steps, know that they too can have the light of hope in their own lives.
I often tell those in our groups that my own darkness and my coming into the light has been a gift. A gift for others. How often do people know that when I speak about my own experience in the darkness, there is no doubt that my experience is in many ways similar to their own. It takes one to know one.
In fact, the 12th step of Depressed Anonymous suggests that “Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these Steps, we tried to carry this message to the depressed, and to practice these principles in all of our affairs.” (Page 159. Depressed Anonymous, 3rd edition. Depressed Anonymous Publications. Louisville. Kentucky. )
When you have some good news in your life –especially joy and hope –that is something to talk about! I continue to carry on.
“To thine own self be true.” is an old axiom that has much merit for those of us who work the spiritual program of the Twelve Steps. Often in therapy I ask people to list as many strengths as they can, and for some this is a difficult task when they are depressed and the world appears to be a grey and fearsome dark place. But this is a n inventory that we must make– we must begin to look at our strengths and stop wallowing in the self-pity which denies the new directions and progress occurring in our lives through the life of our depression, namely that we can’t seem to see the gracious goodness in ourselves that has been placed there for all time by the Higher Power. This in itself is the attitude that keeps alive our depression, sadness and self-deprecating attitudes. We need to look at our assets and list our strengths as we gather together time after time in our Depressed Anonymous group or our individual working ( HOME STUDY PROGRAM) of the Twelve Step program in our lives. We need to remove as quickly as possible all the old excuses and reasons that we cling to which keep us depressed and out of healthful recovery. Let’s be objective about ourselves and admit that just as we possibly have caused ourselves to be depressed, we likewise can un-depress ourselves in the same way.”
SOURCE: DEPRESSED ANONYMOUS, (3rd Edition, 2011).. Depressed Anonymous Publications. Louisville, Ky 40217. (p. 56)
Only when I had taken a complete inventory of my own life (Step Four) did I realize that certain ways of personal thinking, feeling and behaviors gradually spiraled me physically into the painful pit of my own personally manufactured melancholia. (Some depression experiences can also be the result of physical illness/diseases. That is why it is best to talk to a medical professional before we diagnose ourselves. ) Now here is the part that people can’t quite understand –that we caused ourselves to be depressed. How could that be? Why would I want to cause myself so much pain? Good question. The real issue here is that I discovered over time that because of emotional issues that were mine, mostly unpleasant to reflect upon, such as guilt, shame producing isolation from family, friends and the world, plus the grief over lost employment and relationships. And then, because of this continued mental and emotional beating myself up it all came crashing down as no longer could I think of anything but disaster, grief and gloom. I became paralyzed emotionally, physically and spiritually and mentally. My body responded by not responding so that in time it was a battle just to get out of bed. So, there you have it. I caused all this by the way I thought about myself. In Step Four I was able to take each issue by itself and then to see how I might restore myself before my experience with depression. I learned how to un-depress myself. Remember, most of the things that come “out of the blue” are the rain, snow and lightening. And now that I know where my melancholia originated and why, I am un-depressed today.
HIDE. RUN. ISOLATE. WHEN I WAS DEPRESSED THESE THREE WORDS DESCRIBED MY ACTING OUT BEHAVIOR PERFECTLY.
The Depressed Anonymous Big Book states that:
“Once I admit that I am addicted to depressing myself then I can begin to walk through the door of the prison that binds me. I I must realize the fact that my depression will only get worse unless I put a stop to all the thinking, and acting out behavior that keeps me perpetually locked into my sadness.” (DA88).
Here again we see the responsibility issue cropping up again. This is so important for us who want to hide and run when we feel a life that has to be faced again and again. As we read in Alcoholics Anonymous and as quoted in Depressed Anonymous:
“Our real purpose is to fit ourselves to be of maximum service to God and the people about us…
Yes, there is a long period of reconstruction ahead. We must take the lead. A remorseful mumbling that we are sorry won’t fill the bill…” (DA88)
Do you the reader, do this when you are feeling sad and alone? Do you try and get alone by yourself so that you can try and figure out what is happening inside of yourself? I did. For myself, I just kept going around in the circling of my thoughts. The constant circling (ruminating ) and isolating behavior gradually had me spiraling into the darkness of my unending melancholia.
I finally realized I couldn’t think myself of this total physical, psychological immobility. What could I do? See page 73 in the Depressed Anonymous Workbook.
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!
Wow! How about that? Late UN-breaking news? Everywhere you go–it’s late breaking news. Come on folks.
I would be satisfied with more late UN-breaking news myself. Put a trailer at the bottom of the screen and just let the late breaking news pass us by–like a watching the #17 bus head down the street. Well, anyway, I have some late UN-breaking news for you. As you can tell from the title of my BLOG, what I share here is pretty much your regular UN-breaking news. You know, like hey, if you are depressed have you ever considered doing this or trying that or whatever for your melancholia. By the way, that is what they used to call it–melancholia. That is about as UN-breaking as you can get. If you feel depressed, paralyzed by fear, fatigue and purposeless in your life it might be the news for you to know there is hope. Maybe you know or don’t know that many times people who come into counseling for their symptoms of depression want relief–and they want it now. Not tomorrow–not next week–they want it now. Yes, that is what they want. So did I when my life was falling apart. I couldn’t even put a label on what was happening inside of me. I felt helpless. Hopeless. But the REAL BREAKING NEWS is that we have discovered, like millions before us, that once I began to believe in a Power greater than myself, my life gradually began to change. Don’t get me wrong, we don’t have the magic potion or the magic wand to all of a sudden remove feelings of pain, anxiety, fear and lack of a desire to want to live. Let me share with you what we do have to offer. We have a suggested solution. (This is really old news.)
In the coming days I would like to share with you my thoughts -solutions- about depression and its relationship to spirituality. What this means is there a Power greater than yourself that you believe in?
Stay tuned for more UN-breaking news to come. I think what we have to offer will provide you with HOPE!
Clarification of thought
One of the areas of my life affected by my experience with melancholia was my thinking, or rather lack of ability to think. I remember vividly how I was no longer able to concentrate or focus on any material that I tried to read. When I did try and focus on a more complex thought such as a couple of paragraphs, it seemed fruitless. The thought was like a vapor, in that it disappeared as rapidly as it came. I was only aware that the fog was beginning to lift when my mood gradually lifted. It was like the sun coming up in the East, burning off the fog, layer by layer. And that leads me to the next point in my recovery. With the fog disappearing, and my concentration slowly reappearing, I was able to have a thought and hold on to it. I noticed that when I read something it managed to stay in my memory.
One of the laws of recovery, which works for me, is the saying, “Move the body and the mind will follow.” I found this to be true. It also confirmed for me how the mind will work more efficiently when the body is moving. That is why I personally put so much stock in walking or any other physical exercise which has a direct effect on the brain.
I also have learned how reading and writing down one’s reflections helps to clarify one’s thinking. You see in black and white your thoughts–now before you on paper or on the computer screen. In other words they are not flowing out there unattended in cyber space but instead are sitting right there in front of you. That is why in our recovery program of the 12 Steps it is recommended that one begin writing down various issues that have surrounded you in your life. By doing so you can determine how these items have influenced you positively or negatively. And since we are speaking of depression here, this is a process in which writing down gives us a degree of clarification as we examine one issue after another. Many times the issues or events are interlinked and hold the key to understanding our thinking and behavior. Reflection or as it says in the Steps that through prayer and meditation (clarification of thought) we sought to improve our contact with God.
Hopefully, soon, I will post some questions about one’s own recovery and you can answer them at home, in your own time and space. You too can make time, by reading, writing and find for yourself a greater purpose in life through a continued clarification of thought.
Fear is part of this whirling whirlpool –a veritable wave of the Melancholia that engulfs the person depressed. Fear, gloom and despair are all part of this experience we call melancholia. For some, tragically, it may even end in the self-destruction of suicide.
Below is a poem given to me to share with you from Ryan, my Grandchild. My Ryan is a Rapper (No, rapper is not a “door knocker” per dictionary) but one who loves to put his words into a music genre called RAP – Rhythm and Poetry.
Here is his poem that speaks of fear and its progression, causing the human spirit to spiral around and around into the darkness of the unknown.
Hope is part of the antidote of fear. The fellowship of Depressed Anonymous is likewise the antidote to fear. Again, expression of our fears to another human being is what can pause, even stop the vortex that kills.
THE SUDDEN PAUSE
Where to go now?