+++ 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.)
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).
We all enjoy taking part in quizzes and surveys. At least I do. It’s pretty much a challenge to see how much we know or don’t know. By doing the quiz we possibly learn just a little bit more about whatever the subject may be, even though we might not answer all the questions correctly. In a certain fashion we have clarified a bit of our thinking about a certain subject.
Clarification of thought is a most difficult process when It comes to a mind swallowed up by depression, is confused, darkened with fog and just extremely exhausted. Many of us wanted to think our way out of depression, as if our will power could push open that prison door which continued to keep us locked up. Will power is useless initially. What we do need is a fairly straight forward and simple approach to getting at the genesis of our sadness. Along the way of the clarification process we find out and discover more of who we are, how we got to be where we are and what to do now that we know what we got and how we got here. For one, I don’t believe that that paralyzing feeling of melancholia just drops out of the sky and hits me on the head and knocks me down. So, I start with where I believe it all gets started. The pain is inside of me so I have to start there!
After getting some physical stamina back into my life I began to ask myself some questions–each as it pertains to the 12 Steps of Depressed Anonymous. I used a process which I called the clarification of thought process. How I was thinking about myself and speaking to myself needed to be examined to see how much of my thinking got me to where I couldn’t get out of bed in the morning.
Today, if you would like to join with me, I will, pose a few questions about your own experience with depression and then you can evaluate how that affects your life today.
1. When you feel depressed what do you say to yourself?
2. What action or behavior do you do when you feel this way?
3. Does it promote more isolation or being more connected?
We are using the Depressed Anonymous Workbook to help us work through the questions that will help us all clarify our thinking and thus gradually free us from the mystery of what keeps us in bondage. Continue your program of recovery using the Clarification of thought process and you will find a key that will present to you the ” courage to change what you can.”