All posts by Stacy S

Energy of activation – Walking through the struggle

I study chemistry, and I see a correlation between a chemistry concept and walking through a struggle in depression.   In a chemical reaction, there is something called the “energy of activation.”  It is the energy that is necessary for a reaction to proceed.  In the diagram below, is the large hump or hill between the initial state and the final state.  So if I relate that to depression, it is the struggle that I go through to perform a particular task.  Now, I’ve realized it’s not about the task.  For example, it does not matter if the task I’m trying to achieve is getting out of bed, going to a meeting, going to work, going to the gym, or achieving a lofty goal.  It’s about the energy of activation, or the difficulty of the struggle that matters. When I am in severe depression, the energy of activation required for me to get out of bed is immense.  It may feel impossible at times!  Now that I am not in a depression, that task is not a struggle for me.  It has a low activation energy.  In other words, it’s easy for me at this time.

So why does this matter?  Because I used to (and still can) compare myself to others and ask myself the question “how does that person do this or that so easily?  How come it’s so hard for me to get out of bed but so easy for someone else?”  This concept of activation energy helps me realize that everyone has struggles.  And if I focus on how to get through the struggle, then I am focusing on the solution.  I also realize that at different points in my life, the activation energy for the same task can be VERY different.  This also tells me that I can and should give myself credit for getting through the struggle, no matter what the task is!!  Because what matters is getting over that hump.

So how do we do that?  It boils down to our thinking, doesn’t it?  If I feed myself positive thoughts, such as “this is possible,” “I can do it,” “I’ve had successes is the past, so I can do it again,” “I am capable and I am worth it,” then I’m going to get into action and take baby steps up the hill.  But if I think negative thoughts (or choose to stay with those negative thoughts, since in my case my default thinking is negative) then I am going to walk myself right down that hill and stay stuck at the bottom.  Sometimes I need to think positive thoughts that will get me to call someone else and ask for help or motivation.  It’s okay to get help – it’s easier to climb that hill together!

I’m realizing that when I focus on giving myself credit for overcoming that struggle, then I’m helping myself.  If I tell myself, “oh, it’s no big deal.  All I did was get out of bed today.  That doesn’t really count as a success,”  then not only am I saddening myself, but I’m also being dishonest with myself!!   Because overcoming the energy of activation for that task was critical and a major achievement!!  And best of all, at the end of the task, I’m in a better place than where I started.  So just for today, I am going to give myself credit for walking though the struggle – no matter how big or small the task.

Courage to Change

Fear has held me back so often in life, especially in depression. Although I hated the feelings of depression, there was a security in that dark depressing place. A respite from the uncertainties of the world. Change involves uncertainty – or the question “What if?”  My mind automatically goes to the negative.  What if I try this again & fail again? What if I can’t do it?  What if I’m not capable?  And so on. The needle on my mental compass defaults to negative thinking. I have to make a serious effort to shift my thinking to the positive.  It occurred to me that I could ask myself other “what if” questions.  What if I can make a positive change?  What if I am capable?  What if I can do something good for myself? What would that look like, and what would that feel like? It was almost scary to find out!  Again, because it was different and new.

I’ve made a lot of positive changes in my life lately, and I had to ask my Higher Power for help. I said, “God, please give me the courage to change the things I can.  Please give me the courage to walk through the fear. I know that with Your help, one day at a time, this is possible.”  It has been possible, and it still is!  I’ve been walking through fear and making positive changes!  Two years ago I thought it would be impossible for me to get up Monday through Friday and go to work (let alone get out of bed and be functional, or show up to chair a meeting). But with the help of my Higher Power, this program & the fellowship – just for today – God has given me the courage to walk through fear and change the things I can. And for that, I am immensely grateful. ❤

Willingness to Take Baby Steps

A common question in other 12 step fellowships is “Are you willing to go to any lengths to achieve recovery?” When thinking about willingness and my depression, I don’t know how well this applied to me. I mean, if I had the willingness to go to any lengths when I was in my deepest darkest depression, I would have just hopped out of bed, embraced the day, and ran a 5K! But that is not how it worked for me!
When I was in the depths of my depression, my willingness had gone out the door. “What was the purpose anyway?” I thought. I didn’t think I could get any better. But Depressed Anonymous showed me that there is hope, and there is a way out. For me, that path to recovery has been a series of baby steps. After coming to meetings, I saw people who were like me; people who really suffered from depression, and I saw that they were recovering. Once I had the realization that there was hope, I needed to ask myself a question. “Just for today, am I willing to take a baby step to help myself recover from depression?”
This was something that I could comprehend and that I thought might be possible. Yes, I can take a baby step and get out of bed. Yes, I can take a baby step and call someone from the fellowship. Yes, I can take a baby step and order the literature, then take another baby step and read a page of the literature. I can answer one question in the workbook today. Yes, I can do one little thing to help myself today!!
That is how my recovery began. That is how I climbed out of that 80-foot hole of depression-one baby step at a time. And the beautiful thing is that I don’t have to do it alone! Honestly, I don’t think I could have done it alone. I tried for years, and although I met with sporadic success, I inevitably fell back into that pit of depression. Today I have the DA fellowship surrounding me. I have a Higher Power. I have a sponsor and friends in the fellowship who help me along my path. I am also here to help others on their path to recovery. Today, I am grateful for the willingness to take baby steps.

DA fellowship as my scaffolding 

 

Some great advice I got from my sponsor was to “find my help and use my help.”  Often times my help comes in the form of DA members.  Over the last two years I’ve spent time at meetings and on the phone in between meetings with members of the fellowship, and they have become an important part of my recovery.  I have built up a network of people around me, much like one uses scaffolding to build a new structure.  I have been built anew by the steps and the help of the DA fellowship.  Now, when life presents me with problems and struggles that previously felt unmanageable and too overwhelming to deal with, I have a support structure in place that I can lean upon.  I have found my help and now I know how to use that help.  All I have to do is pick up the phone and reach out to my DA fellowship.  Through their help, the help of my Higher Power, and the steps, I will be guided to sanity and solutions.

Keeping my Higher Power Highest

Throughout my life, different things have been my Higher Power.  A certain job that I loved and prioritized above all else, or the person I was dating.  When I was in active addiction, different substances were a higher power.  Before recovery, the looming black cloud of deep depression was a higher power.  

Once I got into recovery and the steps, I was encouraged to find a true Higher Power, or God of my understanding – a Power greater than myself that could restore me to sanity.  In other words, Step 2.  I can honestly say that after many months of praying and working the steps, this Power relieved me of the obsession to drink and helped me to recover from the hopeless dark pit of deep depression. 

My challenge today, now that I am not in that deep dark hole of depression, is to keep my Higher Power the highest priority in my life.  For example, I recently started a short term job in a field that I am very passionate about.  It has been very demanding and time consuming, and I’m finding that this position is consuming my thoughts, actions, and life.  When I talked to my sponsor about this, she asked “So, has this job has become your Higher Power?”  I realized she was right!  Where was God in my life?  In my thoughts?  How can I be working Step 3 if I am not cognizant of my Higher Power and turning my will and my life over to His care?  I realized this job had become my priority in life, instead of my Higher Power and my recovery.  I am grateful for this reminder, so that I can get back on track.  I know that when I don’t place my Higher Power and my recovery first in my life, I start to slip back into old thinking patterns and old behaviors, which for me will lead me back into depression. 

Thank you, God, that You are always there for me, ready and willing to help me, no matter how many times I stray.

Roadblocks and pitfalls in recovery

I think sometimes people have the idea that recovery is a straight line angled upward with a positive slope.  For me, that is not the case.   My recovery is a conglomeration of sine waves, bumps, upward swoops, pot holes, and squiggly lines.  Overall, it does have a positive upward slope.  In other words, as the promises state, I have more good days than bad. Today, I have many more good days than bad.

But what to do on those bad days?  That is the question.  How do I navigate recovery when I am in a downward slope, have a roadblock or a pitfall?  How do I get through this period of mild depression?

First of all, I remind myself that This too shall pass.  It may sound cliché, but it is true!  If I am having a difficult day, I do not have to let it become a bad couple of days or a bad week.  I do not have to let it go to a moderate or severe depression.  Sometimes I can even limit it to bad moments.  The point is, this depressing feeling will not last forever.  I do have a choice to realize that it is temporary, to do something about it and not let it take over.

So what do I do about it?

The program gives me tools.  It’s up to me to use them.  Sometimes I have to pray for the willingness to use them.  The willingness to help myself undepress myself and stop being a victim.  When I’m in a pitfall, I feel alone and isolated. That is my disease talking to me.  The reality is that I’m in a program with people who understand me and care about me.  I can reach out to them and be honest about how I’m feeling.  This simple but sometimes difficult action really does help me a lot.  By telling on my feelings, I feel less isolated and more connected to others.   Another thing I do is journal to my Higher Power.  I tell my Higher Power what I’m thinking and feeling.  Sometimes I follow it up with journaling from my Higher Power to me.  This is the voice of truth.  This helps me to contradict those negative thoughts and see the truth as my Higher Power sees it.   When I’m in a slump, I’ve learned that it’s okay to be in a slump and to be kind and loving with myself through this period.  I’ve learned that my recovery is not a straight line upwards, and that it’s okay for me to have some squiggly parts and bumps in that recovery journey.  I can learn to give myself that same love and compassion that I would give another struggling person.  Another tool I like to use is the “way to go self” list.  When I’m in a slump, I focus on the negative, specifically those “I’m not good enough” statements.  I neglect seeing my positives.  So I make a list of my assets or those things that I am doing well, or those things that I am accomplishing.  And I’ll give myself double stars for doing something positive when I don’t feel like doing it – because that is extra difficult for me!  So by making a point to look at the positive things I am doing, it helps me gain clarity and see the positives.

To sum up, bumps in the road of recovery are part of the process for me today.  It doesn’t mean I’m bad or need to shame myself.  It means that life happens, and now I have an opportunity to use the tools this program gives me – IF I choose to do so.

Stacy S