Category Archives: Depressed Anonymous

Stick to the plan. A prescription for change today.

It took me awhile to put into practice a simple idea. That idea is to do the same thing, day after day, in the same place and at the same time. If you have trouble following through on ideas or commitments, then you might feel better about reading the next few paragraphs.

With different situations in my life, some upheavals, some turning points, changes in my life goals, plus trying to do to much at the same time. It was somehow never easy to do what I knew needed to be dome. I used as my mantra “I’ll do it when I feel better.” In fact, this idea seemed to express perfectly, what I was doing, so I titled one of my books after it. Gradually, procrastination, I sensed, would not fit into my recovery program. I had put off for too long to knuckle down and start to do the work that I needed to do.

Here is my plan. I know it can work for you as well. There is no particular time limit on how long your prayer time is to be.

1. Everyday, I have found that morning works for me, I go to the quiet place that is best for my time alone with God, and start with a daily reading of Higher Thoughts for Down Days: 365 Daily Thoughts and Meditations for 12 Step Fellowships. This reading begins with an Affirmation, then a reflection, and a final meditation. I have my notebook handy and I write down a positive thought that I want to carry me through my day. Most of the time this is a simple single sentence.

2. I then read and reflect on a paragraph or two from our Depressed Anonymous manual.This is coupled with the accompanying Depressed Anonymous Workbook, where personal reflections, in the form of questions, help me clarify how I think about myself. These questions continue to uncover issues which I might have never encountered, becoming the positive basic building blocks, helping with an understanding of the nature of my own depression experience, and developing in myself strategies, the 12 spiritual principles of growth, for my personal recovery, day-by-day.

It’s not complicated. It’s a plan. This time of prayer and meditation is a powerful way to make “conscious contact” with the God of your understanding. (Check out Chapter 10 in “I’ll do it when I feel better.” This chapter discusses more fully the topic of prayer and meditation.

Resources

(c)Hugh Smith. Higher Thoughts for Down Days:365 Daily Thoughts and Meditations. Depressed Anonymous Publications. Louisville, Ky.
(c) Depressed Anonymous, THIRD EDITION (2011) Depressed Anonymous Publications. Louisville, KY
(c) The Depressed Anonymous Workbook, (2002) Depressed Anonymous Publications.Louisville, Ky.
(C)Hugh Smith. I’ll do it when I feel better. (2020) Depressed Anonymous Publications. Louisville, Ky.

+ These works can by ordered online at www.Depressedanon.com. Click onto The Depressed Anonymous Publications Bookstore.

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. ❤

I still prefer to cling to the so-called illusion of religion. – Bill W., co-founder of AA

Bill W., the co-founder of Alcoholics Anonymous, wrote this to a friend in 1946, sharing this thought:

Many people soberly assure me that man has no more place in the universe than that of another competing organism, fighting its way through life only to perish in the end. Hearing this, I feel that I still prefer to cling to the so-called illusion of religion, which in my own experience has meaningfully told me something very different.

REFERENCE
Copyright(c) As Bill Sees It: The A.A. Way of Life – Selected Writings of A. A’s co-founder. Alcoholics Anonymous World Services, New York 1967. Page 137.

Being on the level keeps us up right!

When working as a bricklayer or doing carpentry work, I always needed this instrument for measuring horizontal or perpendicular planes to see if they were level. A little air bubble in a tube, partially filled with liquid, has to lie in the center of the tube to indicate whether the plane is level.

In our Depressed Anonymous recovery program, being on the level with myself, my family, others, and my God (Higher Power) is what this 12 Step recovery program is about. In the first of the twelve steps, “We admitted that we were powerless over depression and that our lives had become unmanageable.” Depressed Anonymous, 3rd edition. p.28). From this moment on, as I walk along with others in our fellowship, I learn from the positive results that come when I am on the level with myself and others in our program of recovery. I admitted how in my past life, I was not always on the level with others. And by not being on the level, I gradually built for myself a prison–a prison without a door. I was in lockdown, sometimes for short periods of time, and sorry to say, for most of my life.

With the Twelve Step program, you can recover – although most likely not right away. Let’s be honest– nothing that has taken the greater part of a lifetime to build can be dismantled in a few days or weeks. But you will feel better if you follow the instructions in this book (Depressed Anonymous, 3rd edition (2011) Depressed Anonymous Publications. Louisville, KY). I am still following the instructions in this book, with all those other kindred spirits, who like myself continue to be “on the level” with fellow members of the fellowship.

Hugh S.

Source:

Depressed Anonymous 3rd Edition, © 2011, Depressed Anonymous Publications, Louisville KY.

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.

Depressed? Here is a way out!

In 1990 the Depressed Anonymous group in Louisville, Kentucky, published the first Depressed Anonymous book, Depressed? Here is a way out! Using the Suggested Twelve Step Program of recovery. The Depressed Anonymous group had formed a year earlier and decided that we needed a written account of the Twelve Steps and their positive effect on our lives. Because depression was the reason for our coming together, just as an alcoholic has the Twelve steps for their recovery, we found the Twelve spiritual principles of the Steps as having the same positive effect. At the time, little did we ever believe that Depressed Anonymous would continue to grow beyond the city limits of Louisville. That was never our intent but only to have something we could use as our own book for study, meetings, and personal reflection. And then, in 1998, the first edition of Depressed Anonymous was published. In 2002 the Depressed Anonymous Workbook was published.

Fast forward to 2021, this June; we have launched our new publication Dep-Anon, a Twelve Step recovery program for families and friends of the depressed. Depressed Anonymous and Dep-Anon are two sides of the same coin. Each group has an integral relationship with the other. Each group member has some effect on the life of the other. Is this not like Al-Anon and Alcoholics Anonymous. Each group is focused on their own lives, using the Twelve Steps as the core for their own recovery. In Al-Anon, they learn that they cannot “fix” the alcoholic family member but only fix themselves. In other words, each needs to “stay in their own lane.”

My critical parent has informed me that this relationship cannot work. Some family members still see us, depressed, as unwilling to go to work, get out of bed – (if you are depressed, you know the drill), etc., etc. Moving my critical parent aside with all their negative thinking, I have decided to develop a Dep=Anon family group manual and put it out there as a published work.

I know it will work as I know Al-Anon works for the family and friends of the alcoholic. Imitation, they say, is the highest form of flattery. So here we are. We hope to have a website, a Dep-Anon family group website, dedicated to the issues faced by depressed family members and providing essential positive information about the nature of depression. No “snap out of it” here. Family members with a depressed loved one will have their own group for support, just as the depressed has Depressed Anonymous.

If you would like to help us in this effort to bring hope to the family and their depressed loved ones, we will be grateful. Also, any thoughts from Depressed Anonymous members or a family with a depressed loved one are most welcome. If you want to help design or develop a website that will be interactive and provide help for all, please let us know at depanon@netpenny.net, providing help to the family and the depressed. The Dep-Anon website will be separate from the Depressed Anonymous website, with its own address.

See www.depressedanon.com at the Depressed Anonymous Bookstore. Also, see the Depressed Anonymous literature location on website.

Thank you for the fellowship, Hugh

I have been depressed. Am I a long-hauler?

Who are the long haulers? This term has arisen out of the common experiences of those persons “who have not fully recovered from Covid-19 weeks or even months after first experiencing symptoms.” Some of those symptoms (which form a syndrome) are loss of taste, smell, fatigue, and shortness of breath. These are just a few of a myriad of experiences of those who have had Covid-19. These experiences last possibly for just a few weeks, for months, or longer.

In reflecting upon my experience with depression, I can identify with the long-hauler description of what I went through. I did feel the awfulness of fatigue. The lack of motivation to get out of bed. Confusion and the inability to concentrate. All of these were present day after day for over a year. These symptoms of depression plagued me every day. I was a long-hauler.

Today, with two vaccines and wearing a mask, I hope that I am protected from catching the Covid virus. I am taking all the precautions that I know how to take, so far, so good.

In our Depressed Anonymous 12 Step fellowship groups, online and f2f groups, of which I am a member, I have heard about how many of us were long-haulers, some for months, some for years, and some for all of their lives. We know there are no vaccines for depression to protect us from past personal traumas, physical abuse, shame, guilt, to mention just a few, but there are ways to take down the symptoms of depression by using the protection and proactive use of our recovery tools.

By our involvement in our mutual aid group, Depressed Anonymous, I can say I am a former long-hauler who has left behind many of those burdens of feeling defeated, helpless and hopeless. That doesn’t mean that I no longer have past feelings pop up in my mind, causing me temporarily to focus on feelings that I thought were gone forever. Now I have the tools, the fellowship of meetings online every day that I hook onto, the literature which I read on a daily basis, plus another human being that like me is a long-hauler and in recovery.

Much like the symptoms associated with PTSD, we no longer pack in our minds those past feelings of doom and gloom, but I find there is a way out of the darkness and have hope. I have faced my fear-filled past terrors and replaced them with feelings of hope, gratitude, and faith in a power that is greater than myself. My long-haling days are in the past.

Hugh, for the fellowship

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.