Here are some ideas about leaving the prison of depression that just might work for you. They worked for me.
I hope that the following ideas and cautions work as well for you as they do for me. I have paraphrased a few of the thoughts of Dr. Aquilino Polaino-Lorente, Chair of Psychopathology at the Complutense University of Madrid Spain.
1) He says that the more time that we spend in bed when depressed the more difficult will be the recovery; 2) Physical exercise or some kind of sport are ever useful on addressing the illness that one suffers from; 3) He/she should not stay at home watching television but must go out and walk down streets or go to the mall, and begin to take up those small things that made him/her feel happy;4) NOT talking to other people is not a good travel companion for this illness: he/she must retrieve the relationships and social relationships of his friendships; 5) He/she must try to have a full day, even if this amounts to various kinds of small activities.”
SOURCE: Dolentium Hominum. Is Depression Solely a Matter of Medical Intervention?
I especially feel that talking to other folks about the way we feel is really a good place to start. Our Depressed Anonymous group can build healthy relationships. The Depressed Anonymous group gets us out of our isolation and a group solidarity focusing on recovery promotes a persistent effort to learn and live multiple ways to feel differently. Even though the gains might appear small at first, they in fact have an accumulating effect for living life with hope and vigor.
Some days I feel like my life is like that small boat on the ocean. I watch as the swirling waves and the thunderous noise of waves and wind wash over me. I watch as my small boat takes on water. No land is in sight. What to do? I pray. Have you ever had these feelings of helplessness? Well, let me tell you, I have had this experience more than I would like to admit.
One time in my life, one very difficult time for sure, I thought that my boat was sinking and that there was no recourse –no land in sight. This is when that deadening feeling of melancholia (depression) –like the Pac Man arcade game – began to chew me up. I knew something was wrong, but I didn’t know what exactly. The time to row, so to speak, was when I couldn’t get myself out of bed and knew that I had to get to land, get my body moving, the best way that I could. I had to keep rowing.
Gradually, by walking everyday, and forcing myself to do what I didn’t want to do, like exercise, I gradually regained my balance. And after a year of this activity (rowing) I began to notice that the wind howling around me gradually subsided. My boat was still afloat and I could see land. Safety. This all happened almost thirty years ago.
It was then that my 12 Step life began. Now, with each new day, before the sun pops up over the horizon, my day begins with prayer and the centering of my thoughts. In our program of recovery we call this a meditation experience. I then read the Higher Thoughts for this day. I also read the Depressed Anonymous book, plus entering thoughts in the Depressed Anonymous Workbook. All this is accomplished in that first hour of the day. I feel like I truly am now on solid rock. And it’s like I take these morning thoughts and with them begin my day. With Step Two … I “came to believe that a power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.” So this morning, I continue to “make a decision to turn my life and my will over to the care of God as we understand God to be.”
Turning my life over to to the care of God doesn’t mean I lay back and see what God is going to do…no, it means that I do my work and God will do his. And so I keep on rowing. Grab an oar!
Granted that this site is not about alcoholism but about depression. But let’s face it, many of those addicted to alcohol are also depressed. I think many depressed try and medicate the pain with alcohol and then end up with two conditions that they need help with. We call this a co-morbid addictive illness.
A few days ago I wrote about the “spiritual awakening” that gave Bill the jump start that he had to have in order to quit his drinking. For Bill it came down to either lose (surrender) his life to this mystic power or to the disease of alcoholism. After this special illumination of the hospital room and to his mind, he knew he could not continue his drinking.
Bill describes his thoughts about this epiphany in the following light:
I was the recipient of a tremendous mystic experience or “illumination” and at first it was very natural for me to feel that this experience staked me out as somebody very special.
But as I now look back upon this tremendous event, I can only feel very grateful. It now seems clear that the only special features of my experience were its suddenness and the overwhelming and immediate conviction that it carried.
In all other respects, however, I am sure that my own experience was essentially like that received by any A.A. member who has strenuously practiced our recovery program. Surely, the grace he received is also of God; the only difference is that he becomes aware of his gift more gradually. Source: AS Bill sees it.
I will let go of the negative thoughts about myself as soon as I am conscious that I am experiencing them.
“…try to live one day at a time.. We know from experience that our sobriety , our disappearance from sadness is due to letting go, admitting our powerlessness (Step 1) and coming to believe that a power greater than ourselves can restore us to sanity (Step 2).
I know that I have to continue to work on myself and the way that I speak to myself on an ongoing and daily basis. My letting go and letting God take over my life doesn’t mean that I’ll just sit back and let it do all the work, no, it means that I will work on myself and leave the outcome up to my Higher Power. I know that my life can be lived differently if I just make an effort to choose to be conscious of the thoughts that I let myself ruminate and think about during the day. The more I monitor my thoughts, the more I am able to filter out the negative thoughts and have them replaced with positive and constructive thoughts. We call them SUNSPOTS (Depressed Anonymous).
So often when I am depressed I continue a thinking style that was learned as a small child. I am not even conscious as to how I would always select the negative attributes about myself to reflect upon instead of attempting to think positive and hopeful thoughts about myself and relationships. The more I believe that I have a choice as to how I am to feel, the more I become conscious of the thoughts that influence the way I feel.
Going to a mutual aid group, which focuses on depression, enables us to share with others how we talk to ourselves and what we tell ourselves, day after day. Do we like what we hear when we share with others our continued negative thinking? I would think not.
MEDITATION FOR TODAY
God, let us just for today, dwell on your mercy and kindness. Your are not the harsh judge of my childhood. You are the God who loves us just the way we are. God is like the Mother who continues to love the child of her womb.
SOURCE: HIGHER THOUGHTS FOR DOWN DAYS(C) December 14.
It takes one to know one is true. Following my own depression experience and the setting up of Depressed Anonymous groups did I realize that I had an experience which could be used to help others. I knew what it felt like to suffer the physical symptoms of depression. Following the attainment of my Master’s degree in Counseling Psychology, I discovered many in my practice came seeking help to overcome their depression. Gradually it dawned on me that I could be a source of support to others — just by sharing my own struggle with depression. Once I shared with my clients my own battles with the dark monster, it became clear by sharing my own story that they began to open up about their own battle with the dark monster. My clients found someone who could not only relate to their own story about isolation, shame and the continual physical pain caused by depression–but they heard how helplessness and despair had given way to hope! My own story validated their story. That it takes one to know one is so true.
This is where Bill W., (co-founder of AA) learned the greatest lesson, namely that an addict will be more open to listen to some one who has or is fighting the same battles that you are fighting. And the best is that by using the program of recovery that we have used and still use today, might find life starting to be lived with serenity and hope.
It is not complicated. Here it is, laid out simply and to the point. I was once severely depressed and now I am not. How did this happen one will ask? It happened by believing that by being part of a fellowship of people just like myself and following a way of life, marked out step by step, that I, like Bill W., and all other addicts will see how with our belief that I can get better, get better. It does take work and time. We learn to not live in our past -it’s gone forever- and not to live in the future–but to live in the now, today. All we have is this 24 hour period. As the Yiddish saying goes, “to share my story is to save my life.” It’s so true. When I discovered the 12 Steps, shared my story and made prayer and meditation a part of my daily routine, I began to taste the freedom that comes with that ‘spiritual awakening’ which occurs when we are able to share our story with those still suffering. The depressed newcomer will know that you are the “real deal.” And if you are fortunate enough to find a group in your locale you then will find out what we all have all discovered–it takes one to know one.
Yes, what we believe about ourselves can and does make all the difference in the world. Yesterday we were sharing how certain people, places, situations and things have had power over our lives. Even those earlier and long forgotten relationships with significant others are still kicking around in our psyche’s.
As we continue to work through these relationships and attitudes about ourselves (less than) the following quote from our Depressed Anonymous Workbook says it best:
” We have given ourselves over to the belief that this growing feeling of helplessness is what must govern our lives, moods and behavior. We have given it license to run roughshod over every part of our life and over our relationships. Most people can’t see inside us and discover the pain that makes up every waking moment. For the most part we are able to hide how miserable we feel.” Depressed Anonymous Workbook, Step 2/ Page 12.
What power have you given over to others that you are willing to reclaim? And speaking of power–what Power greater than yourself are you able to turn to when you feel hopeless and helpless? And this power, has it been able to help you feel more in control of your life? Just some things to ponder today.
“Once we admit that our depressed thinking is what conditions us to see our world as a hopeless place to live, the more we will try to change the way we think.”
When I am able to admit that I have need of improvement for some area of my life, things can begin to happen. I believe that now that I have a program in front of me that can help me to feel better, the more I will use it on a daily basis. As one member of the 12 Step group, DEPRESSED ANONYMOUS, points out, “I had to go to open that door for the first time because there was no other place to go. I had already used up all the hiding places in my life.” Now that we admit we need help, help is on the way.
It is always difficult to change. Millions of others are leading lives of peace, sobriety and hope as they place their trust in their Higher Power and commit themselves to learning how to feel differently. They are learning that by having faith in God, themselves, and the fellowship of the group, life does indeed get better. I am going to get better, the more I work and live the 12 Steps.
O God, we know that our hope in you is what will make it possible for us to find hope in our lives each and every day.
SOURCE: Higher Thoughts for December 4th, 2014.
“We admitted that we were powerless over depression and that our life was unmanageable.”
Granted this is not the most happiest of thoughts to read as we get going this day. But you know what? It’s at this point in your life that something, some attitude change is going to give you courage to take back control over your life. Years ago when I was doing a project for my degree work I discovered, (like I didn’t know it by my own life experiences) that when a person feels they have control over their life and life’s circumstances that their symptoms of depression start to disappear. So, is this a fact or is it something somebody just told me, without any foundation in fact. The truth of the matter is, that when I felt most helpless and hopeless and my life was falling apart, I had no control. It was literally the feeling of sliding down that slippery slope. I actually felt at that moment like my life was truly spinning out of control. I can even remember the place, the time of day when it happened. That was in 1985. I was completely powerless. Helpless. All alone in my pit of isolation. Alone with my secret. I looked the same. No one knew the disabling effect this paralyzing had in my life. But I knew. That was the important issue here. I knew. I felt the total pain of the isolation.
And now these many years latter, I still use the Steps for CLARIFICATION OF THOUGHT. Back to Step One where we say we “admitted…” In our Workbook it states that “But what good is it to admit that our depression has made us feel powerless? I already know what you might say? That is why I have spent thousands of dollars on hospitals, doctors, counselors and drugs!” But really for a person to admit that they are powerless is what gives us new power –paradoxically. It’s like in the letting go of a death grip on our continued sadness that makes the sadness gradually wither and die.. But somehow – again I don’t know how it all works –when I say I am depressed, deflated, and down and have the 12 Steps and the fellowship at my side there is a small ray of lite starting to shine in my mind and heart. It’s like saying I’ve had it this way all my life —depressed and isolated- now I’ll try it your way.”
Here is the next question that can help clarify some of your thinking today.
One of the major ways people help build the walls of depression is to believe the following statement: “Since bad things happened to me in the past, bad thing are bound to happen to me in the future. ” Today, reflect, be aware of your own feelings, write down on paper your response, then get motivated to do something now, today. Do something which will motivate you to move and perform an activity that you can achieve just today. You are building a future one day at a time. Keep it simple!
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.”
” But I’ve always done it this way.”
“But I have always been this way.”
“This is just how I am.”
Stuck! How often does someone tell us one of the above excuses or all of the above on first showing up at a Depressed Anonymous meeting. They tell us that they are “sick and tired of being sick and tired.” They come to those of us who have said the same thing in the past. Like those who stick with the fellowship of persons like themselves, persons depressed, they learn how our lives were before participating in our program of recovery and how our life is today. The change that we talk about is like night and day. The BEFORE describes a life of darkness and despair and the NOW describes a life filled with light and hope.
Now, by using the four stage process of change: 1. Be aware 2) Be motivating 3) Be doing 4) Be maintaining we can examine our past. We begin to see how our excuses which keep us imprisoned in depression many times originate growing up in a dysfunctional family. This loss of trust and love and in some cases, even loss of provision for basic survival needs such as food, shelter and physical safety, conditions us to a feeling of being helpless and depressed. Sometimes this chronic depression is masked and defended against by compulsive activity and perfectionistic kinds of striving. Becoming “tireless” and “limitless caretakers of others defends a person against his or her own neediness and yearning to be care for.
So, how can we promote a positive change? How does this change come about? Well, first of all, we admit we have a problem. For some of us, a life-threatening problem. We became aware something is wrong. Then we believed that we had to do something about this problem. We came to the DA group. We discovered that the members of the group learned how to motivate themselves and get into action. We found a way that gave us hope. We found a map that continues to lead us out of the darkness. Finally, one’s motivation is followed by action. We got into action and continued to find ways to change ourselves. We have the tools to change our selves, one Step at a time. We are no longer alone. No more excuses. We now have a solution. How about you?