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?
1) Educates and informs us about our experience of depression. 2) Nurtures us so that we can begin to share and to trust our unpleasant feelings with others. 3) Accepts us and does not make judgements about our experiences with depression. In other words, we don’t hear “snap out of it” in the group. 4) Teaches coping skills by our frequent meetings and group membership interaction. It provides us with a “toolbox” of new skills we can utilize in our overcoming of sadness. 5) Empowers us to believe that there is truly a way out of our depression. One of the major benefits of our group is you can hear how other persons depressed have made it out of depression. (Read the Personal Stories in Depressed Anonymous). It is clear that the program works best for those who keep coming back to meetings.
There are multiple benefits that come to those of us who are committed to being active participants in our fellowship of Depressed Anonymous. I should know, I am one of the active participants.
The car I drive is a manual shift (stick) and has 5 gears. I like the stick shift better than automatic–it seems that I can feel the power of the engine when I go from one gear to the next.
When I bought an older Honda this last month, I made sure it was a shift. I gave it a test drive and the gears shifted smoothly from one gear to the next. I bought the vehicle.
How does this Test drive idea apply to depression? I’m glad you asked. Many times people when they come to a Depressed Anonymous meeting for the first time–it’s similar to test driving a car. They want to check out how many miles the car gets to a liter/gal of gas. Like, they want to know if this group will give them all that it promises . Is there a warranty with the group? Well, as a matter of fact there are. On page 109 in the Depressed Anonymous book the warranty itemizes everything that is yours. You will see them as the Promises of what can happen if you work the recovery program as outlined in our manual. I guess you would call the Depressed Anonymous book our manual. In fact, it has been written by persons who test drove the program and found it helped propel them into a life of healing and a fellowship of those many others who found it did what it promised. It always put them on the road.
When I was setting up Depressed Anonymous, a spiritual program of recovery in a State Prison a number of years back, one of the members of the group told us that he didn’t believe in God. He had been test driving the program and discovered that Step Two, (Gear 2?) “came to believe that a power greater than myself could restore me to sanity.” “Well,” he said his “Higher Power was his Prison DA group.” This is the engine that gave him the most mileage. In fact, after test driving it for weeks it was just what he was looking for–a trust worthy vehicle that would take him to the end of his journey–one day at a time. This group was the only engine with a warranty that was good all day, every day, and was good for the life of the engine. Since everyone in the group were all affected by depression, or the same engine problems they could speak to each other in the same language. No one was alone and isolated. The toolbox was there for each of the group and all of them had engines that were humming because they were all familiar with each of the gears and knew how to keep learning more about how all the gears (steps) were to work together.
Sign up today if you would like to test drive our vehicle of tested quality. We have everything you would like to know about our vehicle. Keep in touch. There is always a “pit crew” standing by to offer help.
Copyright(c) Higher Thoughts for down days: 365 daily thoughts and meditations for 12 step fellowship groups. Depressed Anonymous Publications Louisville, Kentucky
An excerpt with some modifications and additions from Higher Thoughts for today, November 15.
NO LONGER WILL WE ACCEPT OUR PAST THINKING THAT OUR WORTH IS BASED ON OUR ABILITY TO PRODUCE.
I am going to be alert to those times during the day today, when I give myself the message that I could have done something better. These messages are from an old hypercritical tape from my childhood. Guilt rides roughshod over us when we fail to live up to the expectations we have of ourselves or those held by others about us. ( My 3rd grade teacher compared me to my brother, who was very smart, and said that I would never be like him, meaning brilliant. She was right, I am not brilliant. But it was only until I was in my 30’s did I realize that I had other qualities. Like it really didn’t matter anymore what she thought.) Since I have admitted that I am depressed, (Aware, motivated, doing, and maintaining positive behaviors) I am able to change certain old ways of thinking and behaving.
Our worth comes from the earliest childhood memories. The more we are able to get in touch with early images and feelings that we hold about ourselves the more clearly can we see that what we feel as adults is many times based on early childhood emotions. I am depending more now on my Higher Power to get me safely to those early days and those feelings. I will also talk to a friend today about my childhood experiences. I am not perfect–so what?
With God on our side, we can’t fail. God loves us just the way we are.
Today, we can look at the Motivating Stage –One of the Four. We have talked about the first stage, namely that of just being Aware. And in the context of BLAMING ourselves, others or God, we have made ourselves aware of a character defect where blaming others works against our self. It is in the Aware stage that we realize that “something is really wrong with me” as David Karp points out in his insightful book Speaking of Sadness. I know the feeling. I knew that I couldn’t just stay in bed but had to do something to get rid of that all encompassing fatigue as well as reduce the tremors in my limbs and eliminate that horrible jittery feeling in my gut. This led me to make a decision –to get motivated— hoping against hope that I wasn’t losing my mind. I wasn’t going crazy.
In the Motivating Stage we are using our awareness to show us how our negative thinking and talking to ourselves has helped continue our sadness. It’s like we have a “wake-up” call telling us how all this negative and emotion laden self talk is making us depressed. And now I am making up my mind to change the way I talk to myself as well as motivate myself to follow the spiritual program of recovery–step by step. I also am trying to live in the present. All I have is just this 24 hours. This Motivating Stage prepares me to move to the DOING stage. I will do all it takes to quit the BLAME game and gradually accept responsibility for my life.
MOVE THE BODY AND THE MIND WILL FOLLOW!