Category Archives: Act As If

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.

Take heed – live your life on purpose!

heed: to give consideration or attention to
Source: https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/heed

I don’t know about you, but my autopilot is broken – it takes me to deep, dark places. My default setting is to come from a place of judgment, looking for the negative in the world. The funny thing is that what you seek is what you find. If I look for the negative that is what I will find. If I look for the good I will find that as well. It all comes down to focus – what am I paying attention to? Some of the things that I need to pay attention to are:

  • circumstance – What are the facts of my current situation? If I can’t express it through by describing it through one of my senses there is a good chance there is a judgment in there as well. “It is raining” is a fact. “It is raining, this sucks” is a fact followed by a judgment. Am I labeling things as they truly are, or am I imposing my judgment on the situation?
  • thought – What are my thoughts around my circumstances? Am I judging or in a place of non-acceptance? Am I caught in any form of stinking thinking? Am I remembering a past hurt? Am I projecting my thoughts of what could happen to the situation at hand?
  • feeling – What emotion am I experiencing regarding my thoughts? The 7 base emotions are: sad, mad, glad, afraid, embarrassed, lonely, guilty. Something like jealousy is an emotion like anger coupled with a thought. Try to label just the emotion. Is my emotional reaction right-sized to the current circumstance? For instance, being slightly annoyed at your waiter for being slow is one thing, but being rageful is not right-sized to the situation.
  • action – What action do I undertake that is motivated by my feeling? Is acting from a place of intense emotion the best course of action I can take? You can be angry about how someone hurt you, but if you act from that place of anger you may be punitive. Respond to being hurt, but try not to respond from the place of anger.
  • result – What is the outcome of your actions? Just doing the action does not guarantee that we get the result that we want. It is up to us to do the leg work and cultivate an environment that can manifest our desired outcome, but the resulting outcome is in our Higher Power’s hands. Do the work and turn the result over to God.

It is my belief that life is meant to be lived on purpose. When I am adrift on autopilot I will get taken to dark places. I strive to pay attention and give consideration as to what the best course of action is. Sometimes I need to be satisfied with what is the best possible action given my current state of mind.

Take heed – pay attention and try to act from a place of calm and serenity. You’ll be amazed at the change you will see.

Yours in recovery, Bill R

Metaphor for my depression

OK, I’m acknowledging and admitting in public that I have depression. I choose not to say that I suffer from depression, as I believe suffering is a choice. Here I mean the Buddhist interpretation of suffering, the mental and emotional anguish that we put ourselves through when we don’t accept the present moment for what it is.

Pain is part of the human experience, suffering is optional.

I choose to say instead that I have depression, or that I sometimes experience the symptoms of depression. This simple change of the words I use to describe my condition allows for space for the possibility that someday I won’t have depression, or that I don’t experience the symptoms of depression.

Why all this talk about words? Well words have great power. If you read Genesis, God first spoke “Let there be light”, then light existed. Words are the first step of creation. The words I choose to use help create my reality.

Many of us view life as a series of metaphors. Some view life as a race, others view it as a game, still others see it as a constant struggle. What metaphor do I use to describe my depression?



As I mentioned in a prior post, humans are dualistic beings. I see myself as two beings in one:

  1. a wounded inner child
  2. a mature outer adult

My depression shows itself by a lack of energy, a lack of progress, and a lack of emotion. The swing is not moving.

The depression is a manifestation of my wounded inner child. It is sitting in the swing. It is petulent and drags its feet in the sand. Sometimes it goes so far as to pump its legs in the opposite direction to prevent progress.

My outer mature adult is smaller than the depression. I can’t give a single push to get the depression swinging. I have to time my pushes, and consistently apply positive actions in my life. I have to encourage the inner child to lift his feet. After that I can encourage the inner child to begin pumping his legs so swinging isn’t relying totally on my smaller outer self.

It’s not a perfect metaphor mind you, but it is fairly consistent with my experience with my depression. I am hopeful that consistently giving gentle pushes I will emerge from the depression, free and happy once again. This future is possible for you too.

Yours in recovery, Bill R

Staying out of the loop. Creating your own circuit-breaker!

One of the characteristics of the depression experience is to get lost in the loop of negativity. The more we try to think our way out of the mental labyrinth with our mind circling down into the deeper pit of sadness, the more locked and immobilized we become.

So, how do we stay out of the swirling cycle of despair? The loop is our master taking over our minds and emotions. Once we have managed to stay out of the loop, I discovered what frees me and breaks the chain that shackles my motivation.

What I find helpful and kind of simple is to distract myself and do something that takes me out of the loop momentarily as I focus on something else. This something else could be to go for a walk. Talk to a friend. Go to a mall. Visit a lonely friend. Choose your own distracter.

I will give a personal example where I found a distraction strategy that works. Because I was wearing out my mind with my continuous negative swirling thoughts, I was reminded how fatigue is an indicator of feeling depressed and helpless. When I became tired, I would automatically head for the coach. This just prolonged the pain, and it was when I said, “No, not this time,” I went to my desk and started to do some work on my computer. In a short time, my mind was focused on my writing and not on the assumption that I needed a nap. Even though I am no longer depressed, I still find this distraction strategy a real loop-breaker.

So, if you find yourself beating yourself up, ruminating, and mentally circling round and round, going nowhere but down, you’ll need at last 5 circuit-breakers ready to plug in when the looping begins. Be prepared!

Share this idea/strategy at your Depressed Anonymous meetings and let others in the group try it out when their own loop starts rolling.

Hugh

I need to get prepared for a new me today!

I am getting healthier the more I realize that I don’t have to feel the way that I feel. I have the option to feel content and even smile today if I so desire. I will act like I want to smile again even though I don’t feel like smiling.

“If you have made yourself a martyr to your unappreciative family, remember the principle of partial reinforcement and apply it to your family. If you are always at their beck and call trying to meet their every demand, they will not appreciate you, but once they see that they cannot rely on you to to meet their demands, they will appreciate what you do for them.” (Breaking the Bonds, D. Rowe.Fontana, 1991).

REFLECTION
i Know that so often those who are codependent and live all the time in everyone else’s feelings need to remember that the real maturity and happiness lies in being there for me — not for everyone else. I think that reflection points out the fact that I need to reinforce my own worth by going to DA meetings, actively getting involved with my own recovery over anything and everyone else. I am going to begin to be a pleasant person. I will want to learn how to be pleasant to myself.
Now is the time and this is the program where I start to detach from other people’s opinion of myself and start to reflect where I start to detach from those people’s opinions of myself and start to reflect on my own opinion of myself. When I am depressed, I know that I haven’t been able to get angry, not to forgive anyone, much less forgive myself. I feel cheerless. I meet my own demands and continue to work the steps so as to get in touch with what I need to do to reinforce those positive concepts that I am forming about myself. I need to get prepared for a new me today.
“We are now on a different basis: the basis of trusting and relying upon God, our Higher Power. We trust an infinite God rather than our finite selves. Just to the extent that we do as we think he would have us do, and humbly rely on him, does he enable us to match calamity with serenity.” (As Bill sees it.p.265).

MEDITATION
When we gradually work our way to the real self we get closer to the God who made us.

RESOURCE
Copyright(c) Higher Thoughts for Down Days: 365 daily thoughts and meditations for 12 step fellowship groups. Depressed Anonymous Publications. Louisville, KY. Hugh Smith. Pages 14-15.

You Can Do This!

Fighting and managing depression can seem like a daunting task. I know as I feel overwhelmed at times. You don’t need to stay stuck in depression. You can take action. Any action is better than inaction and isolation. Get out of yourself and do service for others. The others can be others with depression, or they can just be the downtrodden in need of support. The women in World War II rose to the challenge and went to work (Rosie the Rivetter pictured here). You can rise to the challenge of doing something to help with your depression.

Easy does it, but do it!
– Slogan heard in AA meeting

If you’ve read any of Tony Robbins work he recommends taking massive action. Being in the depths of depression what does massive action look like? Here are some things that when you are in the depths of depression that are massive actions:

  • Have a sleep regimen. Go to bed at the same time, and get up at the same time every day. I’m not expecting you to be an early riser, but have a routine.
  • Making your bed every time you get up from bed.
  • Personal hygiene. Take a shower. Shave (wherever appropriate).
  • Brush and floss your teeth.
  • Wash, fold, and put away your laundry.
  • Clean the bathroom.
  • Wash the dishes (machine washed is fine) and put them away.
  • Get dressed. My recommendation is to the level of business casual. You will feel like you have more of a purpose.
  • Get outside and take a 20 minute walk.

Put these little regimens into your life. Why did I use the word regimen?

regimen: a manner of living intended to preserve or restore health
Source: https://www.dictionary.com/browse/regimen

No one likes regimen. You are doing it for a purpose. You are attempting to restore health and sanity into your life. As you begin to do these things your depression will lighten, albeit very slightly. The slightly lighter mood will enable you to do even more massive actions. These future more massive actions will have an even greater impact on your depression.

What will those more massive actions look like? I don’t know, that depends upon you. Take the little actions of regimen. You can do those little things. Your depression will lessen even if it’s a mere one tenth of one percent. Accept the challenge, you can do it!

Then you can do even greater things that will have a greater positive impact on your depression.

Yours in recovery, Bill R

I practice seeing life as hopeful and filled with promise

“You dismantle your depression by thoroughly examining your own beliefs and how you construct your world. It’s in the way we usually think about ourselves and the world that enables us to predict with accuracy the way things turn out.” Dr. Dorothy Rowe.

In the past I usually predicted gloom and doom about everything that I chose to do. I always felt that whatever I did or whatever I tried to do would end up in the trash. I never felt that I could do anything worthwhile because I never really considered anything I did in the past as being worthwhile. I predicted that nothing would ever turn out for me – and  you know, I was right!  Now I am predicting success as I am beginning to value myself and the things that I do.  I have found with some small experience that the more I predict success, the more that success appears on my horizon. It this what they call a self-fulfilling prophecy?

My depression made me  an excellent prognosticator. These things were always bad. I always had cancer, was suffering from a heart attack or had some rare and incurable disease. I was always seeing life from the negative and hopeless side. I was learning that it is only when I practice seeing life as hopeful and filled with promise, that I discover my mood beginning  to lift.  I am feeling more cheerful like when I used to have hope in my life but took it for granted.”

MEDITATION

WE TRUST OUR GOD, TO LET US SEE LIFE AS IT IS AND NOT AS WE USUALLY THINK OF IT WHEN WE ARE DEPRESSED. I SEE LIFE WITH PROMISE AND POSSIBILITIES.

Copyright(c) Higher Thoughts   for down days: 365 daily thoughts and meditations for members of 12 Step fellowship groups. Depressed Anonymous Publications. Louisville.KY.

Copyright(C) Depressed Anonymous, 3rd edition. (2011) Depressed Anonymous Publications. Louisville. KY.

#METOO. Shouting out our anger and rage

THIS SOUNDS RIGHT

Dorothy Smith has shown how women are forced into a secondhand understanding of the world. Women are trained to invalidate their own experiences, understanding, and feelings and to look to men to tell them how to view themselves. Ideas, concepts, images, and vocabularies that women use to think about their experiences have been formulated from the male point of view by universities, churches, and other social institutions.

In Women and Madness Phyllis Chesler  describes  women’s experiences as psychiatric patients. Very few of the women she interviewed appears to have a mental disturbance. Most were unhappy and responding to the oppression in their lives. Seeking help, Chelser  pointed out, is not valued in our society, and women seemed to be punished “for their own good” by the institution for exhibiting such weakness.

Jean Baker Miller looked at the relations between dominant and subordinate groups. She isolated certain characteristics of subordinate groups as typical of any irrationally unequal power  relations based on ascribed status such  as race religion or sex. Those in  a relationship of subordination need to survive, above anything else. Direct response to destructive treatment must be avoided, as it may be met with rejection, punishment, or even death. Women who step out of line Miller noted, can suffer a combination of social ostracism, economic hardship, and psychological isolation. They may even be diagnosed as having a personality disorder if they do not conform to the male-defined norm for a woman.

If conflict cannot be expressed openly, it is turned inward and the ground is fertile for depression. Once depression is identified, the victim is blamed for her illness, and she accepts this responsibility until she is helped to examine her own self-defeating patterns, to see how she allows  herself to be victimized.”

SOURCE:  Melva Steen, Ph.D, RN. Historical Perspectives on Women and mental illness and preventing of depression in women using a feminist perspective. Issues in Mental Health Nursing, 12:359-374, 1991.

Appeared in THE ANTIDEPRESSANT TABLET in the Spring  edition  (v.5, #3: 8-9).1994. 

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The following is an excerpt from the Basic Text for the fellowship of Depressed Anonymous world wide.

Depressed Anonymous, 3rd edition , 2011,2008, 1998. Depressed Anonymous Publications. Louisville. Ky. Page 82.

“Maybe I need to make amends to my children for  making a clean house the number one priority the number one priority and never allowing them to give expression to their feelings. Or maybe I was the good daughter or son who never told anyone how I really felt because I was afraid of how my parents would react. Now we might be dredging up all the old feelings of anger and resentment that we have submerged under a mask of  kindness ands sweetness over the years. We need to voice our anger for having to act like someone we aren’t. I can think of many women who in therapy begin to get in touch with the times when as little girls, they were conditioned to think that good little girls didn’t get angry, and so they stuffed and sat upon all these powerful and unpleasant emotions. Feelings that are not expressed can accumulate in our bodies and can’t get out until we share them and express them. These stuffed feelings get lodged in our bodies and immobilize us until we feel completely wrung out!

Some have heard all their lives that you shouldn’t get angry as mother won’t love you anymore. This makes it quite difficult suddenly to shout out our rage and anger at a world that has made women in general feel less than second-class citizens. ”