Category Archives: Choice

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

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.

Today’s cleanliness can’t rely on yesterday’s shower

Bill, what the heck are you talking about?

Sometimes when we are depressed it feels like too much effort to take a shower. Sometimes you are just not in the mood. Cleansing yourself is not a chore, it is something you can do that is self-nurturing and you feel better as a result. Sometimes the shock of the water on your skin can feel like it’s too much. Continue on through it, you will eventually feel better.

So too goes recovery. Sometimes going to a meeting can feel like a chore and something you don’t want to do. Trust me, you will feel better as a result.

Diving into step work can be a shock to the system – who wants to take a fearless and moral inventory of themselves? Step work is just that, Work, but it is necessary if you want the deep healing and cleansing that is possible.

Some people say 12 Step programs are brainwashing. I don’t know about you, but my brain needs a good washing.

Recovery is all about achieving a daily reprieve from whatever your addiction is. Today’s sobriety can’t rely on yesterday’s recovery work. Recovery is a spiritual practice that you must practice. Not forever, just for today!

Dive in. Do the work. You are worth it!

Yours in recovery, Bill R

The potential reason why we’re depressed and anxious

There are many potential causes for depression and anxiety. Genetics, chemical imbalance in the brain, trauma, side effects of certain medications, and yet many more. Johann Hari, in his TED Talk This could be why you’re depressed or anxious suggests that many of us have the contributing factors of:

  • A feeling of not belonging
  • Lack of purpose in life

Depressed Anonymous can provide relief for both of those conditions. You belong here if you believe you belong here. As the Third Tradition states: The only requirement for Depressed Anonymous membership is a desire to stop saddening yourself. If you have the desire within you to stop saddening yourself then you can decide that you belong here. By participating in recovery you become part of. Participating could be sharing your story, but participating is also showing up and listening intently to your colleagues as they share their story.

Within Depressed Anonymous you have a purpose! Tradition Five states: Each group has but one primary purpose – to carry its message to the depressed person who still suffers. Each one of us can carry the message that a daily reprieve from depression is possible. By applying the spiritual principles of the Twelve Steps you can be relieved of the symptoms of depression for today.

Recovery is about progress, not perfection. Dark thoughts will come back to me. I have depression, and that is where my brain goes by default. With recovery I have a choice. I can choose to use the tools and techniques that I have learned here within Depressed Anonymous. Recovery will not magically take depression away for me forever but it is possible to have a daily reprieve from the darkness of depression. The following slogan sums this up for me:

The monkey is off my back, but the circus is still in town.

I don’t have to apply the spiritual principles each and every day, but rather I choose to apply the principles each day. I don’t have to take a shower each day, but I choose to do so, and I feel better as a result.

Yours in recovery, Bill R

I can’t be held responsible for my first thought

Big news flash everyone – I have depression. Given that fact I can’t be held responsible for my first thought. My first thought more often than not is dark, depressive, critical, judgmental and self-serving. I’ve had to accept that my brain is broken and this is its default. I forgive myself for my first thought. Learn to forgive yourself for your first thought because your brain could be broken too.

Instead focus on your second thought and your first action. What am I choosing to focus on? Am I embracing an attitude of gratitude or am I stuck in a mentality of lack? You can choose what you focus on. That first thought – you are powerless over that. Let the judgment go. Am I focusing on the spiritual aspects of the program? Am I seeking a connection, a communion, with the God of my understanding? Am I choosing to be humble, or am I stuck in false pride?

Regarding my first action – am I taking one step closer to my goal of being a happy and serene person? (pardon the pun there) Or am I taking another step closer to the deep pit of depression? Am I choosing to be self-serving, or am I choosing to act in service of others? Service can be as simple as holding the door open for someone. A great way of doing service is listening to another with compassion and without judgment.

As a depressive and an addict I can’t be held responsible for my first thought. Being in recovery though means I am responsible for my second thought and my first action.

I urge you to forgive yourself for your first thought. Put focus and intention on your second thought and your first action. It will work, if you work it!

Yours in recovery, Bill R

Unhelpful Comparisons vs. Helpful Comparisons

We’ve all fallen into the trap of comparing ourselves to others. This is a losing game if there ever was one. You don’t know the struggles that the other person has gone through to get where they are now. Comparing yourself to others in an attempt to boost your own self-esteem degrades the other person’s worth. These are unhelpful forms of comparison. These forms of comparison create suffering in yourself and others.

Don’t compare your insides to somebody else’s outsides.
Slogan heard at a recovery meeting

What then is a helpful comparison (lessen the suffering in yourself and others)? The best way is to compare your current self and situation to an earlier incarnation of yourself. Have you improved or have you gotten worse over time? This is a comparison that provides you valuable information about yourself. This type comparison can show you how you have improved over time, that you are not stuck and stagnated in your present state. You do change, even if that change is slight.

To overcome the challenge of managing your depression stop comparing yourself to others and begin comparing yourself to your past self.

For further information on this please watch Dean Furness’s TED Talk To overcome challenges, stop comparing yourself to others on YouTube. https://youtu.be/IOrmS8vJDQw

Yours in recovery, Bill R

Letting go of good and bad

Why would I want to let go of good and bad? Do these words help when you use them to describe yourself?

I know that for myself when I label myself bad I tend to classify myself as bad to the core, beyond any hope of redemption and healing! When I label myself as good I either think of myself as being beyond reproach, or I don’t believe the statement.

What about using them when to describe others? Well when you label someone as good aren’t you putting them on a pedestal? When you say someone is bad aren’t you reducing their worth so that they are beneath you?

Are these judgments worth making? Do they put us into a place of calm and serenity, or do they place us into a negative dark place? I say the latter.

OK so then how can I modify my language to not fall into that trap? If I must use those words I will say something along the lines of: ‘Their behavior was bad.’ Significantly less judgment and baggage with that statement!

What about when I want to apply those words against myself? I prefer the terms helpful and unhelpful. They carry far less judgment.

  • Helpful – those things that I think, say, or do that decrease suffering in myself or others
  • Unhelpful – those things that I think, say, or do that increase suffering in myself or others

A synonym for these would be skillful and unskillful.

Let go of judgment, that realm belongs to God. Humans can judge but it may not be the most helpful thing that we can do.

Bill

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

Happy Independence Day

I live in the United States and today we celebrate our freedom. We are all captives of something or someone. Some of us are captives to addiction: drugs, alcohol, or some behavior. Many of us here have been captives of anxiety and depression. Many people are trapped in consumerism.

There is however a way out. Apply spiritual disciplines to your life, you will be surprised by the results. We are all trying to find our way to the God of our understanding. Some of us go down the side roads of addiction and depression, but you don’t have to continue down that route. Get in communion with the God of your understanding.

If you’ve been burned by past interactions with religion – theory and doctrine, or by people who misinterpreted God’s message I have a suggestion for you. Explore the mystical sects of the religion of your youth. Islam has the Sufi’s, if you’re Christian read the works of Thomas Merton, or Saint John of the Cross. The mystics all talk about experiencing the presence of God in your life. Explore.

You have a choice: you can either be a host to God, or a hostage to self. Choose to be free!

Be yourself, everyone else is taken – Oscar Wilde

I agree. Be yourself. Who else can we be? That is a great question. Oscar Wilde got it right. How many times do you and I try to be something that we are not?
Many times, in the past we may have tried to please everyone. We lived our life – well, not really, as much of our living depended on other’s approval of what we said and did. Other people’s opinion of us was more important than our own. Remember the old saying that “Other people were living in our head rent free!” How true. We always depended on others to tell us how we felt. Is this not insane?
Yes, it is!
Today is different for those of us who have gradually erected boundaries on our behaviors and thinking about ourselves – not some other person’s opinion of us. I gradually became myself the more I interacted with those persons who accepted me the way I am. They didn’t attempt to change me. They laid out for me a plan to be myself. That plan is the Twelve Steps of Depressed Anonymous in which I am able to identify my strong points and work on my defects of character. The virtual DA meetings plus face-to-face meetings with people like myself, continue to help me grow and thrive and be myself.
Yes, Oscar was right, that “everyone else is taken”. Why continue to be someone else when being yourself is authentic “you.”
The Depressed Anonymous fellowship grows authentic relationships where you can be yourself, today, tomorrow, and the next day.
Hugh