Category Archives: Courage

Depression made me think I was losing my mind, until I did two things that changed my life forever

“What is happening to me,” I asked myself, as I spent another week of struggling to get out of bed. It was like a 500 pound lead weight had dropped on top of me. I felt that whatever commands I issued to my body, “like get out of bed,” the message never reached my body.

The only thing that I knew what to do was to force myself to move the body and hopefully the mind would follow, be it reluctantly. And that is exactly what happened. Every morning after was a struggle, but I did manage to push myself out of bed and I got myself to work. When work ended, I went home and immediately hit the bed. What’s going on here? I asked. I had no clue that what was the matter was that my body was shutting down and that my mind gradually became powerless to make any positive changes in my behavior or thinking.

It was only as I started to walk five miles a day in a local mall, just to promote the fact that I was up and out and able to get to work. I want to make the point here that even though this walking continued for over a year and half, I still was forcing myself to get out of bed. Every morning the debate in my head started all over again. By now I had developed some resistance to staying in bed and just realized, if I was to save my job, I had to walk.

Eventually, the walking was a way out of the prison that my mind had constructed. Eventually, I learned that the way I was living my life and the negativity that I had embraced in my thinking, together threw me into a deep dark pit. Before I was able to figure out what was happening to me, I became depressed. The more I tried to figure out, in my mind, why I was depressed the more I became further depressed, isolated and alone. Then I did something that changed my life to this very day.

The first thing that I did was to force myself to get out of bed and walk, walk, and walk some more. (I still walk three times a week). I know first-hand, the potential life-threatening nature of depression.

The second most important discovery for my recovery was to find a group of men and women just like myself, all who were depressed and looking for a way out of their depression. It was this 12 Step fellowship group, Depressed Anonymous, that has been an integral part of the way I live my life today. If you are looking for what I found, namely, a way to quit saddening yourself, this support group may be your lifeline as much as it continues to be for me today. And I still attend this meeting, even though I have not been depressed for many years, I attend because I find that I can help others to find the hope and peace that it promised and provides for me today.

Discover important information at www.depressedanon.com for our online virtual Zoom meetings which meet every day of the week. Other DA sponsored groups also meet during the week. There are no fees and dues. Come and share or just come and listen. You will find that you are not alone. We are all on this journey of hope together…and we do recover.

For the fellowship, Hugh S.

At least someone listened to me

I have heard this comment a few times after a new member shares some of their personal story at a Depressed Anonymous meeting. Can it be that many people feel so isolated and alone contend no one wants to stop and listen to what they have to say? I am afraid this is true. This is especially true for those of us who come to a meeting, professedly for people depressed, and discover we are welcome to share who we are and where we have been on this life journey. Possibly for the first time in our adult life, there are people like myself who are able to share their story. And people listen.

Just like children, emotions heal when they are heard and validated.
– Jill Bolte Taylor, My Stroke of Insight

MISS MY SAD THOUGHTS

MISSING MY SAD THOUGHTS

Some days I miss my sad thoughts. They are addictive. They fill a space in me and meet a requirement of comfort and familiarity. Humans require and seek a level of comfort and familiarity. The depressed human is no different. Sadly, it’s the sad thoughts that provide the deep level of comfort. When I remove the sadness, I have to work to replace that big open field of nothingness left. It feels hard. It feels like work. Pressure and effort. I want to fall back into the sad thinking because, I know very well how to form those thoughts and how to feel them. How to make use of them, strangely. They serve a strong purpose. They validate my depression and vice a versa. They have lived in me for so long that to have to fill the void of their space feel so hard. It feels like big shoes to fill. I feel pressed, just trying. My mind is having to accept this new training I am putting it through. It doesn’t want to change. It is not welcoming of these new positive thoughts at first. It is a struggle. My mind wrestles back and forth: ‘I just want to go home and go to my bed. No, no! You want to keep grocery shopping…! No, please, I just need to lie down, I’m leaving this group!! I am so depressed. No, no! You are going to do your task today, because, it will make you feel better.’ The better part of me wins and I refuse to be held captive, a victim to this negative dark thinking that is killing me. So, I continue on doing the grocery shopping with an internal mind struggle going on. The whole day seems to continue like this. The back and forth tug of war in my mind! It takes time to truly train the mind to accept the incoming positive thoughts. Affirmations are a needed daily medicine for the saddened mind for sure. It takes consistency. I ask myself how bad do I want to feel better? I continue to retrain my mind every single day. Slowly, I miss my sad thoughts less and less. I feel the need for the positive affirmations more and more. This is the process of healing the depressed mind and thus, my feelings. I look forward to a time where I will not miss my sad thoughts and the struggle between the positive and negative thoughts will not be such a big part of my day.”
Debra NC

“Slowly, I found the positive affirmations more and more and more.”

Copyright(c) Debra Sanford. A Medley of Depression Stories. First edition. (2017) PP> 30-31.( Used with permission.)

You may email Debra: thedepressionstories@gmail.com. She would love hearing from you.

SAFE PLACE TO FALL

i love when one of my Depressed Anonymous friends says that a Depressed Anonymous meeting room is a “safe” place to fall. She describes it as an all accepting place with friends who truly understand what you are talking about. A place where you don’t have to feel ashamed to have mental illness or discuss depression at length! She says when she walks into the room and takes a seat she knows that the love and the anonymity of the group will provide her a safe place to discuss what’s happening in her life with her son and the bizarre situations bringing depressive thoughts. No place else has she ever found such a place she says. The bonds made with new friends who can speak the language of depression has been an amazing blessing. She says she never knew there could be such a place. A place where she truly can give details of her life, shed tears and not feel ashamed. Discuss her meds, her dark thoughts and ask for help without ensuring failure! Thus she says Depressed Anonymous meetings are a safe place to fall! Bringing her a comfort she didn’t know before. Sometimes we just need friends who truly understand and can relate to our depression. Especially living in a world where people tell us to just get up and go out and we will feel better. It’;s a safe place to be with people who can relate to feeling suicidal or being so down and not wanting to get out of bed. This “miracle of the group” is what makes it such a safe place to “fall,”: Thank God for depression support group where we can meet wonderful friends who are there when we need the help, and who totally understands depression.”

-Anonymous

“Depressed Anonymous meetings are a safe place to fall.”
(c) A Medley of depression stories. Debra Sanford. (2017) pp.57-58. With permission

Having had a spiritual awakening …

Step 12 is about having a spiritual awakening. Remember, Step 12 is the last Step of our 12 Step recovery program. The 12 Steps are the 12 spiritual principles, the core of what we believe and what our lives and daily actions are based. The following remarks are mine and express the belief that has carried me personally through a time of darkness and hopelessness. Until, I had a “spiritual experience…an awakening.” I woke up to a new way of living my life. My old way of living brought me to the edge of personal disaster. That is, until I walked into a meeting of people who were just like myself. Let me explain. They WERE like me. They welcomed me. They shared how the God of their understanding gave them a new way of looking at themselves and others. They had an experience that changed their lives. They had a “spiritual awakening.” Their lives were no longer consumed by the devastatingly presence of fear and aloneness.

The text following is found in the Introduction to Depressed Anonymous, our 12 Step recovery program where the author extends an invitation to be part of this fellowship.

We now have a solution to offer those who want to reach out and grow into the new way of life, a life that is now focused on recovery and a feeling of hope. With this offer and solution daily before our eyes, we are beginning to see that the depressed have to depend on a spiritual experience to really be free from that debilitating scourge of depression. It is this spiritual experience, coupled with the power of the fellowship of those who like ourselves where we neither need to explain of excuse ourselves or apologize for being depressed that is the basis for our recovery.
You must want to begin this journey seriously enough to actually begin the recovery program of Depressed Anonymous. Someday I hope to know you as a kindred spirit in recovery.
Depressed Anonymous, 3rd Edition, p. 23

Again, I would like to share a quote from A Meister Eckarte (c. 1260-1328) who shaped his insight for us about the nature of knowing God and how our knowing, comes from God himself. Here are his thoughts about the Spiritual awakening that comes to those of us and are “willing to turn their lives and wills over to the care of God as they understand God to be.”

This work then when it is perfect, will be due solely to God’s action while you have been passive. If you really forsake your own knowledge and will, then surely and gladly God will enter your own knowledge shining clearly. Where God achieves self-consciousness, your own knowledge is of no use nor has it standing. Do not imagine that your own intelligence may rise to it, so that you may know God. Indeed, when God divinely enlightens you, no natural light is required to bring that about. This (natural light) must in fact be completely extinguished before God can come in with his light, bringing back with God all that you have forsaken and a thousand times more, together with a new form to contain it all.
Depressed Anonymous, 3rd Edition, p. 161

In Depressed Anonymous, you can read the stories of those who have had their lives changed by letting go, letting God, and willing to do what it takes to recover from depression. Please join us.

RESOURCE
Copyright(c) Depressed Anonymous, 3rd Edition, (2011) Depressed Anonymous Publications. Louisville KY

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.

If I do what I always did, I’m going to get what I always got

If I do what I always did, I’m going to get what I always got.
Slogan heard in a recovery meeting

I need to do things differently. If I attempt to go on autopilot I’m doomed as my autopilot takes me to deep, dark places. I have a choice today because of recovery. I don’t have to go with the default dark thoughts and feelings. I can take action, something different, because my old way of doing things have brought me to depression.

Depression can be viewed as being in the habit of (addiction to) feeling bad. The truth is that feelings are not in isolation. They are in a relationship with thoughts and actions.

  • Feelings influence our thoughts and actions.
  • Thoughts influence our feelings and actions.
  • Actions influence our feelings and thoughts.

I’ve got some good news and bad news.

  • Bad news – you can NOT directly control your feelings. It’s just flat out impossible.
  • Good news – you can directly control your thoughts and your actions, which greatly influence your feelings.

Accept the fact that you can’t control your feelings. Have the courage to change your thoughts and actions. That is the way to a better place.

Move a muscle, change a thought.
Slogan heard in a recovery meeting

Yours in recovery, Bill R

Accept what is…

When I argue with reality, I lose — but only 100 percent of the time.
Byron Katie

Reality is what it is. When I fight the reality of my present moment I will lose. I need to accept what is and make it the foundation for the future. Acceptance is not about resigning and giving up the fight. It merely mean to see things as they are, not as I perceive them to be.

All of us have things about our present moment that we don’t like. A certain amount of dissatisfaction is part of the human experience. I don’t like the fact that I’m visited often by negative thoughts and dark moods, but to deny and not like those things is not truly helpful. I need to accept what is: I’m visited often by dark and negative thoughts. What do I do with that then? I need to accept that as my current reality. That is my present, but it need not be my future.

I can put into play better thoughts and better actions that have the possibility of creating a better future for myself and those around me. The future has not yet been written. I can have an influence over that future with what I do and what I think. I need to put in the work and do those things that have the potential to lessen my suffering. The outcome is in God’s hands, but I can do my part in creating that better future.

I have to humble myself, clean house, and trust in the God of my understanding. By doing these things persistently I have a real shot at creating a better future, but first I need to accept what is. May you have the courage to accept your present moment without judgment and work towards creating a better future.

Yours in recovery, Bill R

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. ❤

Promises of Recovery

If we are painstaking about this phase of our development, we will be amazed before we are halfway through. We are going to know a new freedom and a new happiness.  We will not regret the past nor wish to shut the door on it. We will comprehend the word serenity and we will know peace. No matter how far down the scale we have gone, we will see how our experience can benefit others.  That feeling of uselessness and self-pity will disappear. We will lose interest in selfish things and gain interest in our fellows.  Self-seeking will slip away.  Our whole attitude and outlook upon life will change. The fear of people and economic insecurity will leave us. We will intuitively know how to handle situations which used to baffle us. We will suddenly realize that God is doing for us what we could not do for ourselves. Are these extravagant promises? We think not. They are being fulfilled among us, sometimes quickly, sometimes slowly. They will always materialize if we work for them.

When I first joined DA, the Promises of Recovery statement gave me a glimmer of hope that I have not seen in a long, long time. Living in this modern world as a thirty something year old, with unrealistic expectations of myself and my life, and resentments building up overtime, I found myself burned out like a log turning into ash. But I got used to finding comfort in the smoldering fire… at least my life was basically over and I could just fade into the background and withdraw from this world.

Joining DA really made an impact on how I saw life, and towards the word “future”, which I was avoiding at all cost. The Promises of Recovery gave me hope, that there was a life waiting for me if I made a decision to change my perspective and my old habits. It was a scary decision filled with doubts and terror and a whole lot of shallow breathing. But I was desperate; I would have believed in a chair if that meant that it would help me feel and be different. So I decided to give it my all, with the same energy I used to fulfill my perfectionist self. I stuck to meetings and diligently worked on the steps. I’ve faced some of my past and figured out a way to live with it without regret or shutting the door on it. I was shown many instances of serenity and peace throughout the shares in the meetings. I was very much down the scale and at the very bottom, but I used that to relate to others and helped my fellows by just listening and understanding and crying with them. I realized that so much of my suffering came from my self-seeking ways, and helping people with something I deeply understood filled me with acceptance and service. I was giving myself permission of being helped when I helped others. I learned to forgive others and by doing so was able to forgive myself. It’s funny how everything starts circling back to you.

I thought The Promises of Recovery was all such extravagant promises. It took me a while to allow myself to believe them. But that’s what I learned. Spirituality is a choice. There are so many things standing in my way, but they will be gone if I decide to let them. My recovery has been a slow process, with one step forward and many steps back. I can’t put a finger on a certain step or mantra, but the promises are being fulfilled inside of me, sometimes quickly, most of the time slowly. “All growth is gradual in this natural world.”  I can really stand by that now. And when I hit one of the many bumps and roadblocks on the way, I just have to tell myself, “It’s fine, I’m working on it”. 

Anna T.