Category Archives: Helpful

Fun? When was the last time you had some?

In Step Four of our Depressed Anonymous Workbook, we find the statement: “When was the last time you had some fun?” You could also add when was the last time you actually laughed or even had a smile on your face? In one of our early Depressed Anonymous meetings. Bob told the group that the DA meeting was the only place where he could actually find himself laughing.

At our online Depressed Anonymous meetings, we are presently sharing our thoughts and feelings about Step Four. As part of our inventory, there are a number of questions pertaining to our Family of Origin. The following section helps me to take and reflect on my own family of origins and the relationship that I had with all those persons who I shared my life in those early childhood years.

In order to make a good inventory I need to go to my roots and discover how I came to be the person that I am today. AS the saying goes, “WE are our parents.”
When we were small, we “swallowed” our parents, meaning “swallowed” their main personality characteristics. Even today parents, grandparents, a stepparent, or guardian all are now part of our personality -for good or for ill. For myself to escape from my depression I need to discover how I might have received certain messages from my depression I need to discover how I might have received certain messages about myself from those adults who surrounded me as a helpless infant and child. All of us have received messages as children -some helpful and others not so helpful. Some messages directed toward us might have made us feel worthless because we got the message that we could never do anything to please others.

Our Depressed Anonymous manual, with an excerpt from Step Four gives a detailed and traumatic account of one of my experiences as a 10-year-old child. This event had recurring consequences for my young life and into my adult years. We might want to take a deeper look into some of the unpleasant feelings that we have today, traced to their origins in our childhood. I know for a fact that these events, producing guilt and shame, were finally dealt with in therapy as a young adult.

“I still remember being embarrassed when my third-grade teacher told me in front of the whole class That I would never be like my brother who was much smarter than me. I used to feel my face get hot every time I thought about that embarrassing incident. But the more I share my shame of having been exposed to others about something that I had no control over, the freer I became of that fear. The same principle is at work here in the Depressed Anonymous group. We can take our own personal inventory of our weaknesses and fears and trust the group to hear us out and accept our stories of shame and hurt as we accept theirs. We begin to see how and why so many people feel bad because in their earlier years people made them feel they could never measure up to the way others expected them to grow up. By becoming our little child once more, we paradoxically grow up.”

More about our childhood experiences, pleasant and unpleasant in the days to follow. And since it is time for school to start again, it seems that our bodies, sensors that they are, remind us that the Fall weather and school both arrive at the same time of year.

(c) The Depressed Anonymous Workbook (2002) Depressed Anonymous Publications. Louisville, p.29.
(c) Depressed Anonymous, (2011) THIRD EDITION. Depressed Anonymous Publications. Louisville, p. 55.

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.

DA fellowship as my scaffolding 

 

Some great advice I got from my sponsor was to “find my help and use my help.”  Often times my help comes in the form of DA members.  Over the last two years I’ve spent time at meetings and on the phone in between meetings with members of the fellowship, and they have become an important part of my recovery.  I have built up a network of people around me, much like one uses scaffolding to build a new structure.  I have been built anew by the steps and the help of the DA fellowship.  Now, when life presents me with problems and struggles that previously felt unmanageable and too overwhelming to deal with, I have a support structure in place that I can lean upon.  I have found my help and now I know how to use that help.  All I have to do is pick up the phone and reach out to my DA fellowship.  Through their help, the help of my Higher Power, and the steps, I will be guided to sanity and solutions.

Keep your stick on the ice!

If you are a hockey player you know how important it is to keep your hockey stick on the ice. In fact this is one of the first lessons I learned when I started playing hockey. The reason was so that when a flying puck bounces around in the court and heads your way, you want to be ready. It might mean making a goal or losing a critical opportunity to score.
In Baseball we were told to “keep your eye on the ball.” Good advice. And in basketball the ball handler knows when he has a “good look” and needs to shoot the ball.
In our Twelve Step group of Depressed Anonymous, we have many short sayings like the ones mentioned that help keep us focused on our game. They are simple, direct and easy to understand. Not only do they help me continue to keep my life on track, but they also serve as “guardrails” reminding me of the various ways I can use them in my recovery. These short and pithy sayings are like my daily vitamins, providing some healthy immunity for fighting off all the negative thoughts that might be floating about in my head. What I am accomplishing by doing this simple activity is replacing a negative feeling with a pleasant one. I am replacing sunspots with darkness.
Here are some of my favorite slogans:

  • Keep It Simple
  • Take It Easy
  • One Day At A Time
  • Think
  • Easy Does It
  • Stick To The Plan
  • Let Go And Let God
  • Have A Nice Day Unless You Have Made Other Plans
  • God Is My Friend
  • All I Have Is These 24 Hours
  • This Too Shall Pass.

My advice to you is to keep your stick on the ice, get a good look, and keep your eye on the ball. You will score every time!
Have a great day!
Hugh S.

Awesome article on PsychologyToday.com

A friend of mine in recovery posted a link to an article on depression that should be read by all those who have depression, or have a loved one with depression.

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/shouldstorm/202012/we-ve-got-depression-all-wrong-it-s-trying-save-us

In it the author, Alison Escalante M.D. discusses how there is current research around depression that posits depression is not a disease per se, but rather a biological adaptive response to adversity and trauma. I will post the first three paragraphs here, but I highly recommend that you read the full article.

Yours in recovery, Bill R

For generations, we have seen depression as an illness, an unnecessary deviation from normal functioning. It’s an idea that makes sense because depression causes suffering and even death. But what if we’ve got it all wrong? What if depression is not an aberration at all, but an important part of our biological defense system?

More and more researchers across specialties are questioning our current definitions of depression. Biological anthropologists have argued that depression is an adaptive response to adversity and not a mental disorder. In October, the British Psychological Society published a new report on depression, stating that “depression is best thought of as an experience, or set of experiences, rather than as a disease.” And neuroscientists are focusing on the role of the autonomic nervous system (ANS) in depression. According to the Polyvagal Theory of the ANS, depression is part of a biological defense strategy meant to help us survive.

The common wisdom is that depression starts in the mind with distorted thinking. That leads to “psychosomatic” symptoms like headaches, stomachaches, or fatigue. Now, models like the Polyvagal Theory suggest that we’ve got it backward. It’s the body that detects danger and initiates a defense strategy meant to help us survive. That biological strategy is called immobilization, and it manifests in the mind and the body with a set of symptoms we call depression.

Source: https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/shouldstorm/202012/we-ve-got-depression-all-wrong-it-s-trying-save-us
Author: Alison Escalante M.D.

Promise # 5 of the Promises of Depressed Anonymous.

Promise # 5 : No matter how far down the scale we have gone, we see how our experiences can benefit others.

“Some of us have attempted suicide. A few of us more than a few times. We had despaired of ever finding peace or hope. We believe that we had no future and that our yesterdays were as hopeless as our today’s.

It was hard to attend our first Depressed Anonymous meeting. We felt horribly alone. We just know that no one in the group has been through what we have been through. But as we listened and watched the other members of the group speak – we saw ourselves in their stories.

Personally I believe that whatever you give out to others is the amount that comes back to us. Our experiences can usually help another. An experience such as depression is so isolating, so predictable in its misery that it is bound to have had an impression upon us that it changed our life. And then when our life is changed for the better – thanks to DA and the fellowship that we have to share it with those still suffering.

Ironically, it appears that the farther we have gone down in mood– and up again in our recovery -the more powerful is this experience. They see the after and hear how it was before we got involved in the fellowship.

The fact that we have recovered so completely is in itself a message of tremendous hope for those who are newcomers to the group.

Isn’t it amazing that those who can do the most for those still suffering are those who have worked themselves out of the pit of isolation and depression.”

Copyright (c) The Promises of Depressed Anonymous (2002) Depressed Anonymous Publications. Louisville, Ky. (Page 12).