“That which doesn’t kill you will probably make you stronger.” Nietzsche

 

Stress  put me in the hospital two years ago. First, pneumonia  put me in the hospital for a week.   Then, following  a diagnosis of clogged arteries with other assorted problems,  open  heart surgery.  Cardio/rehab for 24 straight weeks gave me my life back. But this was not my first experience with stress and /or depression.

Nietzsche had it right. In my case at least.  What made me stronger and saved my life was not only heart surgery but my new way of  dealing with stress. I now see stress for the trouble maker that it really is. The  stress in anyone’s,  continues to impress me how dangerous living under stress, of any kind, can be.

I know that the daily stress that I  had put my mind and body through every day,  every month, gradually destroyed my immune system’s ability to defend against  constant fear, worry and anxiety. Because of the environment  with which I was living in, day after day, finally caught up with me: pneumonia and then open heart surgery. So you might wonder  how can stress do all this damage to your mind and body?

THEN

This takes me back to my first  experience with sadness. It didn’t kill me, but it did force me to look  at my lifestyle, staying in a bad  situation and the ongoing ruminating which poured adrenaline into my veins, hyping up fear   and anxiety day after day.  Finally, all this  weakened not only my body but my mind  as well. My thinking started circling  around  and around as I tried to figure out exactly what the problem was  knocking me off my feet.  Not only that, I couldn’t concentrate. I would read a sentence or so  and then would forget what I had just read. I was always tired.  I always wanted to sleep. I never laughed anymore. My sense of humor went out the door. I started to isolate. I pushed friends away. I always had an excuse for cancelling meetings and appointments. Every morning I woke up, dead on arrival.  No energy. No purpose and nothing to look  forward to. I was losing all spontaneity and replacing it with boredom. I gradually was being sucked down intro the quicksand of futility and hopelessness.

After a year and half of this    pain filled  life I gradually walked out of the fog. I walked at least five miles a day-like a forced march looking forward to regaining my life. That was 1985.

NOW

Now,  I am stronger because I know all the red flags that pop up in my mind, wanting to  suck me back down into that environment which almost killed me in the first place.  I am definitely stronger now that I have a sponsor, a  12 Step   program (Depressed Anonymous) and  a daily plan   for my ongoing recovery.

My heart is stronger now. My commitment to taking good care of myself with proper rest, good healthy food, and physical activity at least three times a week or more. I also know that keeping in touch with those “still suffering from depression” by email, Home Study, website BLOG (depressedanon.com), phone and reading Depressed Anonymous literature.  What we give away comes back in countless ways. For me, continued sobriety and hope!

Resource: (c) Depressed Anonymous, 3rd edition. (2011) Depressed Anonymous Publications. Louisville, KY.

Online Depressed Anonymous International Skype meetings ( Check website Menu for listing and links).

Order online :The Depressed Anonymous Publications Bookstore.

 

I have been crippled by saddening myself!

I know that I am going to be alright as long as I let God direct my thoughts today.

“When we look back, we realize that the things which came to us when we put ourselves in God’s hands were better than anything we could have planned.”

CLARIFICATION OF THOUGHT

I know that at first, when I was depressed, I wondered  how this could apply to me. Then I realized that for so long I tried to live in the solitude and isolation of the comfort of my depression, where everything stood still. The way I lived my life was left unchallenged.  I now realize that at the center of every one’s life must be the spiritual life of each of us and it is the amount of care and time that we give to this center that determines the amount of hope and change that  we bring to our lives.

The more I plan to work my program, I admit that truly my life has been unmanageable since I have been hampered by my saddening myself, I can truly move forward and plan more pleasant and  fun activities into my life.

MEDITATION

We ask you God, the center of our life, to continue to provide for us the necessary courage to know you on a  more personal level so that we might have the daily courage to put our life and plan into your hands. (Personal comments).

SOURCE:  (c) Higher Thoughts for down days: 365 daily thoughts and meditations for members of 12 Step fellowship groups. Depressed Anonymous Publications. Louisville, KY.  Page 122.

VISIT THE STORE and learn more about Higher Thoughts for Down Days, now in a Kindle edition.

“A rock in a rocky sea which we all hold onto.

“Remarkable things happen to us when we are willing to admit defeat and talk about our powerlessness over our depression and how our lives had become unmanageable. This first step is the beginning of the flight of steps that takes us up and into our new way of living.  At our fellowship of Depressed Anonymous we talk hope, we act hopeful, and we think hope. We learn that our thinking depressed and negative  thoughts might have gotten us in the shape that we are in today.  What you think is what you become. For us who find sadness our second nature, we at times continue to revert to the comfort of old familiar negative thinking and are in  actuality returning to self destructive activity. Hope is overcome by  sadness.

When we become convinced that a power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity, we found ourselves turning many times during a twenty four hour period to that power.  It is a rock in a rocky sea that we all hold onto when we find it easier to just give up and sadden ourselves instead of facing the storm and living through the fear. What Bill W., said about the alcoholic applies equally to the saddict: “He or she can settle for mediocrity and self-satisfaction even though this may indeed prove to be a precarious perch. Or he/she can choose to go on growing in greatness of spirit and action.”

You never stop using and following the steps of the program. We are  in recovery all our lives. You don’t graduate. When we return to saddening ourselves, we return to the old compulsion that can again reduce us to that bankrupt individual who is bereft of peace and hope. We want to grow in the conviction that the Higher Power will restore us to sanity. One of the best ways to grow out of our  saddiction  is to start acting the healer instead of being the passive victim.  We are under the care of no one except our God.

This spiritual awakening is enhanced even further when we make a decision to turn our wills and our minds over to the care of God. Without a doubt this is a very big step for many people to trust anybody – and now especially to trust a God who they have spent a lifetime fearing. It is this decision which allows us to feel freedom when  we start to practice the daily turning over of our will to God. It frees us up and as we pray and listen in our meditation times, we find that our spiritual capacity to connect with the Higher Power is greatly magnified.”

SOURCE:  Depressed Anonymous, 3rd edition.(2011) Depressed Anonymous Publications. Louisville, KY. Page 107.

_________________

” It has to be that what one believes is what one can become. Actually it is a self fulfilling prophecy  that how we conceive of our self is what we can become. This having a dream and setting out some life goals can lead to a life filled with hope and promises.  And for those of us who take our 12 Step fellowship seriously and stay actively involved one day at a time, soon discover the joy and serenity that this spiritually rich recovery program provides.”

SOURCE: I’ll do it when I feel better. (2016) Hugh Smith. Depressed Anonymous Publications. Louisville.KY. Page 85.

 

Our thought life will be on a higher plane…

 

“On awakening, let us think about the 24 hours ahead. We ask God to direct our thinking, especially asking that it be divorced from self-pity and from dishonest or self-seeking motives.  Free of these, we can employ our mental faculties with assurance,  for God gave us brains to use.  Our thought life will be on a higher plane when our thinking begins to be cleared of wrong motives. If we have to determine which of two courses to take, we ask God for inspiration, an intuitive thought, or a decision. Then we can relax and take it easy, and we are often surprised how the right answers come after we have tried this for a while.

We usually conclude our meditation with a prayer that we be shown all through the day what our next step is to be, asking especially for freedom from damaging self-will.” Page 243 (As Bill Sees It).

And some more thoughts from our friend Bill W.

“In meditation, debate has no place. We rest quietly with the thoughts or prayers of spiritually centered people who understand, so that we may experience and learn. This is the state of being that so often discovers and deepens a conscious contact with God.” Page 108(As Bill Sees It).

To thine own self first be true. Honesty is the best policy.

“If I were asked what in my opinion was the most important factor in being successful in the program besides following the Twelve Steps, I would say  honesty. And the most important person to be honest with is yourself…(Bill W., cofounder of AA )

And now back to our Depressed Anonymous Workbook where we continue to clarify our  thinking about the individual Steps and our relationship to them,. We are presently focusing on Step Eleven. (See: The Depressed Anonymous Workbook (2002) Depressed Anonymous Publications. Louisville)

   Step  Eleven  states “Sought  through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God, as we understand God, praying only for knowledge of God’s will for us and the power to carry it out.”

The following are some questions that you may like to ask yourselves as you continue walking on the path to freedom. In question 12. 9  We are asked  an answer for the following question:  How  has your honesty with yourself made your life more free and more fulfilled with hopeWrite down the areas of your life where you feel your honesty has paid the richest dividends? How has honesty made your life less needful of pleasing others so that  they will like you more?

  Your response here.

12.10 How does our own honesty help us carry the message to others still hurting?

Your response here.

IT TAKES ONE TO KNOW ONE!

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.

Reading, writing and clarification of thought

Clarification of thought

One of the areas of  my life affected by my experience with melancholia was my thinking, or rather lack of ability to think. I remember vividly how I was no longer able to concentrate or focus on any material that I tried to read.  When I did try and focus on a more complex thought such as a couple of paragraphs, it seemed fruitless. The thought was like a vapor, in that it disappeared as rapidly as it came. I was only aware that the fog was beginning to lift when my mood gradually lifted.  It was like the sun coming up in the East, burning off the fog, layer by layer. And that leads me to the next point in my recovery.  With the fog disappearing, and my concentration slowly reappearing, I was able to have a thought and hold on to it.  I noticed that when I read something it managed to stay in my memory.

One of the laws of recovery, which works for me, is the saying, “Move the body and the mind will follow.” I found this to be true. It also confirmed for me  how the mind will work more efficiently when the body is moving. That is why I personally put so much stock in walking or any other physical exercise which has a direct effect on the brain.

I also have learned how reading and writing down one’s reflections helps to clarify one’s thinking. You see in black and white your thoughts–now before you on paper or on the computer screen. In other words they are not flowing out there unattended in cyber space but instead are sitting right there in front of you. That is why in our recovery program of the 12 Steps it is recommended that one begin writing down various issues that have surrounded you in your life. By doing so you can determine how these items have influenced you positively or negatively. And since we are speaking of depression here, this is a process   in which writing down gives us a degree of clarification  as we examine one issue after another. Many times the issues or events are interlinked and hold the key to understanding our thinking and behavior. Reflection or as it says in the Steps that through prayer and meditation (clarification of thought)  we sought to improve our contact with God.

Hopefully, soon, I will post some questions about one’s own recovery and you can answer them at home, in your own time and space. You too can make time, by reading, writing and find for yourself a greater purpose in life  through a continued  clarification of thought.