Category Archives: Shame

The biggest disease…

The biggest disease today is not leprosy or tuberculosis, but rather the feeling of being unwanted.
– Mother Teresa

I wonder how many of us telling someone that we are depressed – they either have an immediate solution for us or they say they don’t want to hear about it anymore. Or, maybe we are too ashamed to admit – to anyone – that we are depressed. Whatever the situation, I believe that we can finally make a breakthrough – without feeling ashamed or unwanted and pushed away from both family and friends.

Well, there is a solution for you – and for me – I have found a group of friends – actually a fellowship of friends – who come together and share their stories and struggles with depression. By doing so, they hear how there is hope and recovery. And initially, the really big surprise, is that members of Depressed Anonymous want us to share our own story. When we do share our story, lo and behold, some of our story happens to be like everyone else’s story. They share with us a plan., A plan that holds promise of recovery for our own lives. The plan is called the Twelve Steps of Depressed Anonymous. This plan is modeled after the Alcoholics Anonymous program of recovery.

Initially, We all have felt alone and helpless. We all have felt that no one understands our pain, struggles and despair. This is so true if you have never felt depressed before. In fact, our sadness comes unannounced. It doesn’t send an email or warning that there is something that is about to swallow me alive. And like myself, it was only when I found myself being sucked down into that deep pit of aloneness – feeling no way out, that I found Depressed Anonymous. I admitted that I needed help.

At my first meeting, I knew that I was home. I felt welcome and a warmth from all the members of the fellowship. Even though I was a newcomer, I was welcome. They even told me to come to at least six meetings to see if this group was for me. Now I felt that I was wanted – that everyone was there to accompany me along this new path of hope and life.

If you want to know how to find the same help as I am finding, click onto www.depressedanon.com website and see what meetings are available to all those who are seeking hope. Presently, there are online International Skype meetings everyday of the week. Just sign on to https://join.skype.com/EfjQ2rGUOEPv and click onto the link. Also, click onto depanon@hotmail.com for more assistance. I hope to see you at a meeting – soon.

Hugh, for the fellowship

Isolation and depression: A negative reinforcement

In our work, Depressed Anonymous, we find that the word isolation is frequently used throughout the book. The word brings up all sorts of painful feelings as used to describe what happens to most of us when we depress.

The first references to isolation occurs on pages 10 and 12 of Depressed Anonymous, in the book’s Forward, where Dr. Dorothy Rowe illustrates the debilitating effects of isolation.

“Depressed Anonymous has given us a choice to either choose to stay isolated or to begin to risk abiding in the warmth of a caring fellowship.” (10)

“The prison of depression is torture because it is isolation , the one form of torture which, as all torturers know, will break even the strongest person. But it is safety because the walls of the prison shut out most of the things which threaten to overwhelm us and cause our very self to shatter and disappear.”

This is the beginning of how some of us have defended ourselves from the daily grinder of those unpleasant thoughts which beat us up with their continuous feelings of hopelessness and feelings of powerlessness.

Dr. Rowe tells us that:

“One of the most popular defenses is depression. Indeed, the human race would not have survived if we did not have the capacity to get depressed. In the safety of the prison of depression we give ourselves the time and space where we can review the situation, and see whether we can arrive at a meaning for ourselves and our life which will allow us to go on with our lives and to live in some degree of safety and happiness.”

Last month I attended a family weekend for parents of those children who were being treated for addictions of one type or another. I learned much about addictions, about the effects of shame and guilt and the results of addictions on the safety, lives and happiness of those who are addicted. And resultantly, on all family members as well. Depression likewise is a family disease.

The issues of shame and guilt, stand out in my mind as I work with some persons depressed. Both of these issues can be operative in the lives of many persons depressed. I admit that shame was also a hurdle that I had to personally face and overcome if I was to be healed. This one instance of shame occurred when I was a third grader and the teacher shamed me out in front of the whole class, telling the class that I would not be like my brother (he was really smart and unlike my uncle who was smart-a bible scholar). For years later I could feel my face get red hot when I even thought about this painful scenario standing up by my desk–feeling all alone and very vulnerable.

Even though this event happened so many years ago, it was not until I was in my mid-life that I finally could think of this event without feeling shamed. For some strange reason, it was only when I realized that I was happy that I was not like my brother or my uncle and that I was me. I was OK with that–an epiphany of sorts—-and that I was not someone else or with someone else’s personality or talents.

I also found that the mutual support of the fellowship of Depressed Anonymous helped me speak to others–like myself–about the early years of my life and by that to find acceptance and healing. No longer was I alone and isolated in the circling of my thoughts about how bad I was, that I could finally be free of this addictive thinking. In time I was healed. Even now when I want to isolate myself, I see this as a red flag. I call my sponsor and we talk about what is going on in my life today.

SOURCE: Depressed Anonymous, 3rd ed., Depressed Anonymous Publications. Louisville. KY.

Please click onto the Depressed Anonymous Publications Bookstore for more information about Depressed Anonymous. All books are written by persons who have actually been depressed and are in recovery using the 12 Steps.

Shame, Shame, Shame

On deciding what “go to guy” to help me, when setting up the 12 Step Depressed Anonymous mutual aid group, I went to Aaron Beck’s book, Cognitive Therapy of Depression.  It was there that I found out the why’s and how’s we shame ourselves.  Many times we feel shame to tell another that we are depressed.  I have felt this myself. So, when it came time to form a group for the depressed, it was there that at many of the group sessions the fact of shame came up in the fellowship. I saw that what  was   needed was a therapeutic way to deal with the fact of how to overcome the “shaming” of ourselves.

Beck advises the following to a person saddled with shame:

The patient can be told that if he adopts an “antishame”  philosophy, a great deal of pain and discomfort can be avoided. When, for example, the patient makes a mistake that he believes is shameful, he can turn this experience into an antishame exercise by openly acknowledging it instead of hiding it. If he pursues this open policy long enough, his proneness to experience counterproductive shame will diminish. Moreover, he will be less inhibited and more flexible and spontaneous in his range of responses..

One way a therapist can help a patient to resolve feelings of shame over being depressed is illustrated in the following excerpt.

Patient: If the people at work found out I was depressed they would think badly of me.

Therapist: Over 10% of the population is depressed at one time or another. Why is this shameful?

Patient: Other people think people who become depressed are inferior.

Therapist: You are confusing a psychological condition with a social problem. This is a version of blaming the victim. Even if they did think badly of  you –either out of their own ignorance or adolescent way of rating people –you do not have to accept their evaluation. You feel ashamed only if you apply their value system to yourself, that is, if you really believe it is shameful.

Beck then goes on to say that “Other standard procedures, such as having patients list  advantages and disadvantages of expressing shame, can be used to deal with this response.”


Sources: (c) Aaron Beck . Cognitive Therapy of Depression (1979). The Guilford Press, NY. Page 179.

(c) Depressed Anonymous, 3rd edition. Depressed Anonymous Publications. Louisville.

(c) The Depressed Anonymous Workbook. (2002) Depressed Anonymous Publications. Louisville.

Depression is the greatest misery…

Depression is the greatest misery, for in it we’re alone in a  prison from which there seems to be no escape. When we have a physical illness, no matter how great our pain, at times we can separate ourselves from our suffering and feel close to other people, sharing a joke, feeling loved and comforted. But when we’re in the prison of depression, and there is always a barrier between ourselves and other people.

People who are depressed describe this prison in many different pictures: “I am at the bottom of a black pit.”  “I’m locked in a dungeon and they’ve  thrown away the key.”  “I’m inside a black balloon and as much as I struggle, I can’t escape.” “I’m  alone in an icy desert.”   “I’m totally alone, and a great black bird is  on my shoulders, weighing me down.”  The pictures are many and various, but the meaning is always the same. The person is alone in a prison.

Even worse, inside the prison of  depression, we  turn against ourselves in self-hatred. We torture ourselves with guilt, shame, fear and anger. We tell ourselves that we shall never escape from the prison, and indeed, in some way, we do not want to leave the prison. It is torture. It is safety.

The prison of depression is torture because it is isolation, the one form of torture which as all tortured know,  will break even the strongest person.  But it is safety because the walls of the prison shut out most of the things which threaten to overwhelm us and cause our very self to shatter and disappear.”

SOURCE:  Depressed Anonymous, 3rd edition. (2011). Depressed Anonymous Publications. ( Foreword by Dorothy Rowe, Ph.D., Page 11.)

We are what we repeatedly do. – Aristotle

“It is our own real, lived experience which leads us into the prison of depression. It is not a gene, or own hormones, or our dysfunctional and illogical thinking, our lack of faith, or our complexes and inadequacies which have brought depression  upon us, it is what happened to us  and, most importantly, what we have made of what has happened to us: it is the conclusions  we draw from our experiences.

That sort  of conclusions which lead us, finally, into the prison of depression was not drawn illogically or fantastically, or crazily, but were the correct conclusions to draw,  given the information we had at the time.

If, when you were a child, all the adults whom you loved and trusted were telling you that you were bad and that if you  didn’t mend your ways terrible things would happen to you, you wisely and correctly drew the conclusions that you were bad and had to work hard to be good. If, when you were a child, all the people you loved and trusted left you or disappointed or betrayed you, you wisely drew the conclusion that you must be wary of other people and that you should never love anyone completely ever again.  You were not to know that if we grow up believing  that we are intrinsically bad, and that other people are dangerous, we shall become increasingly isolated, the joy will disappear  from our life, and that we shall fall into despair….” SOURCE: Dorothy Rowe. The Depression Handbook. Collins. London.

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I believe that in my own case what Dr. Rowe points out is so true. Our childhood experiences are so important because they set us up for how we think about ourselves as we mature. I remember vividly when I was in the 3rd grade, a teacher shamed me in  front of the whole class because I couldn’t get something right. She told me that I  would never  be like my brother whom was brilliant or my uncle who was also brilliant. For many years after when I thought about that moment in the 3rd grade I could still feel my face getting hot with shame. The worst part is that what she said that day I believed. As I grew into middle age it became important to me that what she said had no bearing on me really, as I was not my brother or my uncle. And that that was OK.

I Am No Longer Ashamed To Talk About My Being Depressed…

AFFIRMATION

I am no longer ashamed to talk about my being depressed; when I talk with other depressed persons I feel better.

” I used to be ashamed of my condition and didn’t talk about it. But nowadays I freely confess I am a depressive , and this has attracted other depressed people to me. Working with them has helped a great deal.”

(2) Bill W.,  Co-founder of AA.

CLARIFICATION OF THOUGHT

I  know that the more I read the literature about the Twelve Steps and daily work my program, the more I am able to help myself grow out of this depression as Bill W.,  did shortly after he wrote the above piece.  So often alcoholism covers up depression so that the original cause of  the depression needs to be looked at.

MEDITATION

God, please help us through this day and help us work through these memories of shame that keep us depressed.  Let us truly believe that we can be free of our shame and live as a free person today.

COPYRIGHT(C) Higher Thoughts for Down days: 365 Daily Thoughts and Meditations for Twelve Step fellowship groups. (1999) Depressed Anonymous Publications. Louisville.  Higher thought for  June 24. Pages 126-127.

NOTE:   Because I had experienced depression myself,  this added a  healing assistance  to my encounters with clients who were depressed.  We could speak and understand each other.