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Is depression contagious?

This week we are going to take the reader, you, back to some previous issues from our Depressed Anonymous  blog.

This article, Is depression contagious, was first published on December 3rd, 2018. (You can scroll back through the Blogs and find it at this date.)

I am asked this same question many times and many times the questioner is surprised when I say that, yes, depression can be contagious.  If you are asking the same question,   discovering that you are   feeling helpless as you try  to pull a friend or family member out of the quicksand of depression without  success. Nothing that you try works!

When all your best efforts and   desire to be  free   from the dark valley of hopelessness fail, you gradually begin to pull away from the relationship. Now,  feeling   sucked into the whirlpool of  the melancholia yourself , you begin to withdraw and head for the higher ground of safety.

So, please look at the article (12/3/18) and see if there is something there which may be of help to you on how to be present to someone  depressed–without yourself getting depressed.   There ARE ways to help.

 

The paradox of our time…

The more we are able to communicate with each other, it seems the more isolated we have become from each other. The number of people depressed is of epidemic proportions. How can this be, we ask. There are many of us who are connected via the Internet, email, and online  social media groups, with all the other sophisticated forms of communication.

This brings me to the point of this essay, that if the world needs anything, it needs a world  where people can get connected, network, form real communities, where people know us and truly care about us. We all want a real live community of face to face community where we can share, we can cry and we can laugh and where we can actually touch one another.  Even though these modern ways of communicating are tremendous helps in moving past our isolation and into the real world they cannot end there.

A prisoner once mentioned in group how he considered depression not as a chemical imbalance but more of a living balance

“Our willingness to hand over to  other  people and organizations the responsibility which is ours (just as the color of our eyes is ours) stems from our  inchoate desire to sink into the mindless bliss of  being totally cared for, totally supported, our original wanting and getting everything.  We do not want to accept that just as our eyes are organized to see only part of the spectrum of light and no others, so our  sense of time is ordered to perceive time only as progressing never as standing still or going backwards. No matter how great our longing, we cannot return to the womb of the Garden of Eden. ” Wanting Everything. Dorothy Rowe. (1994) Harper Collins, London.

One of the major dilemma’s most of us face when depressed is the immobilizing isolation that is ours while being intellectually  aware  that we need to move our bodies and get out of bed and face our world.  

In Chapter Six of I’ll do it when I feel better,  the author describes how the addictive nature of the depression experience keeps us spiraled down into that chasm of negativity and hopelessness.  Basically we begin to think there is no way out.

    “It’s our addictive thinking, our compulsive way of processing negative information, which means that we habitually  store the negative and   dump the positive influx of information and that gets us  wanting to fall back into the old habit of staying isolated and avoiding others. We might fool ourselves and say that people have nothing to offer me so that I distance myself from everyone. Part of my nature when  depressed is to avoid and distance myself from whatever I feel is threatening, like a child afraid of the dark.” (Believing is seeing. Hugh Smith. (2018) Depressed Anonymous Publications. Louisville, Pg. 23.)

At one time in my life I  was a part of this epidemic of depression. In order to counteract my isolation and   continuing a free fall into hopelessness, I moved my body, got out of bed and started walking–day after day.  My daily morning mantra was “I am going to beat this thing!” Was it a cake walk–no way! But if I was to survive from whatever had me by the throat I had no choice. That was yesterday – this is today. Today is all that I have and I intend to help others move their bodies, go to a meeting, learn about the spiritual principles of the 12 Steps and get busy putting them into practice in their everyday lives.

For more information about this program of recovery and the tools that are available for you, and your own recovery  click onto our website www.depressedanon.com. You will find a wealth of information  about depression and the choices that you will have  to choose a life lived with hope and  peace. That is a promise.

RESOURCES

(C) I’ll do it when I feel better. Smith, H. (2016) Depressed Anonymous Publications. Louisville. KY.

(c) Seeing is believing. Smith. H. (2018) Depressed Anonymous Publications. Louisville. Ky.

Changing negative addictive habits is possible. It’s called biting the bullet!

William James the author of the classic work, Principles of Psychology shares with us “that  changing habits requires conscious attention, deliberate choices and recurring behavior. “

In The Depressed Anonymous Workbook we find that the same process of change  is submitted to us for changing negative habits. It takes work, time and attention. Conscious attention. Deliberate choosing is a critical part of  changing our addictive behaviors.  Ruminating on negative  self bashing thoughts,  circling  around  and around in our head, must  be interrupted and stopped.  Knowing the difficulty that this poses for any of us who are depressed, we chose a workable plan developed by individuals who were  living out their lives with active life threatening addictions.   Since their attention was drawn repeatedly to their insane thinking and behaviors, they  decided that they must  do something that was sane and had the power to stop the hemorrhaging. Some call it “biting the bullet.”

Many times, when we are depressing ourselves with our negative behaviors, our thinking and spiraling  downward  negative moods, we tell ourselves that if I just  act like they are not there, they’ll go away. We hoped.

But that is not the way it works. In my own life I tried that route.  My motivation was gone. My body lost its power to make any  positive moves toward facing what it was that was slowly imprisoning me. 

In our Workbook, we are faced with the question/statement   stating that “Even though  I may be faced with difficult tasks, it is better to try  to face them than trying to avoid them. Avoiding a task does not give me any opportunities for success or joy, but trying does. Things worth having are worth the effort. I might not be able to do everything, but I can do something.

In order for us to escape depression we need to begin to be aware of the process of how people change. The process for change is of the nature of a spiral instead of a straight line. Now that we are willing to risk feeling differently we have been gearing up to improve our situation, one step at a time.  In other words, we are making a very important decision right now about our lives.

1.Awareness Stage: We become conscious that we can’t go on feeling the way we do. Something has to give.

2. Motivating Stage: I am going to prepare myself for a needed changes in my thinking, acting and feeling.

3. Doing Stage: I am going to take charge and be responsible for positive changes that have to be made by me if I am to feel differently.

4. Maintaining Stage: I will continue to seek out and sustain my recovery with people, concepts and my personal working of the Twelve Step program of recovery.

As an example of how to use this four stage recovery format, as presented by the Question and Answer format of the Workbook, one is able to have it serve as an powerful antidote to the progression of one’s depression and isolation.

Let’s say that your dependency needs are keeping you bound up in unhealthy dependent relationships. The real you is now merged into whoever and whatever your dependent need happens to be at the moment. You have lost your self!

Each of the 12 Steps take the participant through the Workbook one Step at a time. The power of each Step will provide a roadmap, with your own depression experience and personal and unique input giving   courage for you to live out your responses in a positive and thoughtful  manner.  You can do it! You will be happy that you did!

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

You are able to order this Workbook online from the website www.depressedanon.com. Go to The Depressed Anonymous Publications Bookstore for more information on Depression and 12 Step books.

I place myself in a straightjacket…

AFFIRMATION

 I will make an effort to hold at a minimum my expectations of other people, places  and things.

The standard which your conscience demands is perfection. You who believe that you are irredeemably imperfect will accept less that perfection. Only perfection, you think,   will overcome your sense of badness.  Your disgust with yourself is mirrored in your disgust with the world. The world, you believe, ought to be perfect.

CLARIFICATION OF THOUGHT

  In my efforts to make a moral and fearless inventory of my life, I find that somewhere along in my development, for me to please those significant others in my life, I had to accomplish things perfectly. My C’s in school always had to be an A.   D’s always were not  enough. I was taught to believe that that if I was a good person, then I would always be a happy person. It seems the harder I try, the worse my life goes.

Dorothy Rowe in Breaking the Bonds says  that “fearing imperfection, you become angry.” It is in these unrealistic goals that I set for myself that makes my life so rigid and demanding. I place myself in a straightjacket when I demand perfection of myself.”

Once I surrender my need to achieve perfection and just work toward progress, the happier I truly become. To admit that I am imperfect frees me to  be less stressed and more secure with just the way I am.

MEDITATION

   In our fellowship with our Higher Power, we know that we are always accepted the way   we are. We believed that when it is said that God is perfect, and we must be perfect like Him, that what is meant is our heart should be full of mercy and kindness. God is merciful and kind to us. We should strive to love ourselves as we are loved.

RESOURCES
(C) Higher Thoughts for down days: 365 daily thoughts and meditations for members of 12 Step fellowship groups. (1999) Depressed Anonymous Publications. Louisville. Ky. August 9. Page 131.

(C) Depressed  Anonymous, 3rd edition. (2011) Depressed Anonymous Publications. Louisville. KY.

Triggers

One of the many issues a person depressed faces is  a “fear that you might get depressed again.”   We all know that once is enough! This fear is  real and stirs up  a myriad  of scary emotions.  

It’s these low moods,  which we all experience,  having  within them the power to propel us down into something more dangerous and potentially life-threatening.  There is no other way to describe it but as being hurled down into a death spiral with no  hope of coming back in one piece. 

But wait! It doesn’t have to work this way.  I have begun to recognize, now that I am in recovery, and proactive about my own recovery, to judge what is a trigger for good or a trigger for a potential crash. These triggers  shadow us wherever we go. 

Maybe it’s  our memories of the past, our loss of a beloved relationship, to name just one, that trigger such powerful and painful emotions in ourselves.    

In my early recovery from depression, I began  developing a recovery plan–a plan that would continue to be my  loyal  companion, day after day.   This  plan, provides me with a way to protect  myself and   prepare myself for what crazy idea or situations crosses  my path or  presents itself to my imagination. Just as in all other 12 Step programs of recovery, we all have a workable prevention plan that can  safeguard  us from a relapse.

I formulated a  depression relapse prevention plan while I was going through the Steps–one at a time–and putting together a basic defense against whatever came against me. For any of us who suffer from this addiction, or this attachment to that which gradually takes over our lives, is  a big part of my self-care program.  This recovery and prevention plan has indeed served me well over these past 30 years. Yes, I still can be almost flattened emotionally at times by the hopelessness of a single moment and injects a helpless and  painful memory from my past life. Ruminating about this one isolated moment, just an electrical spark in my brain, starts a conflagration, consuming all the peace and hope and  initiating a spiraling down into deeper isolation, all the while gradually   prohibiting decision-making, physical movement and any sense of spontaneity  and joy. I am now on lockdown. My personal executive powers are reduced to  minimum. This is so powerful that I cannot get out of bed.  

As mentioned earlier,  this toolbox, with it’s tools for recovery are available to all of us–all we have to do is acknowledge that they are there. They are the means given to us to construct our own depression relapse prevention plan  which can help us be prepared whenever we are faced with a potentially serious threat to our serenity and hopefulness.

Once you know the triggers, and once you begin to feel the low mood creeping into your mind and heart, you know that it can’t overcome you and force you  into the dark anguish of isolation and solitariness.

At our Website you will find a menu item  where the  Tools of Recovery are listed. Metaphorically it’s like having a smoke detector in your mind–you will be able to challenge and overcome  any negative thinking (trigger) that wants to hurt you.

 

As a child did you get a message that if you were good and did everything that you were supposed to do that you would end up happy and everything would go your way? Write out your response.

If you were using the material from the Home Study Program of Recovery you would be continuing the process of answering questions that pertains to your own experiences with depression.

This  is the first of a total of 25 questions dealing with your  own  life situations and your depression. These Q&A items all contain reflections from the Depressed Manual  where you can refer for a deeper meaning of question #1 and an expansion of the item’s message. 

Each of the 12 Steps are constructed in the same way in the Depressed Anonymous Workbook. Each Step has questions and asks for the participant’s responses. These responses are normally written out in another tablet for ongoing review.

The Depressed Anonymous Workbook, for the Step Five section lists the Step: “Admitted to God, to ourselves and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.” This is followed by a short paragraph which states a problem that many of us struggle with in our daily lives.

“So many times it is our perfectionism that makes life so difficult and we never seem able to meet the challenge of our own unrealistic goals and ambitions. We never can do it well enough.”  Following this paragraph is a parentheses with a page  number  (68) pointing to a paragraph  in the Manual which speaks to a   depressed person who is  dealing with perfectionism.

Here is the reference about perfectionism  from the Depressed Anonymous Manual on page 68.

“So many times, it is our perfectionism that makes life so difficult and we never seem able to meet the challenge of our own unrealistic goals and ambitions. We never can do it quite well enough. We need to be able to trust that we can make mistakes. In my past, it was not permissible to do that. It is this continual search for ways to be perfect that drives us back to sadness and the misery of our addiction to sadness. We believe that we will never have a respite from the pain of our lonliness, and that the hell of our existence can only be relieved by numbing our sensitive feelings.

We do this by withdrawing from others. We often need to admit to God and others that we love to play the martyr role and have others tell us what a “saint” we are for all the awful things that we have to put up with for so many years. This is what we want to hear. At least someone knows the hell we’ve been through. As a martyr we are wanting to be rewarded for our goodness. Once we gve up this idea we know not only in our head but also in our heart, that this totally accepting Higher Power to whom we surrender, is always ready to accept us as we are – not as we think we should be.” Depressed Anonymous Manual. (68)

If you would want to learn more about how to obtain   the HOME STUDY PROGRAM OF RECOVERY kit, please click onto the DEPRESSED ANONYMOUS PUBLICATIONS BOOKSORE AT THIS SITE. YOU WILL BE ABLE TO ORDER THESE TWO PUBLICATIONS TOGETHER ONLINE

I will go to any lengths to learn the various ways…

“Remember it was agreed at the beginning we would go to any lengths for victory over depression.”

I will go to any length to learn the various  ways to escape from my addiction to sadness.”

Reflection

I believe that I am well equipped to do all in my power to free myself from sadness. In fact, I know that  the more I begin to really feel and not run away from my sadness or my anxiety, that my self-esteem begins to rise and I begin to feel better and more hopeful.  I am noticing that the more faithfully that  I follow my program, the more my days are getting better and filled with hope.  My bad days are diminishing. I am having more good days than bad days. I am doing all in my power, today,  to take all the avenues open to me for my own recovery. (See Tools for Recovery/Main Menu))

My victory over depression is not an end in itself. I am beginning to believe that I am no longer a slave of this interminable feeling of hopelessness. The more I feel I have mastery over the feelings of hopelessness the more I have hope.

MEDITATION

God of our understanding help us to discover all the ways that we can be a suitable instrument for helping our fellow sufferers of depression begin to feel better.

COPYRIGHT  (C) Higher Thoughts for down days: 365 Daily Thoughts and Meditations for members of 12 Step Fellowship groups.  Depressed Anonymous Publications. Louisville. Ky. July 6th.

(Copyright) Depressed Anonymous, 3rd edition. Depressed Anonymous Publications. Louisville, KY.

Want to help yourself out of depression? Good. Get a plan.

Sounds simple enough doesn’t it? The working out of a plan might not be simple but it does hold a promise once the plan becomes active,something good will most probably happen.   Now if I was still depressed I would have stumbled over the word “probably” and say to myself, see “it won’t work.” I used to think that everything had to be perfect. No more.

Here’s the point: a plan is an active small goal oriented operation in which you take each step one at a time. In our program of recovery you have 12 steps and you don’t move on from one to the other til you have finished working the step before. You give each small goal as much time as you need or as little time as you think you need. We have heard the question “how do you eat an elephant? Answer: “one bite at a time.” By setting  up small attaintable goals, you can gradually get at the root of your problem and move slowly on developing answers to what is bothering you and causing you to feel sad and anxious inside.

Let’s make it clear here that I cannot promise that this is an easy road to take but a plan that once activated (put into practice on a daily basis) and will give you the best chance for ongoing recovery. How may times have I tried a program and I failed. It’s like  buying something that you have to assemble yourself. You know how that goes (or at least familiar with it) because initially you are excited about getting the thing up and running. But you miss some essential step along the way. You either have to go back and reread the instructions, and start over again and pay close attention to the plan’s directions.

Depressed Anonymous has a plan which is like a map indicating the right direction. The beauty with an activated plan, the 12 Steps such as the one that guides our mutual aid groups with a positive result, serenity and hope. Even though you might be in therapy or on meds, you can work this plan  everyday, anytime of the day and find yourself hopeful about something good happening for your life. Now you have a workable plan. You don’t have to wait around til your meds take effect. You can get started right now.

When I had used this plan of Depressed Anonymous, I felt that a Workbook would be a helpful way to guide myself gradually and with others toward serenity and a hopeful life. You also can read the DA book, Depressed Anonymous with its thirty stories written by members of the DA group who have activated a plan, worked the 12 step program into their daily lives and found hope and  happiness. No longer are they feeling helpless. The Workbook provides, by questions, in response to each Step, covering every facet of your life’s major life’s transitions. Also, the personal issues specific to one’s own life situations can be broached.

The Deprssed Anonymous Manual and Workbook both contain commentaries  on each of the plan’s 12 Steps and helps elaborate on depression and how to deal with your own situation and the severity of one’s depression. Every person depressed has an unique depression experience, even though symptoms may be similar to others, it remains that your experiences are totally your own.

Our website www.depressedanon.com has a home page with menu items where you can check out your own question about the plan and how it works. You might also want to read some past issues of the Newsletter (See archives) and that can be helpful in understanding abut your own experience with depression. One can also review almost 1000 past blogs at the site which will give you a quick look into the nature of depression and the many tools provided for its recovery.

Depression is constructed with many symptoms. Our recovery plan attacks each of the symptoms in one way or the other. Formerly depressed individuals, have written about their success of finding the 12 Step map that took them out of their sadness and aloneness into life in a community of light and peace. In fact, all of our books are written by those of us who are recovered from depression.

Our program and plan is a “we” plan. We come together in groups and as individuals  seeking that path that brings hope and healing. When will you activate your plan?

For more information about Depressed Anonymous literature available, please click onto
THE DEPRESSED ANONYMOUS PUBLICATIONS BOOKSTORE.

 

“We do not have to ask anyone’s permission to exist.”

 

There  are two problems about deciding things for yourself. First, it means you can’t blame anyone else when things turn out badly. (But you can take the credit when  things turn out well.)  Second, other people can get very angry with you for not doing what they want.

Valuing yourself is a risky business.

Which risk is preferable? The risk of making your own decisions or the risk of not valuing yourself?

Undoing the training of our early years, when we learned that we weren’t good enough, that we had to be good to earn the right to exist, and never even think about, much less question, why and how we were taught this, is not easy. If you have spent all the years you remember feeling that somehow you have to prove yourself by your achievements , so that you have to earn the right yourself by your achievements, or that  you have to earn the right to breathe by working hard in devoted service to others, for if you don’t prove yourself to be brave or a hard worker, some vast hand will come down from heaven and pick you off the face of the earth like a flea off a dog’s back and cast you into nothingness, if this is how you have spent your life, then deciding that you are simply going to be and that you accept your being is a revolution in thought that you aren’t likely to achieve  in the twinkling of an eye.

Though some people do  it, just like that. They say to themselves. I’m not going to go on carrying this load of  s __t  that other people have dumped on me over the years. I’m dropping it now. And they do. They are free, just being themselves.

But some people, I find, don’t even know what I am talking about when I say, ‘Just be yourself.’

So we have to begin by saying, ‘Do we have a right to exist?’

If we exist, we have the right to exist.

We do not have to ask anyone’s permission to exist.”

SOURCE:  Beyond Fear.   Dorothy Rowe., PhD.  ( 1987) Fontana Paperbooks. London. Pages 383-384.