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.

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