Being depressed means feeling disconnected, isolated, or separated. Truly, depression or melancholia is the disease of our modern society. Our desire to isolate ourselves from everyone and everything when we are depressing isolates us from ourselves as well.
To recognize how it feels to be depressed more people will be able to liberate and unfetter themselves from their depression; lives will be saved as well.
People describe their experience of depression as being in some kind of prison. One man said that he was in a pit where the walls were of soft clay. One woman said that she was in a brick maze where there was no exit and the walls were closing in on her. “I’m in an infinite desert,” said one man, “there’s just me and a lone, scrawny tree.” “I’m in a cage,” said one woman, “the bars are thick and black and there’s no door.” Inside this prison the person has intense feelings of self-hatred.
Frequently, depressed persons imagine they are going crazy, are crazy or are being afflicted with some bizarre mental illness. One of the beautiful things about a DA group is that everyone has the same symptoms, feels the same pain and is relieved that they are not the only ones in the world with this experience. They don’t have to go it alone. They also don’t hear people saying, “Snap out of it.” The following list provides a guide for those of you who are attempting to see whether you are depressed or not. If you feel you have a good number of these situations going on in your life at the same time and for a number of weeks, your melancholia might be indicating that you need to get in touch with persons like yourself. viz., the fellowship of Depressed Anonymous.
• Wanting to isolate and be alone.
• Changes in appetite.
• Shifts in sleeping patterns (too much/not enough sleep)
• Waking up early in the morning.
• Fatigability or lack of energy.
• Agitation or increased activity
• Loss of interest in daily activities and/or decreased sex drive.
• Feeling of sadness, hopelessness, worthlessness, guilt or self-reproach and possible thoughts about killing myself.
• Weeping/not being able to cry.
• Lapses of memory
• Hard time making decisions.
• Fear of losing one’s mind.
• Reluctance to take risks.
• Difficulty in smiling or laughing!
Dorothy Rowe, in her award-winning book, Depression: The Way Out of Your Prison (2003), describes how people build their prisons of depression by holding the following six beliefs as though they were real, absolute and immutable truths.
1. N o matter how good and nice I appear to be, I am really bad, evil, valueless, unacceptable to myself and to others.
2. Other people are such that I must fear, hate and envy them.
3. Life is terrible and death is worse.
4. Only bad things happened to me in the past and only bad thin gs will happen to me in the future.
5. Anger is evil.
6. I must never forgive anyone, least of all myself.
These beliefs, tenaciously held, imprison the depressed until that day when they make a decision to choose to remove the bars. Rowe, a clinical psychologist from England, has written nine books which deal with how we humans as creatures create meaning for our lives. She possesses an almost universal recognition and respect from professional and lay alike about someone who has done her homework on the human experience that we call depression. She maintains that depression is not a disease or an illness but is a human experience that is truly painful and isolating in nature. She points out that the belief that depression is a physical illness has the good implication that we are not to blame for our depression but the bad implication is that we could get it again, like a bout with the flu or another cold.
Psychiatrists who believe that depression is a physical illness don’t talk about curing depression but about managing it. The bad implication for depression, using a psychological model, is that we caused it ourselves – by the way we think (our six immutable truths), live out our lives, and reflect on the world. But the good implication of this psychological model is that if we caused the depression we can likewise un-depress ourselves. This is the approach Rowe takes. This is why she calls depression a moral problem –we have to take full responsibility for the way we think, feel and act. Depressed Anonymous bases its healing and recovery on the premise that once depressed persons admit they are out of control, even to the point of having attempted suicide, they then come to believe that a power greater than themselves can restore them to sanity, while at the same time making a decision to turn their minds over to the care of God as they understand God.
The important thing is not so much whether depression is or is not an illness or a mental disorder but that people have to take responsibility for themselves and their feelings. So many people think that since they are patients of a doctor they must just sit back and wait for the medicine to kick in. The doctor will be doing these people a great favor to ask them what has been going on in their families, their work or with those whom they love. The depressed consumer of medical and mental health services might then get it that maybe they have a choice on whether they stay depressed or not. The consumer might also begin work on themselves knowing that everything they can do to take care of themselves will gradually eliminate the symptoms that we call depression.
So often those depressed are living out of step with their own expectations or the expectations of others, sometimes stemming back to early childhood. It would be great if the many people on antidepressant medication would start talking out why they depressed themselves in the first place. The pain might disappear with the medication but the experience is still part of their lives and memories. Unless one talks about the experience then the depression symptoms will indeed reappear.
Depression is a growing global mental health issue, according to the World Health Organization. The numbers of depressed worldwide is growing as old traditions and values among groups are being lost, blurred or forgotten. Families become more fragmented with more single mothers attempting to raise children alone. The world is becoming a crowded place. An aging society in our industrialized nations brings with it those physical illnesses that come with a growing population. Depression is an especial concern for those of us who are advocates for persons depressed. We all need to be in the forefront in advocating that more awareness be given worldwide to the need for mutual aid groups which possess the spiritual tool kits which can prevent further individual relapses back into depression. To stay depressed is to stay isolated and disconnected.
The main effect of Depressed Anonymous is that people can come together and find the support of fellow depressed people, and they in turn will find the emotional nurturing and acceptance. They can learn the social skills that can help them gradually enter life again with hope and heightened spirit. Once people realize that they are not alone they then take hope that maybe they too will feel better. The beauty of a self-help group is that a person feels acceptance from the group. No one is there telling you to “snap out of it” or that your depression is all in your mind. Depressed Anonymous, once established in your community, will gradually gain new members as word gets out that a group exists in which people who are depressed can come and share their story with others.
I believe that the general public needs to see that they, even though not professional therapists, can still organize twelve-step self-help groups for persons in their area.
Most communities are in contact with mental health specialists who would be happy to help set up self-help or support groups for community members and to meet on a weekly basis. (See Therapists Views on pages following)
IS DEPRESSION AN ADDICTION?
Webster’s New World Dictionary defines addiction as “… to give (oneself) up to some strong habit…” Anytime you or I have a compulsion to repeat a behavior, be that a mental rumination or a craving to seek out an activity, be it the physical ingesting of a mood altering drug or ingesting unpleasant and mood altering thoughts, then you have an addiction. We believe the term “saddict” is appropriate for any of us who had the “habit” the “addiction” to beat ourselves up with a continued stream of unpleasant ruminations ( thoughts and mental images) about ourselves, others, the future and our world.
What we learn is that the twelve step program of recovery can be used to overcome any compulsive/addictive behavior for that person who sincerely wants to get emotionally, physically and spiritually healthy. The beauty of a self-help group is that a person finds acceptance from the group. No one is there telling you to “snap out of it” or that your depression is all in your mind. The one thing that you will hear at the group meetings is that if you keep coming back, you will get better.
It has been our experience that those who keep coming back to meetings week after week always get better. Now, that’s some promise! I’ve been in the program for twelve years and I have not had a relapse in that time. I am undepressed today! I give thanks to my higher power and the fellowship of Depressed Anonymous
Source: Depressed Anonymous. Harmony House Publishers, 1998.