“It is my belief that the experience that we call human depression, can very much be like the early designation of alcoholism as partly an allergy as well as being a mental obsession. And depression is very much like alcoholism, in that it very much causes the sufferer much the same symptoms, namely, feelings of being isolated, lonely, angry and in a deep dark pit, hopeless and helpless. Also, the depressed who decides to become more isolated and alone likewise digs a hole just a little more deeply. The fellowship of the program is combined with a belief that a power greater than oneself is ultimately what is going to save the person depressed from killing themselves or floundering in a morass of self-will, resentments and self-pity. Many depressed basically are afraid of people and so tend not to trust others. They also hold a negative view of themselves and think themselves unacceptable to others and to themselves. (P.3)
In primitive human kind there was a system in one’s physical makeup that helped a primitive relative of ours flee or fight when danger approached. In those days the person faced with a mortal danger got the adrenaline flowing that enabled the pursued to evade his/her captor. It also gave the pursued victim the energy to fight and overcome the adversary. In today’s world the days of being pursued by some ferocious tiger or beast is not our problem. But we are still pursued and the fear of the consequences of being caught by whatever is pursuing us shoots the chemicals into our blood stream just as it did in our ancestors – with one major difference — our fears, anxieties, continual worries keep pumping those juices through our system until we are too tired to flee or even to fight. However it happens, the result is that our bodies suffer the damage of the stress of continual unpleasant emotions and feelings coursing through our veins. We are at war with ourselves and depression is the last wall of defense in which the body says I need to take a rest from all this stress and so I surrender. I am closing down. I don’t want to fight any longer. And when one begins to feel a little better and the energy of one’s spirit starts to flow back into us again and we start to feel renewed and it is here that our old ghost of fear starts to feel renewed and it is here that our old ghost of fear starts speaking to us saying “Hey, don’t trust this feeling of beginning to feel better. Stay with what you have — at least it’s predictable. At least you know what you have. Don’t try to change anything as you might get something far worse than what you have now.” (P.5).
SOURCE: Depressed Once -Not Twice: The autobiography of a spiritual journey out of depression. (2000) Depressed Anonymous Publications. Louisville. (Pages 3, 5).
Comment: In this important work, the founder of Depressed Anonymous the author shows us that even in the midst of the pain, isolation and a mental paralysis of will, the 12 Steps provide a plan,, a program of recovery. The author shows how by using the Steps himself in overcoming his own experience of depression that these same Steps can now be used by those “still suffering from depression.
How wonderful is the feeling that we do not have to be specially distinguished among our fellows in order to be useful and profoundly happy. Not many of us can be leaders of prominence, nor do we wish to be .
Service gladly rendered, obligations squarely met, troubles well accepted or solved with God’s help, the knowledge that at home or in the world outside we are partners in a common effort, the fact that in God’s sight all human beings are important, the proof that love freely given brings a full return, the certainty that we are no longer isolated and alone in self-constructed prisons, the surety that we can fit and belong in God’s scheme of things –these are the satisfactions of right living for which no pomp and circumstance, no heap of material possessions, could possibly be substitutes.” Bill W., in his work TWELVE AND TWELVE, P.124
I particularly am struck by the phrase from the quote above, namely, “the surety that we can fit and belong in God’s scheme of things.” I find this thought especially attractive because it happens to be true for my own life. The reason being, that after these many years (25+)of working with persons depressed that I have come to believe that my own experience with depression, is in some mysterious way, prepares me to be a fit messenger of hope for those who still suffer from depression. Been there. Done that. I heartily believe that just by writing this BLOG God continues to inspire me and help me promote the will of God for those of us who want to walk, work and live the spiritual program of recovery as given to us in the Twelve Steps. I know that when I speak with that person who says they are depressed and I encounter them with accounts of my own past brokenness and recovery, so that the love I show them is returned back to me a hundredfold. To share my story is really a way to save my life. And as I move through my life I just know that truly I am working out what God wills for me in being part of his scheme of things.
In Depressed Once -Not Twice. Depressed Anonymous Publications, I share how the mutual aid group Depressed Anonymous .came to be. That was back in1985 and here I am still being used by God as I try and help others realize that their own depression experience fits them well for God’s scheme of things.
ALL OR NOTHING
“During acute depression, avoid trying to set your whole life in order all at once. If you take on assignments so heavy that you are sure to fail in them at the moment, then you are allowing yourself to be tricked by your unconscious. Thus you will continue to make sure of your failure, and when it comes you will have another alibi for still more retreat into depression.
“in short, the ‘:all or nothing’ attitude is a most destructive one. It is best to begin with whatever the irreducible minimums of activity are. Then work for an enlargement of these –day by day. Don’t be disconcerted by setbacks – just start over.” Bill W., As Bill Sees it. (p.308)
I know about this “all or nothing ” experience. It was really made manifest in my daily study of the Twelve Steps and writing down my thoughts in my journal. Now I use the HOME STUDY PROGRAM, which lets me go at my own speed and examine my own life in relationship to the Steps as spelled out in the Depressed Anonymous Manual and with questions asked in the Depressed Anonymous Workbook. Together, these really have helped me focus on one piece of the puzzle at a time. When I first entered the Twelve Step fellowship I wanted to devour everything there was to know about addictions in one big gulp. Gradually I learned that if I took my time, read the literature and continued to use Workbook and Manual one day at a time, that my life began to have that promised serenity and a hope that continues to this day.
“I find the insights of Bill W., to be at the cutting edge of whether or not a person depressed gets better or just simply gets., that is, gets more isolated and disconnected from life. Many hurting folks come to Depressed Anonymous with the mistaken belief that they are coming to a class; while there, someone will teach them about how to quickly get out of their depression. They want a quick fix and then get right back to living the way they used to – never realizing that they have to do some work on themselves if they indeed want to stay free of depression…” DEPRESSED ONCE – NOT TWICE.
One of the main paths that leads out of the prison of depression is for those of us who are depressed is to begin to believe that a power greater than themselves is what is going to set us free. Bill W., a cofounder of Alcoholics Anonymous reminds us of the reality of that power greater than ourselves.
“I had always believed in a power greater than myself. I had often pondered these things. I was not an atheist. Few people really are, for that means that blind faith in the strange proposition that this universe originated as a cipher and aimlessly rushes nowhere. My intellectual heroes, the chemists, the astronomers, even the evolutionists, suggested vast laws and forces at work..Despite contrary indications, I had little doubt that a mighty purpose and rhythm underlie all. How could there be so much of precise and immutable law, and no intelligence? I simply had to believe in a Spirit of the Universe, who neither knew time nor limitation. But that was as far as I had gone. ” Bill W., AA. p10)
Like any person addicted to a chemical substance, a relationship or a behavior, we know that our will power doesn’t get us free. Our disabling attachments are more forceful than the power of our wills. Our will is essentially like an alcoholic’s first drink or that first dip of ice cream. (I have an attachment to ice cream!)
All of what I have written down so far (Depressed Once-Not Twice) has to do with creating meaning. Humans have as their occupation to constantly create meaning for their lives. Whatever we do has to have meaning for their lives. Whatever we do has to have meaning. I saw that my Dad was gone, my girlfriend was gone, a ministry of 20 years was gone, friends of many years were now gone, and my role as a Christian minister were gone, and most important of all, I had felt that I had lost myself. I lost touch with my real self. I felt alone and worthless. I even had the thought that if someone were seen laughing or having a good time –this made me angry. How dare anyone could smile while I felt so miserable, This feeling made me think that my brain felt as if it were made out of cotton. I couldn’t shove another thought into my head –not even with a jackhammer. It was as if the cells of my brain were filled to the brim.
There was nothing that I could do to shake these horrible and painful feelings. My mind like wise was unable to focus or concentrate on anything. My memory was affected and it was impossible to retain a passage from whatever I happened to be reading. I no longer could keep my mind on anything and to read even a paragraph from a book wore me out.