One of the comments that we hear frequently at our Depressed Anonymous meetings is that “I am not alone!” Yes, in fact to hear that others have the same experiences as the rest of us in the group is liberation. No longer is it a scary mystery to feel the way that I do.
At a meeting this week one of the newcomers told us how she wakes up every morning with such a heavy and dark cloud hanging over her that it makes it near impossible to want to get out of bed. She then heard how others in the group said they had the same experience. Many of us know that feeling. But it is not impossible to deal with the lethargy and the lack of will that we feel when we attempt to get started on our day. I know the feeling well. It is the force of motivation that gets us out of bed and for us to get started on our day’s activities. The more action the more motivation. Motivation follows action! How do we do it? We just simply do it. We don’t have that argument in our mind to do or not do it. I always lost that argument. Instead I just made up my mind to get out of bed and to start walking. That was my iron commitment to myself. I had to get back on my feet. No excuses. No “maybe later” nonsense thoughts were allowed. No inner arguments. I just did it. And after about 10 minutes of walking and moving the body I thought to myself “hey, I’m glad that I am doing this.” If you feel the way we have described here then you realize that you are not alone! Been there done that! As Nike says “just do it.”
Yes, motivation follows action. I have discovered that by pressing on with an activity even while feeling sad and hopeless pays off in big dividends. I am speaking in terms of my own personal experience. When it became impossible to move my body out of bed in the morning I forced myself to get up –drive to a place where I could walk –and started walking. I truly felt like a Forrest Gump(see movie) as I have continued this “moving the body” program these past 30 years or so. I gradually ended up with a lightness of spirit and I started to deal with the guilt, shame and other stuff that I continually ruminated about. This ruminating, in a short time completely immobilized me physically, emotionally and spiritually.
Sue shares her personal story in Depressed Anonymous (pages 144-145) telling us that “Action does precede motivation” and I began working at a local zoo. It is a beautiful place (and safe from muggers too). I began talking with people and learned about classes there to become a docent (volunteer teacher). I enrolled and graduated. This gave me a new purpose in life. I get great joy from working there doing outreaches to schools, nursing homes and hospitals. I have made friends with both animals and humans. There isn’t a day that I go to talk that I don’t get thanks by someone, a visitor, or employee (or sometimes an animal)
My family hasn’t changed (although my Mother commented on the change in my face), but I have. In this, the Serenity Prayer really helps. I know that I can’t change them, but I have new friends and a real support system so that doesn’t matter so much to me now.
Whoever you are, you who are reading this: Believe! The first Three Steps are the most important. Walking or other exercise is important. Staying with it is also important. Going to meetings and participating is important, but above all else, faith is important. Faith will truly move mountains.”
Some days I feel like my life is like that small boat on the ocean. I watch as the swirling waves and the thunderous noise of waves and wind wash over me. I watch as my small boat takes on water. No land is in sight. What to do? I pray. Have you ever had these feelings of helplessness? Well, let me tell you, I have had this experience more than I would like to admit.
One time in my life, one very difficult time for sure, I thought that my boat was sinking and that there was no recourse –no land in sight. This is when that deadening feeling of melancholia (depression) –like the Pac Man arcade game – began to chew me up. I knew something was wrong, but I didn’t know what exactly. The time to row, so to speak, was when I couldn’t get myself out of bed and knew that I had to get to land, get my body moving, the best way that I could. I had to keep rowing.
Gradually, by walking everyday, and forcing myself to do what I didn’t want to do, like exercise, I gradually regained my balance. And after a year of this activity (rowing) I began to notice that the wind howling around me gradually subsided. My boat was still afloat and I could see land. Safety. This all happened almost thirty years ago.
It was then that my 12 Step life began. Now, with each new day, before the sun pops up over the horizon, my day begins with prayer and the centering of my thoughts. In our program of recovery we call this a meditation experience. I then read the Higher Thoughts for this day. I also read the Depressed Anonymous book, plus entering thoughts in the Depressed Anonymous Workbook. All this is accomplished in that first hour of the day. I feel like I truly am now on solid rock. And it’s like I take these morning thoughts and with them begin my day. With Step Two … I “came to believe that a power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.” So this morning, I continue to “make a decision to turn my life and my will over to the care of God as we understand God to be.”
Turning my life over to to the care of God doesn’t mean I lay back and see what God is going to do…no, it means that I do my work and God will do his. And so I keep on rowing. Grab an oar!