Beating Depression

Today people are beating depression.  There was a time when people lived with the debilitating effects of depression because there wasn't any hope of recovery.  How people become depressed hasn't changed, but the outcome has changed.  Negative thoughts regarding relationships, career, health, and personal issues are considered harmful for our mental health. Thinking of bad situations beforehand is also regarded as unnecessary, since the person's way of thinking affects his or her outlook in life. These ruminating negative thoughts can cause a pessimistic way of thinking that could seriously affect a person's otherwise healthy way of living.         

By consistently thinking and feeling down, a person might be already experiencing depression. A person dealing with this condition may also feel irritable for no apparent cause, together with lack of energy and concentration. Depression is not a one-time event. If a person has experienced depression at some time in his/her life, the chances of a recurrence are high. Some people exhibit depression in various ways. Symptoms of such can be the following: consistent feelings of sadness, tension, and irritability; change in appetite with considerable gain or loss of weight; restlessness; change in sleeping patterns; decrease in pleasure of doing usual hobbies and interests; lack of decision making skills; feelings of guilt, worthlessness, and hopelessness; and thoughts of suicide and death.                     

People suffering from this kind of feeling may not seek help from other people, even from their own family members. Depression is believed to be a mental health issue that affects many people, and treating it would be very critical since it affects not just the sufferer, but everyone and everything in their lives. Other people dealing with depression sometimes attempt to harm themselves convinced that these negative feelings will never end. This is why everyone should be aware of the symptoms of depression and know that it is treatable.  We now know that many people live in recovery.

Depression results from a number of factors, depending on the person and his/her surroundings. Family history plays a vital role in having this mental health issue. Another factor triggering it can be trauma and stressful situations.  Death, financial problems, relationship breakups, and changes in your life (be it a new job, school graduation, or getting married) can contribute to feeling depressed. Some people also possess the trait of pessimism, where they usually have a negative outlook on life or having low self esteem. Physical health conditions also cause depression. Serious illnesses including cancer, HIV, or heart disease can trigger depressive thoughts since these health conditions make a person feel stressed.  By feeling depressed, these medical conditions might make things even worse than they already are. Other psychological disorders including anxiety, eating disorders, schizophrenia, and particularly substance abuse can easily make a person feel depressed.

"I had a black dog, his name was depression" is a video by The World Health Organization about depression:

Being depressed can really make people feel bad, inside and out. But by taking the first step, which is to get proper treatment, depression can deliberately be healed. There are several medications specifically designed for the treatment of depression. Another way to take away feelings of depression is through psychotherapy.  By expressing feelings and sharing it with a therapist, depression can be eased. Types of psychotherapy includes the cognitive behavioral therapy, which helps in identifying thought and behavior patterns related to feeling depressed. Interpersonal therapy, on the other hand, deals with the connection of depression and troubled relationships.  A longer therapy process would be the psycho-dynamic therapy, which links depression to certain events and conflicts that a person has experienced especially during childhood.  Group therapy is more an interaction with other people who are depressed, sharing experiences with the therapist and group members to find solutions to problems.

Self-help is another way to deal with depression and work toward recovery and healing.  There are many self-help group meetings that people can attend to get support, share information and find ways to help themselves.  Most important is finding out that no one is alone and that other people are living with depression too.  The Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance (DBSA) has support groups that meet in cities around the country.  DBSA not only has in-person support groups, but on-line support groups too.  If you think you have depression or you have been diagnosed with it, you can go to their website to find a support group in your community or online.  They also have stories of recovery that you can read which will give you hope that you can get better too.  You can sign up for their newsletter too.

Another excellent tool is WRAP—Wellness Recovery Action Plan.  Many people around the world use WRAP as their recovery tool.  It’s your plan on what works for you.  I know that many of you reading this post use WRAP or know of someone who uses it.  If you haven’t developed a WRAP the best time to start is now.  You can contact the Copeland Center to find out about WRAP and where you can attend training in your area.  If you have peer support services in your area talk with someone who is a peer who can direct you to an upcoming WRAP training.

What is really important for you to know is that you can overcome depression.  You can have a life of wellness when you take the steps necessary to help yourself—seek treatment and find a support group.  You will find that life is really worth living when you take advantage of the resources available to you in your community.

A Perspective on the Recovery Process

Recovery is a process that takes place over time by regaining or restoring one’s life to healthy living and well-being. Recovery involves changing thinking and attitudes. It means action. It promotes emotional and spiritual growth. It begins with self-acceptance and self-change–mentally, emotionally, physically and spiritually. It’s holistic in nature, involving the whole person and his/her life.

What most of us know about recovery is usually identified with a person who may be addicted to alcohol. Our focus, however, is mental illness. It has been widely accepted and promoted that mental illness is an incurable brain disease. Just as alcoholism has become accepted as a disease too. A disease is defined in the dictionary as any departure from health, whether mental or physical. If disease is a departure from health, then recovery is the act of restoration to health.

As stated above, mental illness has been accepted as an incurable disease. When we think of “incurable”, we find it defined in the dictionary as “a person diseased beyond hope of recovery and possibility of cure”. When we talk about “cure”, exactly what do we mean? The dictionary defines it as “to heal for that which is broken.” It states further that “diseases are cured, wounds are healed.” Additionally, when we think of “cure”, we think in terms of a health professional or doctor providing some medication or treatment that will affect healing or in this context “cure”.

Cure leads us to look outside ourselves for a treatment or medication. On the other hand, recovery leads us to look within ourselves to attitudes and thinking, and it requires action. Recovery promotes growth–emotional and spiritual, equally requiring action on the part of the “diseased” person. “Cure” usually applies to symptoms. Whereas, recovery applies to the entire person: thinking, attitudes, physical, emotional, spiritual, social, lifestyle, intimate relationships, career, employment and financial.

One area where people seem to have the biggest problem is in the spiritual area of recovery. Many people confuse this area with religion. It really doesn’t have anything to do with religion. Spirituality is simply a way of living. It’s the basis of moving from the negative to the positive. This means moving from fear to trust; self-pity to gratitude; resentment to acceptance; dishonesty to honesty. It helps us define the patterns in how we relate to ourselves, others, and the world we live in. These patterns guide our lives to be positive, healthy, fulfilling and life-giving or negative, self-defeating, and destructive.

Promoting a view of mental illness as incurable tends to promote the idea of disease and it becomes a process of negativity, self-defeating and destructive. For recovery to begin, people must hear and know that other people diagnosed with mental illness recovered. They must understand that one does not start with even a profound desire to recover, that others first began to nurture the recovery process within themselves.  Additionally, one must realize that it’s not necessary to have a college degree or a high school diploma to recover. It includes knowing that if others have done it then it’s possible for anyone to do it.

We have all heard of the person with an alcohol addiction that everyone gave up on and that person recovered. This same truth holds true for even a person considered most severely mentally ill that everyone believes is beyond hope of recovery. Anyone given an opportunity to recover and who acts on it stands a good chance of recovering. The recovery process includes the encouragement of others who have been through it and recovered and supporting those who are trying. Additionally, families and professionals need to provide support whenever a person diagnosed with mental illness falls short in the process.

There’s nothing magical in recovery. It takes commitment, work, perseverance, inspiration, and perspiration. Additionally, as stated above, it takes encouragement and support by a lot of people for anyone diagnosed with mental illness to succeed in the recovery process. Most of all, it takes time. It takes application and practice. It gives way to self-understanding, knowledge, and participation in life. The end result of recovery from the consequences of mental illness is no longer seen with shame and stigma. It is viewed with a grateful and humble heart for having experienced it.

Recovery is a process that brings with it pain and healing. It can’t be forced. It needs to be directed and influenced with the truth. It must be nurtured as you would nurture and care for a tiny seed that has been planted. It must be watered with understanding and love. It must be given the sunshine of kind words and enthusiasm. It must be allowed to grow and develop as a beautiful flower.

An Important Recovery Step: Self-Responsibility

Self-responsibility is an important step in recovery.  What does it mean to be responsible for your self? One of the first steps is to just accept yourself the way you are. Sometimes we're not very happy with our lives, but we cannot make them any better if we don’t first accept ourselves and our lives as we are.

When we begin to accept ourselves, it's important to understand that blaming others, chemical imbalances, genes, or conditions and circumstances must stop. It's easy to blame our illnesses on something or somebody. The hard part is accepting and taking responsibility for our illnesses.  You might be thinking, "Well, does that mean I begin to blame myself if nothing or nobody else is at fault?" No, that's not what this means at all. It's just that if you are going to improve and recover, the blame game must end. This just puts us in a better frame of mind to begin to make changes in our selves; it helps us begin to take control back of our lives.

It’s important to understand that circumstances and conditions, and even others can and do contribute to episodes of what is called mental illness. When I think I have no control over things around me, I begin to lose control of my feelings, thoughts and actions. My feelings, thoughts and actions may begin to escalate and without insight I am overwhelmed and my inner world collapses, which brings on relapse.

We have all heard of the principle "know thyself.” When I begin to accept and stop blaming, then I am able to start to know myself. I can then take a personal inventory of myself so I can see areas where I need to improve. This helps me take responsibility for my own recovery. This is how we begin to get insight into our condition.

It’s also important to understand that what is called mental illness is just like any other illness. When we see it as an extraordinary illness to other illnesses, this view keeps us helpless to be able to do anything about it. As we change our thinking about it and give it the same importance as a cold, the flu, a sore throat, a toothache, then we are not powerless to help ourselves. Even people with other chronic illnesses that may be life threatening, such as heart disease or cancer, have to keep their illness in perspective so that they can still live as satisfying and productive a life as possible. It’s about taking the extraordinary and making it ordinary, such as getting to the point where you see it as an interruption in your life rather than robbing you of your life.

Using this insight as an example, how does one take responsibility for mental illness without blame and begin to view it as any other illness? Well, when I get a cold or sore throat, I begin feeling achy, my throat is scratchy, my nose begins to run. What circumstances or conditions contributed to it? I may have been around a friend or loved one who had a sore throat; I may have been where it was drafty; I may have overworked myself and let myself run down.

Even someone with heart disease needs to take responsibility for the illness as well. They must look at their life style and how it contributed to their heart disease. They may have to ask what circumstances and conditions contributed to it? Being a workaholic and taking work home; eating rich and fatty foods; lack of exercise; not managing reaction to stress; ignoring the warning signs.

Any number of things may have contributed to it and this gives me an awareness of how I may have become sick. When I gain insight as to cause then I can take steps toward prevention. Are relapses triggered by my reaction to stress? When I miss a night of sleep, does it cause a manic high? Do I isolate from friends and not answer the telephone when they call?  Do I feel guilty thinking that I caused a disaster that I read about in the newspaper? When this happens, do I hear voices blaming me and telling me to hurt myself?

There are things that we can do to gain back self-control. As we take responsibility for the illness and our lives, we become self-reliant and competent. Recovery is learned through a process of perspiration, inspiration, hard work, relapse, setbacks, and gains.  For instance, in order to manage my reaction to stress, I can take a class on how to handle stress through meditation, relaxation, yoga, tai chi or I can see a therapist. When I miss a night of sleep, I can do something about it as well.  I can make sure everything I need for the next day is laid out and ready to go in the morning, such as breakfast, lunch in the refrigerator, select clothes to wear the next day.  I can take a bath and play quiet music in the background.  I can read something inspirational.  I don’t need to  stimulate my mind further by watching television or listening to loud music.  Rather than isolate, I can call a friend and talk on the phone; I can meet a friend for a cup of coffee; I can invite a friend over. 

When I think that I caused a disaster that I read about and feel guilty, then I need to do a reality check.  I may need to sit down with paper and pencil and read through the article again.  Did it happen in New York City and I live in Chicago?  “I didn’t cause a disaster when I haven’t been in the city at the time the disaster happened.”  I might write out this statement in large letters so that I can read it whenever I feel guilty about the disaster.  I can also read it aloud to myself when I hear voices.  I can divert my attention from  the voices by listening to music.  I can work a crossword puzzle or call a friend on the phone.  I can also get some peer support or talk this through with my therapist as well.  

What’s really important is that you realize there are techniques, strategies, and skills that you can learn from others or develop yourself.  By applying them, you gain experience and eventually can increase your recovery and reduce relapse.   This is called prevention.  Recovery takes time.  While you’re learning you may still relapse.  This is only a setback and is not permanent.  Relapses are only temporary.  It’s important that you continue doing the work of recovery, and not give up on yourself.  It helps to have a strong, natural support system as well to provide mutual support during this period.  In time, you’ll find yourself back in the place you were prior to the relapse.  Remember recovery takes time; it’s faith (belief that you can do it) and works (application of techniques, strategies, and skills) that get you where you want to be; and it’s support.

The following are the steps outlined in this column:

I.      Self-responsibility is necessary in recovery.

2.    Begin by accepting yourself the way you are and where you are.

3.    Stop the blame game.

4.    Begin to use the principle "know thyself' by taking a personal inventory of yourself.

5.    Change your belief about mental illness by treating it as an ordinary illness that is common to  anyone in society.

6.    Take back self-control by learning and applying techniques, strategies, and skills.

Remember, recovery is possible when we begin to take responsibility for ourselves.


Faith and Recovery

We have all heard the phrase “you have to have faith”. When I heard that, I didn’t understand what it meant or how it applied to my desire to recover from a mental illness. Thus, began my search to understand “faith”.
FAITH AND RECOVERY What does faith have to do with recovery? Webster’s dictionary defines faith as “unquestioning belief; complete trust or confidence; loyalty.”
Further, I found a definition of faith in scripture in Hebrews 11: 1 as follows: “NOW FAITH IS THE ASSURANCE OF THINGS HOPED FOR, THE CONVICTION OF THINGS NOT SEEN.”
This last definition is the one that is of particular interest. To begin the process of recovery — while we are ill — we must start to develop this kind of faith or belief, and that is a belief that we can recover. Recovery is not possible for anyone without first faith [belief] that recovery is possible. To even begin to recover, we must start “believing” that it is possible. The faith [belief] [in recovery] is the assurance of the thing [recovery] hoped for, the conviction of things [recovery] not seen.
In other words, we have to believe in recovery before we ever even see the results of recovery. The old cliche “seeing is believing,” in this case must be turned around to “believing is seeing.” We must believe in the thing hoped for first before we ever experience seeing the thing hoped for.
How do we develop faith or belief? Faith is achieved through repeating affirmations. The process of repeating affirmations to oneself is the principle of auto-suggestion. Through the repeated use of this principle, we will convince our subconscious mind that we believe we will experience the results of the affirmations [beliefs].
FAITH is a state of mind which we develop at WILL through the application of affirmations using the principle of auto-suggestion. The only way anyone can develop faith at will is through repeating affirmations.
We all have faith — negative or positive. Every day we act on or exercise our faith or beliefs — negative or positive. Our behaviors, illnesses, poverty, prosperity, relationships, feelings, self-image, etc. are all a direct result of our faith or beliefs, whether they are conscious or subliminal.
To illustrate, we have all at one time or another said to ourselves, “I feel rotten. I just can’t get myself going.” Or, “I’m really afraid if I go to work I will make a mistake and get fired.” Because we have repeatedly affirmed [told] ourselves that we feel rotten and can’t get going, our behavior is influenced and we may choose to lie in bed all day. Or when we tell ourselves repeatedly that we are afraid to go to work because if we make a mistake we will get fired, we tend to choose not to go out and look for work.
Consequently, if we tell ourselves we feel rotten and just can’t get going, but get out of bed and go shopping or to work, we may find ourselves dragging and complaining to everyone around us how rotten we feel. We may go out and find a job in spite of telling ourselves we are afraid to work because if we make a mistake we will be fired. More than likely, we will have feelings and thoughts of fear, experience anxiety and confusion and, as a result, we may make mistakes which further reinforce our negative belief. Quite frankly, we may even lose our jobs because our faith [belief] can will it to happen.
These examples illustrate “negative faith,” disbelief, doubt, faithlessness, and denial in the good things in life that we are all entitled to. On the other hand, when we take the time to discover our negative faith or beliefs and develop opposite, positive beliefs by repeating positive affirmations, we can change how we think, how we feel, how we eat, our self-image, self-esteem, or anything we choose to change about ourselves.
If you tend to say, “I feel rotten,” try saying repeatedly, I feel terrific and happy” and learn to ignore the rotten feelings that you have as a result of telling yourself “I feel rotten,” and in time you will notice that you do feel terrific and happy.
Consequently, our belief or disbelief in recovery does affect our mental health. If we do not believe we can achieve recovery, nothing that any doctor or treatment does will have any real, heating effect.  If we choose to disbelieve that recovery is possible all the medications, therapy, or assistance won’t do any good because our belief system will prevent us from responding positively to treatment.
When I was diagnosed with a mental illness I was told that I would be mentally ill the rest of my life and would have to take medication; that I would be in and out of mental hospitals; and that I had an incurable disease caused by a chemical imbalance in my brain. If I had repeated this to myself, it would have become a “self-fulfilling prophecy,” as we always live up to our affirmations or faith [beliefs]. Instead, I set out on a course to discover how to heal and recover. This action brought about my recovery from mental illness.
As you continue to meet or read about your peers who have recovered and as you take time to develop skills and techniques used by your recovered peers, you too can live up to a new self-fulfilling prophecy of recovery.
Let’s affirm together repeatedly “I am recovering. I believe that what my peers have achieved, gives me the hope that I can too. Today I choose to recover.” ©