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Phoenix Rising: 12 Golden Keys to Unlock Your Depression By Anthony J. Schwarz
Copyright © 2001 The Phoenix Group First printing: 2001 ISBN: 0-9708747-1-5 Published by: The Phoenix Group PO Box 20536 San Jose, CA 95160 Phone: 877-594-9076 email: firstname.lastname@example.org website: www.tpgpub.com Toll-free: 888-934-7755 (orders only) All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced, stored in a mechanical retrieval system, or transmitted in any form by electronic, video, laser, mechanical, photocopying, recording means or otherwise, in part or in whole, without written consent of the publisher.
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Printed in the United States of America
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Table Of Contents Dedication .............................................................................. vii Acknowledgements ............................................................... viii Foreword ................................................................................. ix Introduction ............................................................................ xiv 1. Golden Key #1 ................................................................... 1 Discover a Higher Power that Makes Sense To You How Could a Just God Do This to Me? Stay Where You Are! Do Things That Feel Good Are You a Victim? A New Frontier Take a Look in the Mirror
2. Golden Key #2 ................................................................... 7 Take a Personal Health Inventory Here Comes the “Fire”! If It’s Going to Be, It Is Up to Me Pull Myself Up by My Own Bootstraps? Fill Out and Score Your Personal Health Inventory What Do I Do with My Inventory? “A Journey of a Thousand Miles…”
3. Golden Key #3 ................................................................. 11 Decide whether Hospitalization Is Right for You What Confinement in a Mental Institution is NOT The Primary Purposes of Mental Hospitals for Depressives Is It Better to be Involved in an Intimate Relationship While Depressed? Determining Which Depressives Will Commit Suicide Can Be Tricky What to Do with Depressives about Committing Suicide A Surefire Dilemma
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4. Golden Key #4 ................................................................. 19 Form Your Own Professional Support Team The Return of the “Dr. Welby Complex” If Possible, Find a Holistic Physician Why Aren’t Drugs the Entire Answer? Listen to the “Father” of Modern Medicine Do Not Self Medicate Find the Pioneers in Holistic Medicine Be Sensible and Be Cautious How to Find a Holistic Physician Other Alternative Searches About Print Material Non-Sectarian Churches Find the Right Mental Health Provider—for You Uncertainties in My Life “If It’s Going to Be, It’s Up to Me!” Don’t Forget Your Higher Power
5. Golden Key #5 ................................................................. 31 Learn How to Handle Your Depressed Emotions Lethargy / Inertia Anger Resistance to Change Sexuality Hunger and Thirst The Role that Friends and Others Play in Your Recovery Prescription for Successful Relationships Love / Intimacy Pets Can Give You Intimacy Too! The Role of Young Children and Babies Intimacy in Summary Spirituality Brain Disorder or Mental Illness?
6. Golden Key #6 ................................................................. 47 Develop an Effective Diet and Nutrition Program The Objective of This Chapter Drink Plenty of Water Carefully Examine How You Use Alcohol, Recreational Drugs and Other Harmful Substances Whole Uncooked Foods Organic Fruits and Vegetables To Eat or Not to Eat Vitamins and Food Supplements
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Herbs and Herbal Products A Word About Crash and Single Food Diets To Sum It All Up Regarding Nutrition
7. Golden Key #7 ................................................................. 53 Perform Physical and Spiritual Exercises Every Day The Law of Cause and Effect What Does All This Have to Do with My Depression? Application of Science in Our Depression Perform Physical Exercises Every Day Seek Competent Medical Advice First Start Slow and Build Slow Do You Think Your Depression is “Special”? Out of Touch with My Own Feelings? Journal Writing Meditate Every Day Remember What is Important Here How Do I Meditate? Putting Physical and Spiritual Exercises Together Will Improve Your Life Beyond Your Wildest Expectations
8. Golden Key #8 ................................................................. 63 Perform Activities Outside Your Home Every Day It’s Not Exactly Agoraphobia, But… The Bottom Line Inhibitor of Your Recovery The Solution is Simple But Not Easy “Fake It Until You Make It” End the Isolation
9. Golden Key #9 ................................................................. 69 Plan Your Activities Every Day What Does Planning Have to Do with My Depression? Seems Rather Basic, Doesn’t It? That Was Then; This Is Now Some Helpful Hints for Using Activity Lists Is It Worth the Time It Takes?
10. Golden Key #10 ............................................................... 75 Attend Depression Support Group Meetings How Can Depressed People Help Each Other? Advantages of Depression Support Groups Disadvantages of My Depression Support Groups The Role of Support Groups in My Later Depressions Recommendations for New Depression Support Groups To Group or Not to Group?
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11. Golden Key #11 ............................................................... 81 Discover the Positive Reasons for Your Depression The New Meaning of Religion in My Life Changes in My Economic Values First Inklings to Write This Book The New Meaning of My Depression What Positive Meaning Does Your Depression Have in Your Life? Look Forward to the Transformation
12. Golden Key #12 ............................................................... 89 Grow Where You Are Planted–One Day at a Time What Is the Point Behind All This Theory? Grow Where You Are “Planted” One Day at a Time Sorry, No Magic Bullets Here Your Power of Choice Remember That This is a Holistic Program Is Your “Phoenix” Ready to Rise?
Epilogue .................................................................................. 95 Appendix 1: Clinical Definition of Depression ........................ 96 Appendix 2: Contact Information for Selected Mental Health Organizations ....................................................... 98 Appendix 3: The Myth about the Phoenix Bird ..................... 101 Appendix 4: Personal Health Inventory ................................ 102 Appendix 5: How to Develop Your Own Professional Support Team ................................................................. 103 Appendix 6: The Heartbreak of Mania .................................. 109 Appendix 7: How to Create a Personal Nutritious Diet ........ 112 Appendix 8: Recommended Physical Exercises .................... 116 Appendix 9: Recommended Spiritual Exercises .................... 118 Appendix 10: The Twelve Steps of Co-Dependents Anonymous .................................................................... 122 Appendix 11: Daily Recovery Log ......................................... 127 Appendix 12: Depressives Anonymous Meeting Notes ........ 138 Summary of the Golden Keys with Related Information from the Appendices ...................................................... 147 Index..................................................................................... 161 About the Author .................................................................. 164
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Dedication This book is dedicated to my mother, bless her departed soul. All that I am, all that I have the potential to be, I owe to her unyielding unconditional love and patience.
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Acknowledgments • • • • • •
• • • •
To my dear mom, Roseann, for teaching me Unconditional Love. To my dear dad, Bill, for supporting us through hell and back many times. To my dear friend, Mark, for teaching me the deep values of unconditional love expressed in friendship. To my dear friend, John, for his love and support through all my dark days. To the Roman Catholic Church, for motivating me to seek the highest Truth. To the Unity Church, for teaching me how to seek the highest truth; and for becoming a bridge to the Light and Sound of the Holy Spirit. To Eckankar, religion of the Light and Sound of God, for helping me understand that the Mahanta, the Living Eck Master, is with me all the days of my life and beyond. To the Eckankar writer’s conferences, that taught me how to express my deepest feelings in clear and understandable ways. To my dear former wife, Vita, for teaching me forgiveness and for being my good friend throughout the past 40 years. To my dear daughter, Rosemarie, beautiful, intelligent and competent, and a perfect mirror of my strengths and weaknesses. To my dear son, Bill, who replaced Mom as our family’s peacemaker. To his wife, Deb, and to my dear granddaughter, Julia; to the three for teaching me how they live a happy family life, and for helping me survive my darkest days. To my dear son, Mikel, wise, happy and loving. Also to Aicha, Mikel’s dearest love, for enriching Mikel’s life beyond his wildest dreams. To my dear friends, Reverends David and Gay Lynn Williamson, for inspiring me to write, and for teaching me perfect marital bliss by their example. To my former partner, Dennis, for teaching me how to love and respect myself.
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Foreword The recollections and comments from author Anthony (Tony) Schwarz’s former wife and grown children will answer some of the important questions you may have about the actions and state of mind of one whose life is becoming—or has already become—locked into Depression and/or Bi-Polar Disorder (Depression plus Mania). From Tony’s Former Wife, Vita The moment I looked into Tony Schwarz’ eyes, my heart skipped a beat. I thought to myself “He’s so handsome, it’s too bad he’s so shy.” I didn’t realize then that he held deep-seated feelings of insecurity. He was a very intelligent, talented, ambitious freshman in college. He was serious, conservative and traditional. His rigid upbringing taught him self-discipline and self-control. Tony explored outside himself and into every different spiritual concept he could find, embracing each with enthusiasm. Although we were in love, he was never able to completely commit. He held something in reserve, which I didn’t understand. Despite this, our love continued to grow more deeply; we married and created three remarkable children. Tony was a very special young man. He was a seeker of truth. I loved, admired, respected, trusted and believed in him without reservation. It became his lifelong avocation to offer something of great value to mankind. Tony was a perfectionist and expected excellence from others. He was demanding and controlling in his business affairs, but was also very persuasive and most often correct in determining what course to take. He had an incredible ability to eloquently articulate both verbally and in writing and utilized his abilities to help in many organizations. His charismatic and dynamic personality commanded the respect of people of all ages. Then something changed. Tony needed to explore potentially threatening territory he knew wasn’t a path I could follow. Tony’s attitude and behavior became foreign to me. He began demonstrating an arrogant and superior attitude. In retrospect, I can see this may have been an indication of his emotional faltering. This may also have been the onset of a manic period, although we had never heard of such a thing.
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The feelings of grandeur he experienced during manic periods could easily go unnoticed by a highly successful and dynamic businessman. It was only when he began to experience severe bouts of depression that he was diagnosed with bi-polar disorder. My heart ached to see this wonderful man suffer emotional desolation. I was no longer in a position to help in any other way than to lovingly support him in his efforts to regain control of his life. I listened to him whenever he needed to share his feelings or fears. Our relationship took a different form, but our love and friendship remain strong. In many ways I admire and respect him even more than when we were young. He has demonstrated courage, strength and determination that he didn’t possess in his younger years. I’m certain his spiritual awakenings and physical disciplines gave him the tools needed to overcome the “demons” and torments of his dis-ease and regain balance. From Tony’s Daughter, Rosemarie If asked to select one word to describe my father, I would choose “extreme.” Tony Schwarz was extremely talented, spiritual, intelligent and handsome. As a child, I observed my father’s discipline and admired his accomplishments. He was respected at work and excelled in corporate life. Tony received recognition for excellent written and verbal communication skills. On his spiritual quest, he spent most of his life engaged in defining and expanding his belief system. His charismatic charm and presence were beacons for lost souls seeking enlightenment. I learned to emulate my father. He was my mentor, teacher, director and guide. I inherited his enthusiasm, drive, ambition and focus. I mastered the ability to think for myself and speak my mind. My father was also extremely controlling, demanding, manipulative and arrogant. Growing up, I struggled to conform to his changing standards and meet his escalating expectations. Dad set household rules and administered severe consequences for disobedience. He was a perfectionist and expected the same from his family. He articulated indisputable rationalization in support of his views and became indignant when presented with dissension. As an adolescent, I began to notice inconsistency between my father’s words and actions. My parents divorced when I was in college. Seeing my mom and dad break up when they still loved each other bewildered me. I was torn between outrage over decades of deception and giving him unconditional love and acceptance (as Dad so fervently
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practiced). After college, we grew closer - as long as I went along with his program. When I failed to be convinced by his logic and openly disagreed with his behavior, he became defensive and intolerant. We didn’t know he was sick. Dad almost convinced us we were deficient for not being able to understand that he was right. In the (mild to severe) manic stage, he alienated those who loved him most. Dad didn’t think he had a problem. I stepped back but not away. Until his disease cycled into severe depression, no one could help. In retrospect, my father’s irrational behavior and unyielding attacks were signs of a serious problem. Seeing my father in weak and helpless moments was frightening and confusing. He was my model of coherence. If he can fall apart, did he ever really have it together? What about the things he taught: spiritual insight or psychotic gobbledygook? He checked into a hospital where a friend of ours worked. He hated being institutionalized and I hated seeing him there. Dad needed help we couldn’t give. His diagnosis answered some questions and raised many more. Again and again, my dad moved away from depression and toward mania. I prayed for him to find the middle and stay there. A couple of years before he died, he began to find balance. He came back to the people he had hurt and asked forgiveness. He recognized the warning signs of mania and monitored his behavior. Writing this book was a healing and stabilizing influence. For the first time in many years, my daddy came home. Tony Schwarz made a positive difference in the lives of people he touched. It is our wish, as it was his, that this book find its way into the hands and hearts of those seeking recovery. From Tony’s Son, Bill During my childhood I did not feel close to my father. I grew up angry and resentful for the lack of attention and love I wanted from him. I often searched for ways to fill the void in my life and wanted to prove that I was deserving of his love, acceptance and time. As I moved through my teen years, the distance between us increased and we seldom communicated. At times he did strive to share quality time, but even then I felt squeezed into his busy and complicated life. In the 1980s, I first saw my dad suffering from a nervous breakdown —a state of deep depression. This is when I began my journey of compassion and forgiveness and opened up my life and love to him.
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When his life came to a halt during periods of depression, he reached out to his family for the love and support he was missing. I finally learned that I was needed and deeply loved by my father. I feel fortunate that my father and I grew close over the last 15 years of his life. It helped me heal the wounds of my youth and let me experience the love and giving nature of my dad. He was fun, caring and always willing to provide his insights in a non-threatening way. When I was able to accept him and not condemn him for the way he led his life and the errors of his past, our relationship blossomed. Dad welcomed my wife into his life and treated her as if she were his own daughter. He was a very proud and thoughtful grandfather to our children and left positive memories with our oldest girl, Julia. Although he hardly knew our youngest daughter Jessica, he flew from Florida to Boston just a few hours after she was born to experience the first days of her life. My dad had a lifetime battle with depression and times of manic behaviors. He wrote this book to share with others that the battle can be won and depressives can still have a meaningful life. He left a very positive impact on my life and can enrich yours too. I hope you can find something between the pages of this book that can help you or someone you love “unlock” depression. From Tony’s Son, Mikel Being the youngest of three children, I was too young to understand why my father left when he did or why he even left at all. In the early years following, I was angry with him for not wanting to be part of my life and resented him for making the decision to leave. Since he didn’t want to be part of my life, I wasn’t going to have him as part of mine. So, I wrote him off. When he sparingly came around, I made myself scarce and unavailable to him. As I grew older, even though I was still angry with him, I respected his right to make decisions for himself and his life, even if that meant I wasn’t going to be in it. Eventually, we started over. This time we became friends. While even as an adult I never understood why he lived his life the way he did, I learned to accept him for who he was. Good points and bad. I later learned that my father suffered from manic depression. I didn’t know what that was, but what I did know was that it seemed to be turning his life upside down and inside out. I saw him go from the
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highest of highs to the lowest of lows. I saw him go from an athletic, articulate and charming man to a man who had difficulty simply walking and talking. There was little I could do but to just be there for him when he needed me. I felt compassion for what he was experiencing, and I admired him for his strength, courage and quest to find a cure. In the years just prior to his death, my father and I came full circle with our relationship. I finally realized that regardless of the hard times we had seen, he had made an extremely positive contribution to my life and my being. I was and will be eternally thankful for principles I learned from my experiences with him. I am proud that he was my father. Tony Schwarz was an extraordinary man who suffered from an extraordinary illness. As a result, he developed a holistic life formula that helped him recover from depression. This book has come to be for only one reason: he wanted to share this formula with others so they would realize that they too could be the Director of their own recovery. In Closing Tony took control of his own life by developing a holistic and healthy lifestyle. These practices enabled him to finish writing Phoenix Rising despite many physical challenges. Unfortunately, Tony suffered from a heart attack while his manuscript was in editing. His family has lovingly completed the publishing of his book in his absence.
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Phoenix Rising I first heard about the Phoenix bird long before I became depressed. I had a vague idea that it is associated with the Christian ethic surrounding the Resurrection of Jesus Christ. I knew little more about it than that. I later researched the legend of the Phoenix and found reference to it in Stories of Gods and Heroes by Sally Benson. Youâ€™ll find the myth, as it appears in her book, in Appendix 3. Basically, the story is about a unique bird that recognizes that change is upon it. It arranges for its sepulcher to be its cradle, dies and is reborn, resurrected from its own ashes. Twelve Golden Keys Numerologically, the number 12 represents completion of a cycle. For example, there are 12 months in a calendar year. Each new year represents the rebirth of a new cycle in our lives. We make New Years resolutions to remind us of goals we want to accomplish during the year. The color gold often represents wealth, like the precious metal that we value highly. It also symbolizes prosperity in its various forms, including money, happiness, positive relationships and good health. Keys are simple but important tools we use all the time. We often do not appreciate the value of our keys until we lose them. Being locked out of any special place is frustrating, to say the least. The solution is to either find our keys or have another set made by a locksmith. In this book you will discover that the keys to your recovery still exist within you, whether you realize it or not.
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To Unlock Your Depression Unlike most other serious illnesses, it is possible for you to recover from depression without a long rehabilitation period. Your job is to discover the keys that unlock it. Once this happens, you can be restored to all your previous talents, skills, feelings and knowledge. In fact, you might even be better than new. For example, I developed ever more compassion for others each time I recovered. I know what it is like to be part of the “gutter” of life. Looking up from “down there,” life looks pretty hopeless. Once I unlocked my depression, however, I began rebuilding my life from the inside out. My prospects for a better life soon escalated beyond my wildest dreams. Dr. David M. Lipkin I would not be around to write this book were it not for Dr. David M. Lipkin. He carefully logged the medicines he prescribed for his patients in his notebook computer. He diligently called me nearly every day when my medications changed. He wanted to know every detail about my feelings, thoughts and any physical side effects from the medications. Without learning his systematic approach to the administration of anti-depressants, I never would have understood the maze of confusion that currently exists among most doctors about these powerful medications. This knowledge saved my life. When I encountered a drug to which I was allergic, the principles I learned from Dr. Lipkin were particularly valuable to me. The drug I was taking was new on the market. To my knowledge, there were no cases of my symptoms officially reported by others while they were taking this drug, so I remained isolated and confused except for the knowledge Dr. Lipkin had shared with me. I am eternally grateful to him for his valuable service to my remarkable recoveries. Knowing how to become a partner with your doctor could save your life, too. Simply follow the guidelines presented in this book.
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What Kind of Book Is This? Phoenix Rising contains the lessons I learned during my recovery from five increasingly severe bouts of depression. I also suffered three, or perhaps four, intervening bouts of mania or hypomania. My illness was eventually diagnosed as Bi-polar Depression (also called Manic/ Depression). The nightmares I endured during the depths of depression were followed by drugless “highs” that also nearly destroyed my relationships and everything I had worked hard for all my life. This is a story about a man who felt like a useless skid row bum. I felt like I could not find my way out of the deep black hole in which I lived. I felt joyless and disconnected from everything important in my life. However, this is also a story about overcoming the difficulties and challenges of my life, including traumatic birth, fear-ridden childhood, 20-year marriage, change in my sexual orientation, divorce, the deaths of my mom and my mother-in-law and of my close friends with AIDS, my codependent relationship of eight years, early retirement, and subsequent purchase of a retail store. Even though each of these life passages held its difficulties, all of these events were crucial to my spiritual unfoldment. They provided the experiences I needed before I finally succumbed to depression. Each time I was depressed, I felt that my Phoenix would never rise again. However, it did so five times—in spite of my beliefs that my life was over. I am also blessed with an endless search for Truth. For years I forestalled the onset of mental illness with the holistic health practices—physical, emotional, mental and spiritual—that I used virtually every day to deepen my spirituality. Every time I became depressed, I temporarily stopped performing my holistic health practices. However, after months of despair and endless nightmares, I finally woke up and realized that my former healthy living practices would also work for my recovery from depression. Today I am again a whole person, with a growing confidence in my abilities. Yet I remain humble and compassionate. I am grateful to all the dear people in my life who supported my recovery. My experiences living in four cities while depressed convinced me that doctors around the nation know little about dealing with depression. Other doctors took six months to correctly diagnose my illness. Today’s medical delivery system lacks the wholeness needed to work effectively. Someone needs to end the endless misery of a growing population of depressives. These involve perhaps millions of patients, their families and mental health providers.
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Why I Wrote This Book If you are reading this book because you are depressed, try out for yourself the program I tell you about. It can end your nightmare, too. If you are a friend or family member of a depressive, this program may assist you in helping someone you love. With the knowledge contained in this book, you can avoid experiencing any guilt for the selfblame and “tough love” you may need to help your beloved depressive help himself or herself most effectively. I developed the program by combining my spiritual principles with the Twelve Steps first founded by Alcoholics Anonymous. I merged these practices with my holistic health habits. There is much confusion among helping professionals of all disciplines about how to treat depression. This book is written in simple, non-technical terms from a depressive’s viewpoint. I do not pretend give anyone professional advice. I am not qualified to do so. However, the school of hard knocks has taught me many lessons that I am eager to share to ease the pain experienced by other depressives and their families. I wrote this book for the “me” I see in you. I invite you to take what you want and leave the rest.
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Golden Key #1 Discover a Higher Power That Makes Sense To You
riting this chapter is a challenge. Most depressives have a very low self esteem. How do I ask them to identify some thing worthwhile inside themselves? They may have belonged to a family religion all their lives. They may have simply drifted away from attending any church or temple or mosque after they became adults. They may no longer find meaningful the beliefs taught in their religion. Once you become depressed, be prepared for any lingering guilt to plague your mind. I was raised a strict Roman Catholic. I use to joke with friends that I had received my Masterâ€™s Degree in guilt by the time I was seven years old. This joke was not funny, however, while I was depressed. My faith had told me it was a serious sin even to attend services at other churches. My church also threatened eternal damnation for those who die unrepentant outside the fold. I was nominally a Roman Catholic until age 35. Then I discovered the Unity Church. My internal conflict remained strong for two more years. To fulfill my Sunday obligation, I attended Mass on Saturdays at a Catholic church, then I attended Unity Services on Sundays. 1
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The Roman Catholic Church taught me many important values that have always served me well. It told me its view of Truth. The Unity Church, however, had a broader idea. It taught me how to discover the highest Truth. After joining Unity, I began in earnest to study every spiritual path that caught my fancy, including the Course in Miracles; Handbook to Higher Consciousness by Ken Keyes; Tai Chi; different Bibles; etc. I became a very active volunteer in the Unity churches I attended. I was a lay minister, Dean of Education, board member, choir member and volunteer worker for many of its activities. While attending Unity of Chicago, I discovered the Eckankar church in October of 1989. A work friend, Ken, mentioned that he and his wife were going to St. Louis the upcoming weekend to attend a conference. When I asked him what kind of conference, he said, “Eckankar.” I had never heard this word before, so I asked, “What kind of car?” Ken laughed good-naturedly. He told me he would give me a brochure about the activities of the seminar to be held in St. Louis. I accepted his thoughtful offer. Three days later I flew from Chicago to attend the Eckankar Worldwide Seminar in St. Louis. For a while, I was cautious about believing the sincerity of the happy people I saw all over the place. I suspected they were cultists. I carefully removed my nametag with the word “Eckankar” printed on it while I walked the streets of St. Louis during meal breaks. I was not sure if I wanted to be associated with “those” people. By the end of the weekend, however, I was “hooked.” What I heard and saw there changed my life completely. I signed up for membership two months later. Nine months later I decided to at least temporarily suspend my volunteer involvement in the Unity church. I accepted the idea held by Eckankar that it is best to only study one spiritual path at a time, especially for the first two years. I thrived spiritually for seven years after joining Eckankar before my depressions set in.
How Could a Just God Do This to Me? Once my depression set in, all “hell” broke loose in my mind. Was God punishing me for abandoning the Catholic Church? Or was I being punished for acknowledging my latent orientation toward homosexuality?
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I was not sure why. All I knew is that I had never felt this way before. Part of my problem was the return of the guilt feelings of my youth. I thought I had overcome guilt after taking in the teachings of the Unity Church. I did not care what it would take to get better, I just wanted to get better. Therefore, I considered all my options. I silently mused the idea that maybe there really was not a Higher Power “up there” after all. Fortunately, I had the inner guidance to stick it out using the spiritual exercises taught by Eckankar. I intermittently moved in and out of feeling the presence of the Mahanta (roughly equivalent to the Christ Consciousness in Christianity). How about you? I strongly suggest that you do not change religions while you are depressed. Avoid this kind of stress on your tattered mind. Instead, study other principles to assist your recovery and your spiritual growth.
Positive Qualities of Some Religions However, if your life does not seem to be working, look for other knowledge that: 1. Improves your self-esteem. 2. Helps you understand your spiritual roots. 3. Gives you specific direction regarding daily spiritual exercises to help you relax and feel good. 4. Does not require you to abandon the religion you have been practicing. 5. Respects individual rights over any deference it gives to its clergy. 6. Teaches you tolerance and respect for the spiritual paths of other people. 7. Teaches you equality of all people. Soul equals Soul. 8. Gives you personal freedom now and teaches you how to become spiritually free in the future. If your present religion or personal philosophy supports most or all of these values, practice them more diligently until you learn them. If not, go to your library or bookstore. There are many excellent selfhelp books.
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Stay Where You Are! While you are depressed is the worst possible time to make any major changes in your life. Even if you find that it contradicts the above values, stay in your present church until after you have recovered. Do not experiment too freely with other new churches until you know more about them. Make sure you are not entering a repressive environment that will only confuse you further. There is one important lesson underlying this key. The ideal values listed above have nothing to do with any church. If you have not been attending church regularly, do not force yourself to start attending while you are depressed. If you have been attending your church regularly, keep on going.
Do Things That Feel Good In either case, what matters most is how you spend each of the days of your life while you are depressed. Do things that you enjoy, things that fuel your interest, things that make you feel good about yourself. Cultivate your spiritual knowledge until you discover the Higher Power of your understanding. You may or may not find it within the church your family attends. This understanding may not be connected to any church at all. Twelve Step programs have been very successful in helping alcoholics, drug addicts, sexual compulsives and others discover a Higher Power of their understanding. Even though “Twelve Steppers” come from diverse backgrounds and virtually all religions, when attendees get inside a meeting room, they are asked to surrender their abusive substances or behavior to a Higher Power. That becomes a powerful tool in their recovery. (More about the Twelve Steps appears in Appendix 10 and is discussed later.)
Are You a Victim? One common element among depressives is their tendency to think and to act like victims. Many depressives think that their problems are worse than anyone else’s. I disagree with this notion because it focuses the depressives’ attention on others outside themselves. However, they will never entirely heal until they assume responsibility for their contribution to their own problems.
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A New Frontier Six hundred years ago scientists began their quest to investigate the technology of our planet independent of religious beliefs. Over two hundred years ago the founders of the United States separated church and state. At the time it was partially a reaction to abuses made by some churches. Perhaps the time has arrived for individuals to rediscover a Higher Power of their understanding that makes everything we know work in the first place. Once this key is mastered, use it as a tool to unlock your depression. Also use it to understand the impact your family environment has had on your life.
Take a Look in the Mirror The importance of medication to assist you should not be overlooked. However, for the moment, look in the mirror to discover the person most responsible for your recovery from your depressionâ€”YOU. If this sounds harsh, think again. You are the person most responsible for your depression. Who is therefore most responsible for your recovery? You, of course. If you are up to it, letâ€™s begin our adventure together to become a whole (holy!) person.
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Golden Key #2 Take a Personal Health Inventory
erhaps it is time to draw a personal lesson from the legend of the Phoenix (Appendix 3). “When it has lived 500 years, it builds itself a nest in the branches of the oak, or at the top of a palm tree. It collects cinnamon, spikenard and myrrh for its nest. From these materials it builds a pile on which it deposits itself. And dying in the flames of the fire, breathes out its last breath amidst [fragrances].” Since the Phoenix is part of nature, it is guided by its instincts. It “knows” when its time is up. It prepares its nest for its own death—and resurrection! There are many worthwhile lessons we can learn from animals. Unlike the Phoenix, we fight our destiny every step of the way. Rather than prepare for our resurrection, we find ways to cover up the pain. Rather than take responsibility, we look outside ourselves for the causes of our problems. Rather than see the silver lining, we cling to our nest (like staying at home and vegetating all the time). However, we do not often realize that our resurrection is just around the corner. Instead of passing through the fire to achieve resurrection, we pour water on the flames.
8 • Phoenix Rising
Here Comes The “Fire”! If you are already severely depressed, the flame in your “nest” is already burning. The events and emotions in your life have brought you to the brink of disaster. No matter how competent you were in the past, you think it is all over now. This is not true. The seeds of your “resurrection” now invite you to greater competence and happiness. First you must recognize where you are in the cycle. Then you can do what it takes to return to the business of living. You are refreshed and renewed because of, not in spite of, your depression.
If It’s Going To Be, It Is Up To Me! The following excerpt from my journal dated February 21, 1996, summarizes the feelings I had during my recovery from my second and third bouts of depression: “At the (Detroit mental) hospital, the doctor diagnosed me with Bi-polar Depression, which may be hereditary. After recovering from my earlier depression, I thought I was being energized and motivated by the Holy Spirit. My doctor told me it was more likely that the hypermania associated with my illness had set in. Now I feel lost and betrayed by my own experience. I have felt no direct connection with my spirituality for months. I feel my life is over. I don’t know what direction to go in. I have been so depressed for so long that I have no joy or happiness to draw on. I need guidance now to keep me alive and help me return to normal living. There is a little, small voice inside me that tells me that my recovery is up to me, but that will take my pulling myself up by my bootstraps to get the ball rolling. I am having a very difficult time typing this journal into my computer. While typing, I am making more mistakes than correct strokes. This causes me to go back over my words and correct them. As verbal as I usually am, this is the best I can do at the moment. I need guidance to achieve right thought, action and deed. Holy Spirit, please help me.”
Take a Personal Health Inventory • 9
Pull Myself Up by My Own Bootstraps? Looking back on my journal notes is very valuable in more objectively evaluating my experiences. The above journal reveals that I had not lost all my rational faculties, even though I had bottomed out from my second depression. It also shows that I continued to seek guidance from my Higher Power. However, I still did not have a clue how I would recover. The outer circumstances of my life were in shambles. Yet that “still, small voice” wasn’t completely dead. In my present understanding, it was all connected with the Law of Karma (Cause and Effect). I was mentally ill because my actions and decisions throughout my lifetime had brought me to the door of doom. It also would be up to me to create the life experiences that would heal my illness the rest of the way. There was no escaping. My choices were to either help myself—or my life was over. This became a significant turning point in my life. I still did not have the answers. However, I at least knew the direction my life had to take: “If it’s going to be, it’s up to me.” Was this Truth or was it spiritual mumbo-jumbo? I did not really know. I had tried everything else—medications, doctors, and hospitals. What did I have to lose?
Fill Out and Score Your Personal Health Inventory Appendix 4 contains a copy of your Personal Health Inventory. It can help you recognize your starting point. It will help protect you from burying your realities. The inventory form is self-scoring. You are the only one who needs to know its results. Do not take this inventory while you are in a hurry. Do it when you are fresh and can look at the events of your life somewhat objectively. Discuss each item with a close friend or spouse as you go through the inventory. There are no right or wrong answers. Nothing will change in your life. All you need to know is that the higher your score for each statement, the more appropriately each statement applies to you in your life. Do not compare yourself to anyone else. Do not try to make yourself feel any particular way. Form and accept an objective review of the major life experiences that contribute to your physical and mental wellbeing.
10 • Phoenix Rising
Those who accept their Higher Power of their understanding (see Chapter 1) can use this inner power now to help you complete your personal inventory. If you already meditate, take the inventory immediately afterwards. If not, just sit quietly a few moments, close your eyes and take a few relaxing, deep breaths.
What Do I Do with My Inventory? This exercise is primarily for you. There is no hurry. It took you a long time to become depressed. It will take you at least a short period to begin your recovery in earnest. When you are ready, please do the following exercise: 1. Use a separate sheet of paper. 2. Look over the 10 statements and your answers. 3. Take a few deep breaths to assure that you are calm. 4. Write down the number of each statement that raises a concern in your mind. 5. Write: “My concern about this statement is ____________” 6. Write a sentence or two that responds to each statement that concerns you. 7. Write down a summary of how you feel after reviewing your inventory.
“A Journey of a Thousand Miles …” An old Chinese saying now applies to you in your recovery from depression: “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” Congratulations. You have taken a small but important step in your recovery. Like the Phoenix, you now know better whether “your time” has come. Perhaps you already feel useless. Now, you can begin in earnest to do something about it. You can now look forward to your Phoenix Rising. However, keep on going until your success is assured.
Golden Key #3 Decide Whether Hospitalization Is Right For You
y experiences five times in three mental institutions were dreadful. In an earlier draft of this book (before my fourth and fifth hospitalizations), I omitted this topic because I honestly did not see how these hospitalizations supported my recovery. My fifth bout of depression was significantly more severe than the previous four. I returned to Key West from my sonâ€™s and his familyâ€™s home in New York to die. I made a careful but risky decision to entrust my recovery to my support groups in Key West. Families of the mentally ill and mental health providers need to know what to expect from mental health institutions. They may be asked to consider hospitalizing their depressives. Those suffering from mental illness need to separate facts from myths regarding what could happen to them if they are placed in a mental hospital.
What Confinement in a Mental Institution Is NOT I was grateful that my deepest fears did not come true while confined to three different mental health institutions. Being confined in a mental hospital did not limit my rights as an American citizen. The 11
12 • Phoenix Rising
staffs of the hospitals I visited were not filled with uncaring, darkhearted sadists who wanted to harm me. In fact, most of the staff served me with dedication and compassion.
Primary Purposes of Mental Hospitals for Depressives The following groups of depressives would likely benefit positively to hospitalization: 1. The homeless 2. Those who cannot monitor their intake of medications and who have no one to regularly assist them 3. Those who cannot nourish themselves healthfully and need assistance in preparing their meals 4. Patients at risk of committing suicide I had two reasons for admitting myself into mental institutions: 1. I genuinely hoped that hospitalization would cure my depression. 2. I hoped those who took care of me at home could take a break from this hardship. Once I was admitted into the mental institutions, however, my only goal was to be released. I felt useless and part of the lowest echelon of society. I saw this as true for me even though I had lived as a professional person all my life. Listed above are four legitimate reasons for confining depressives in mental institutions. Otherwise, depressives may be best be served by family and friends. I was fortunate to have both family and friends as an alternative to hospitalization.
Is It Better to Be Involved in an Intimate Relationship While Depressed? The whole treatise of this book is to make as few changes in your life as are absolutely necessary while you are depressed. This includes your intimate relationship(s). Webster’s II New Riverside Directory defines “intimate” as follows: “Characterized by very close association or familiarity.” Therefore, intimate relationships are not confined to our husbands or wives. They may include other friends, relatives, nontraditional spouses and others.
Decide Whether Hospitalization Is Right For You • 13
During my first two episodes of depression, I was involved in an eight-year, non-traditional relationship with my life partner. I deeply loved him (and still do). I, however, totally destroyed the relationship unnecessarily during the intervening cases of severe mania that I also experienced. My point is simply that I was ignorant of the impact my disease had on my emotions. I drove my life partner out of my life. However, I was in no shape to deal with the aftermath of my decision. I closed (and lost) my $500,000 business. I moved to the southernmost tip of the United States (Key West, Florida). I was far away from most of my friends and family. In retrospect, my mania caused my extreme behavior. I must, however, take full responsibility for the fallout from my decisions. I hoped that enough time had passed since my former relationship ended. I became involved in a new intimate relationship. For several weeks I obsessed over this relationship. I did not know then that this obsession was a warning sign of the onset of another cycle of mania. A few months later I slid back into even deeper depression. I soon felt needy and undesirable. It took several weeks of counseling to learn how to handle these changes in my life after my fourth and fifth bouts of depression. My new life partner lovingly waited on me hand and foot. He cooked delicious meals and fed me well. He made sure I did not fall in default in the payment of my bills. He took care of me at his home until I moved into an apartment. For a few weeks we shared most days and nights in my apartment. “So,” you ask, “what’s the problem?” Simply put, while depressed, depressives generally feel unworthy to be loved. I began to sabotage the relationship in ways about which I was not conscious until it was pointed out to me by my counselor during therapy. I was almost ready to end my relationship with my partner. I had a pessimistic attitude about everything in my life. My therapist helped me to understand that feeling badly about my primary relationship was consistent with this tendency. He told me to stop being so hard on myself. I made a conscious decision not to initiate any decisions about changing my relationship until I became more stable and happy again. Our relationship as friends gradually improved after I made this initial decision. Eventually, however, I made it clear to my partner that our intimate relationship was over. As of this date of writing, I am happily single, living with my cat and dog. I remain open to the possibility of
14 • Phoenix Rising
another intimate relationship when and if it feels right. However, I am in no way needy of this outcome. A word to the wise: Don’t change your primary relationship simply because it doesn’t feel right. While you are depressed, delay that decision until your illness has securely passed. If you have a roof over your head and your physical and medical needs are satisfied, defer any decision to change your intimate relationships until you have overcome your depression for (at least) several months. If you do not have access to these necessities, you may have to trust a friend or relative to act on your behalf. Your goal may be to identify the right social agencies that may be able to help you. This route may lead you temporarily to a mental institution until your physical and medical needs can be met. Most cities have access to state and/or federal programs to meet these needs. If you qualify for these programs, use them. You may have no other choice while depressed. You are ill. Face it. It may be your ticket back to wholeness and productive living. Until three years ago I never received any public assistance. In the aftermath of my third, fourth and fifth depressions, I nearly lost my financial viability. Ultimately I gratefully qualified for Social Security Disability benefits. Then my Medicare coverage kicked in and relieved me of the burden of most of my medical expenses. I have used the experience of writing this book as a recovery tool. If this sharing from a consumer’s perspective helps others, it will become an added benefit. Helping others is a vital link to every depressive’s recovery. But depressives are best advised to wait until after they recover to a satisfactory degree.
Determining Which Depressives Will Commit Suicide Can Become Very Tricky After my third depression, I was forced by circumstances beyond my control to forfeit the lease on my rented townhouse and find another home. Florida experiences its peak market with peak prices in the winter. Since I moved out of my condo in late December, I could not find a new home that I was willing to live in, could afford, and which would accept my pets. So I put all my belongings in storage and stayed with my partner for two weeks before I moved in temporarily with my son and his family in their home.
Decide Whether Hospitalization Is Right For You â€˘ 15
My son, daughter-in-law and granddaughter were all great. However, while there, I was being evaluated for a yet-undiagnosed condition for which I took tests in the Syracuse New York University Hospital. I could not walk without staggering. I could not talk without long delays and slurring. I did not even have the eye-brain coordination necessary to write legibly or to type with my computer. After receiving feedback that all the tests were negative, I had to face the likely diagnosis: my symptoms were caused by an allergic reaction to one or more of my medications. Suspecting this outcome, my psychiatrist took me off all medications. After three weeks without any medications, and with my communication skills nearly eliminated, I became deeply depressed for the fifth time. I decided to commit suicide. Yet I did not want to put my son and his family through this trauma. After a brief period, I decided to return to Key West to die. I dared not breathe a word of my decision to anyone. I could not even trust my therapist. Were I to tell him that I was serious about committing suicide, Florida law might have required him to refer me for confinement to a mental institution. In my right mind, I would never have made the same decision. My illness caused this decision to evolve. I just did not wish to continue living the way I felt, particularly during my last (worst, and hopefully final) bout of severe depression. My whole point for writing this chapter is to caution friends, family and mental health providers that depressives may temporarily lose their perspective. Their values may change. However, they do not necessarily lose their creativity in carving out designated outcomes. I had no history of hurting others. So it became a judgment call for my psychiatrist to decide whether I was likely to hurt myself (by committing suicide). I was smart enough to recognize and circumvent the rules. I was, however, no exception to their application.
What to Do with Depressives about Committing Suicide This is a difficult and sensitive area to explore. Among depressives, one out of five commit suicide. So, like it or not, we may be forced to deal with this uncomfortable topic.
16 • Phoenix Rising
The most direct answers are: 1. It is not possible to stop any one who really wants to kill him- or herself from doing so. 2. In the absence of their illness, depressives strongly desire life as others among the population do. 3. It is always preferable to have professionals care for any case of possible suicide. 4. Depressives respond best when they realize that they are being listened to and cared about. Do not ever take a depressive’s threat of committing suicide lightly. 5. Depressives who talk about committing suicide are among the 20% of depressives that actually take this drastic action. 6. Depressives with responsibilities for other family members (even if it is “only” pets) have a better opportunity to survive suicidal ideas than others. Ultimately, it was reason #6 that persuaded me not to commit suicide. For five months it was touch and go for me. I came close to making a different decision. It was the most frightening period of my entire life. I thank my Higher Power for my survival.
A Surefire Dilemma Families and providers of depressives have a surefire dilemma on their hands. 1. Often it is the loss of a life partner that causes the onset of the depression. 2. Once depression begins, the accuracy of the perception of depressives quickly deteriorates. 3. Depressives need more support while ill than previously. However, they are able to give less to their partners in return. 4. If depressives end the relationship, it may trigger a series of irreversible life changes. These changes often interfere with the increased support the depressives need. 5. However, if depressives remain locked into unhealthy relationships, their chances of recovery could be significantly reduced. From the depressive’s point of view, fewer changes are best. Expectations for the relationship should be adjusted to the revised needs
Decide Whether Hospitalization Is Right For You â€˘ 17
that exist for both partnersâ€”within the context of one partner experiencing disabling depression. From the mental heath providersâ€™ point of view, developing ways for couples to cope with a disabling illness might become the temporary objective of joint counseling. For the families and friends of depressives, you now have a deeper understanding of the dynamics in which your depressive may be involved. This may help you help your depressive more effectively. As a last resort, hospitalization of the depressive may be best decision for both partners. Read this chapter again if necessary to grasp these complex variables and how they interact.
18 â€˘ Phoenix Rising
Golden Key #4 Form Your Own Professional Support Team
he purpose of this chapter is to convince depressives and their families to go the extra mile. You will save time and hardships later if you take the time to discover the right professional team to serve you.
The Return of the “Dr. Welby Complex” While I was depressed, I suddenly began viewing my doctor as the person to “cure” my depression. I had zero confidence in my own abilities to discover whatever it would take to heal myself. It was my doctor’s “job” to make me better. Right? I call this tendency the “Dr. Welby Complex.” I remember the days of my youth when doctor shows were popular on TV. It seemed as if the “doctor” was always wise, kind, gentle, almost superhuman. He (not she in those days) could help patients cure almost anything. Before I became depressed, I had long overcome this doctor “worship.” I viewed my doctors like other specialists who work for me. There were good doctors who really cared. There were also unscrupulous doctors who paid more attention to their busy schedules and their bank accounts than to the individual needs of their patients. 19
20 • Phoenix Rising
Once I became depressed, however, I regressed back to my old values. I counted on my doctor to make me feel better. All I wanted was for him or her to give me the right pill to return me to good health. This proved to be an unwise attitude. Today I realize that most doctors do most things very well. There are more illnesses than ever for which modern science seems to have the right answers. However, depression is not one of them. My childlike expectations remained unfulfilled. Unfortunately, science has not found a simple pill to cure depression. Like cancer, depression usually takes a long time before the symptoms become serious. Once depressed, entire systems within our minds and bodies cease to function normally. There is no simple cure. There never will be one. Doctors must look at their jobs differently. The moral of this story is simple. Doctors do not yet understand depression sufficiently to give quick answers or instant cures. You must become the Director of your own recovery. Just because doctors lack all the answers does not diminish the value of the services they do perform well. You need to find the right doctor who examines you and treats you for the many side effects that often arise from taking medications while you are depressed. You need a doctor who understands and prescribes the medications that are currently available to ease your anxiety and treat the neurological dysfunction in your brain. Use your doctor(s) to provide you with their expertise and to monitor your physical and psychological well-being. Finding the right kind of medical doctor is your objective.
If Possible, Find A Holistic Physician First, I must explain what I mean by the word “holistic.” By holistic, I mean that the physician is more than a conventional practitioner whose methods are generally approved by the American Medical Association (AMA). He or she looks at the body as a whole, integrated system. Everything you eat, drink, think, say or do contributes to your well-being. Doctors who do recognize this integration of mind and body ask more questions than those who do not. These doctors will take the time to understand possible causes that indeed underlay the symptoms you came to him or her to relieve.
Form Your Own Professional Support Team • 21
I have been involved in holistic health for over 20 years. When I worked as a volunteer at the Detroit Unity Temple, we opened the area’s first holistic living center. We had great results, identifying and linking licensed “holistic” medical doctors with other helping professionals, including chiropractors, herbalists, nutritionists, counselors, psychiatrists, and others. These helping professionals also referred patients back to us to help them work with the causes of their depression such as, for example, relationship problems, lack of exercise, need to meditate and a host of metaphysical courses. After I moved to Chicago, I found an excellent M.D. with much compassion. I trusted him to keep current on the latest research in human health. This was particularly important to me in the early days of the AIDS epidemic. As a recently divorced gay man, I had many fears about contracting this serious disease. I wanted to at least be sure that I was regularly tested for the HIV virus. I also wanted to hear whatever wisdom my doctor had to offer to help me avoid contracting this illness. This strategy probably saved my life. After two years with my life partner, we had discovered he was HIV positive. This knowledge set off a whole stream of emotions and fears that fueled the onset of my depression. How about you? Do you already have a doctor you trust? I strongly suggest that you consider using him or her as your first stop in treating your depression. He or she will probably recommend a psychiatric evaluation. He or she probably also works in close harmony with one or more mental health providers. As the Director of Consumer Advocacy for the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill (NAMI) Lower Keys, I have been working with others in the program in efforts to educate doctors to refer their patients to us when the early warning signs of depression appear. This referral might occur after patients require drugs like Xanex, valium and sleeping medications over an extended period. These symptoms may be reminders by your body that something in your life needs attention.
Why Aren’t Drugs the Entire Answer? Penicillin was discovered in the 1940s. This drug was coined a “miracle” drug. Not only did it heal illnesses that were formerly incurable, but its discovery was the root of the popular belief that medical science will someday be able to cure practically all illnesses.
22 • Phoenix Rising
The pharmaceutical companies have profited greatly from this expectation. The overwhelming emphasis in medical research is to identify targeted drugs that cure symptoms of illnesses. Once discovered, drugs must be proven safe using “double blind” scientific studies. This simply means that a trial group receives the prescribed medication while a control group receives a placebo. Manufacturers must satisfy very stringent FDA standards. Such research is expensive and requires a profit motive. A pharmaceutical company that proves the effectiveness and safety of a new drug can recoup the cost of its development and exclusively distribute the drug. This is the reason that drugs like AZT (for AIDS) cost so much until the exclusive patent expires. Thereafter, other pharmaceutical companies can offer “generic” drugs at a much lower cost. This process works well to protect consumers from unexpected side effects. It also assures consistency in the manufacture and distribution of these drugs. These are some of the problems I see with this approach: 1. Most medical doctors generally only prescribe FDA-approved drugs, to the exclusion of vitamins, food supplements, natural herbs and phytochemicals. 2. Patients prefer to believe that such drugs are the only suitable ones for them to take. Unless prescribed by their medical doctor, they do not trust taking them. 3. Most drugs have known side effects. Statistically verified side effects must be listed on the label when you receive these drugs. That is the law. That law, however, did not protect me from almost dying from taking my medications. 4. Research standards only require that each drug be tested individually for safety. There are few safeguards for taking multiple drugs as they mix in combination within the human body. The body operates as an integrated system. Everything you eat and drink becomes part of your body chemistry until it is safely eliminated. 5. Also, there are dubious tests regarding the “half life” of drugs. This half-life measures the amount of time that each drug is safely and effectively active in the body. These tests determine the quantity and frequency for taking prescription drugs. 6. There is not much data available regarding the long-term use of most drugs, whether used alone or in combinations.
Form Your Own Professional Support Team • 23
Listen to the “Father” of Modern Medicine Hippocrates was the founder of modern medicine who promoted the oath taken by physicians. He is given credit for saying, “Let your medicine be your food and your food be your medicine.” There is a notable difference between synthetic vitamins and ones that are extracted from foods. They are alike in all chemical respects, but the synthetics are like a mirror image of the genuine article. In order for the body to use the synthetic ones, it has to rearrange the molecules so they fit into the cells of the body—like pieces in a jigsaw puzzle. This conversion process can take a lot of energy. Synthetics tend to stress the body, whereas a natural food-form supplement, by its nature, more easily “fits” the body’s needs. The vast majority of prescription drugs are synthetic. They are designed to attack or eradicate germs, viruses and other causes that underlay symptoms of illnesses. Drugs, by their very definition, are toxins. They are designed to attack specific germs, viruses, or conditions in the body. There are no standards that require manufacturers of prescription drugs to prove how they are ingested and assimilated by the body. They limit their research to what the drugs do to eliminate the problem and to assure minimum safety standards. Of course, not every body is a duplicate of everyone else’s body. Therefore, some drugs produce side effects for some people, and the same drug is well-assimilated by others. One or another prescription drug or drugs may be right for you or it may produce side effects. The problems described above also apply to anti-depressant drugs. If your doctor is honest, s/he will acknowledge that some anti-depressants work for some people and not for others. Perhaps even more puzzling, some drugs work for a while and then later, for the same person, do not work! Figure that one out. The ultimate answer to these dilemmas will evolve slowly over time. Someday scientists will incorporate other variables into their research. For example: 1. General health and status of the immune system of different patients 2. Differing dietary habits 3. Differing levels of exercise 4. Use of simultaneous multiple prescription drugs and how they mix 5. Use of alcohol and other non-prescription drugs 6. Use of vitamins, herbs and food supplements in conjunction with use of prescribed drugs
24 â€˘ Phoenix Rising
You and I may be dead by the time scientists determine how all these variables interact. It therefore becomes our responsibility to find out the answers for ourselves. The best way to find out how individual drugs interact within your body is to find a holistic physician. S/he will likely acknowledge the impact these variables have and take the time to educate patients regarding their impact. In medicine, as in most businesses, time is money. Physicians are often burdened with many patients. Doctors must sustain high patient loads to pay the bills. Therefore, doctors do not have the time, energy, education or incentive to pursue unproved contingencies.
Do Not Self-Medicate My primary point of caution is: do not self-medicate. Medicate only with a physician who can apply his or her medical understanding to you as an individual.
Find the Pioneers in Holistic Medicine Most physicians hide safely behind popular idea that finding the right drug that works for you is what is most important. Most physicians rarely educate patients regarding the benefits of other variables like meditation, exercise and food supplements. Such venturing into uncharted territory also leaves physicians open to libel suits. It is better for them to adhere to conventional medical practices. The pharmaceutical companies peddle their wonder drugs and profit handsomely. Have you ever noticed how often your physician offers you â€œfreeâ€? samples of drugs to use until your prescription is filled? The pharmaceutical companies often supply doctors with generous supplies of new drugs to induce subsequent use by consumers. This is not a wicked plot designed to hurt people. On the contrary, it is often motivated by a sincere desire to help sick people. Sales and marketing personnel who work for pharmaceutical companies often take extensive training on the products they offer to consumers. This training helps them educate physicians who are often too busy to keep up with the latest discoveries in developing new medications.
Form Your Own Professional Support Team â€˘ 25
Be Sensible and Be Cautious I do not pretend to be offering you a professional opinion. I am not qualified to do so. Therefore, take what I say with caution. Protect yourself from the standard practices that may not help your recovery. Since recovery is our shared goal, this issue should be important to you. For this reason, I have earnestly tried not to become more technical than necessary. Your goal is to serve as Director of your own recovery. If you are depressed, congratulations for having the energy and interest to read this kind of literature. You just want to get better, whatever it takes. This is my point. Your chances of getting better sooner depend in part on finding a physician who understands the importance of the above non-traditional variables. S/he is willing to help you help yourself in obtaining those variables that are most suitable for your particular body and life style. There is no magic using this approach. All you can do is to safely use trial and error research (in close coordination with your doctor) until you find the right combinations of drugs, foods, vitamins, food supplements, exercise, psychological processes, spiritual processes, etc. Can you now understand why physicians are confused and frustrated by the data being developed regarding the effectiveness of approved drugs? It is often better for them to stick within conventional medical practice. Therefore, most doctors stay there. It works for most patients. Maybe not for you. However, would it be better for your doctor to recommend untried and unproved remedies? Probably not indiscriminately. This puts you squarely in charge of protecting your own interests to recover as quickly as possible. This is all cause-and-effect behavior, not spiritual mumbo jumbo. Take it seriously. Consider all the variables. Depression often lasts for years in some patients. It will not take you nearly this long to find your own path through this complex maze. However, it is solely your decision and responsibility to direct the process.
How to Find a Holistic Physician So, how do you find a holistic physician? For maximum personal safety, you may start with your local representatives from the American Medical Association. Slowly, some physicians are recognizing the limitations of conventional medical
26 â€˘ Phoenix Rising
practices. Some of these have ventured deeply into so-called alternative or complementary therapies. However, do not be deterred. It is your best interest to find what works for you sooner rather than later. Someday the dust will finally settle on all the controversies surrounding alternative health care. It is only by seeking that you will succeed in identifying holistic physicians who still operate within the hierarchy, and with the approval of, conventional medical practitioners.
Other Alternative Searches All the other alternatives involve more of a personal risk. As a depressive, the last thing you want to do is take an unnecessary risk. Acknowledge this tendency to risk as an integral part of your illness. Acknowledgment is wisely designed by nature (or your Higher Power, or God) to protect you. If you have come this far with me, you may be ready for another suggestion. Ask your Higher Power to guide you in conducting your research. Each area and city is unique. Each area has its own unique standards and culture. Some therapies readily available in large cities, for example, are rarely found in rural small towns. Ask your Higher Power how to proceed. With these ideas in mind, you might consider the following approach.
Alternative Printed Material There is a growing potpourri of printed materials that espouse the merits of alternative health products and practices. Within these materials exist some very legitimate and scientifically driven studies. Read these articles with careful understanding and caution. Contact the organizations and individuals that write these articles. Find out more. See what applies to you as an individual. Ask these individuals if they know of physicians near you who use their suggested therapies. If not, inquire regarding non-traditional practitioners, like chiropractors, herbalists, acupuncturists, massage therapists, nutritionists, etc. More about these therapies appears in Appendix 5. An important word of caution may assist you. These printed materials often contain advertisements for their products. Often manufacturers and advertisers make unsubstantiated claims to sell their products.
Form Your Own Professional Support Team • 27
“Buyer, beware!” should be your approach. If a product interests you, find out more about it before you buy it. A legitimate organization will be happy to provide you with detailed research to support its claims. If not, look elsewhere.
Non-Sectarian Churches I have no available statistics to prove my belief that the attendance at non-sectarian churches is on the rise in the United States. It is just my experience. For whatever reasons, certain churches seem more open to alternative therapies than others. You might try your local Unity, Unitarian, Science of Mind or the Eckankar church (to name a few). Talk with the ministers. They may be aware of individuals within their church who are inclined toward non-traditional health practices. Look at the church’s newsletters and bulletins for articles and advertisements of alternative practitioners.
Find the Right Mental Health Provider—For You Many of the dynamics for finding the right mental health provider are similar to those described above for finding the right physician. (See Appendix 5, How to Develop Your Own Medical Support Team.)
Uncertainties in My Life When I lived in Chicago, I contributed half co-payment of an hourly rate of $150 when I saw my psychiatrist for 50 minutes per visit. However, he also spent a significant amount of time every day talking with his patients on the telephone. His calls to me were very important to me. They became my lifeline back to the real world when I isolated myself. Other depressives are not so fortunate. During the peak of my third bout of depression, my son and his family took care of me in Toronto. I returned to Key West after several weeks in Toronto. At that point I had been unemployed for a year. I had closed my successful retail flower shop; because of my illness, I saw no other alternatives. Most depressives do not use their characteristic creativity and good judgment.
28 • Phoenix Rising
“If It’s Going to Be, It’s Up to Me!” This brings up an idea that is repeated over and over in this book. If you are a typical depressive, you do not think you can do much for yourself. You want someone else to fix you. So you follow your traditional upbringing and conventional wisdom practiced by the masses. If I had remained stuck in this philosophy I would still be a vegetable. I sat for hours every day watching senseless shows on TV. I did little for my own well-being. I did not even meditate or exercise for weeks, even though I had done so every day for most of my adult life. I lost 25 pounds and almost starved to death when I ran out of food in the house. I was afraid to drive or even walk to a local convenience store for essential food. I was single for the first time in nine years and lived alone. I was even too depressed to ask friends to help me. I went days wearing the same clothes, without shaving or showering. In short, I was a mess. I would have stayed in disarray much longer had I not finally realized that if I were to recover, it was indeed up to me. Armed with this understanding, I used my inner resources to guide me. I refused to be unduly influenced by what others said or did. I refused to let my condition control me. I tried many things that did not work, especially in the short run. If something did work, however, I forced myself to do it every day. For example, like resuming my exercising. I understood from my past experience why it worked. However, when I was depressed, I did not know whether or not it would speed my recovery. I just knew that I felt better after I exercised and showered. So I did it. Period. My hope in writing this book is that I can help you help yourself. Deep in my heart I know that I am not special or lucky. My recovery contained logical, scientifically based (but nevertheless trial and error) research. I was the guinea pig. I risked my restoration to health, if not my life, to beat the odds. It worked for me. It will work for you. However, it must all begin inside of you. You must resist the sweetness that being a victim occasionally offers you. But if you do not love yourself, who else can? Others may feel sorry for you, do things for you, give you temporary comfort, distract you from your pain for a short period, etc. However, these comforts will not cure you. You must become the Director of your own recovery. This is the most important point in this book, and it is stressed throughout it.
Form Your Own Professional Support Team • 29
Don’t Forget Your Higher Power I believe in a Higher Power that I understand. Moreover, I believe in reincarnation. If I were to commit suicide, I would just come back to earth in another body to learn the lessons I was resisting. I decided to learn the lessons being presented to me now, and I did so under the protection of my Higher Power. I can almost always tell when I’m on the right path. Things go smoother and I feel better about myself. Try it and see for yourself.
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Golden Key #5 Learn How to Handle Your Depressed Emotions
earning to handle the wide range of emotions generally experienced while you are depressed is tricky. Much depends on your personality and the values you developed before you became depressed. I can only speak from my own experience, hoping that you will relate to what I am saying in helpful ways. The most important thing to remember is that most of the unusual negative feelings that bother you are caused by your illness. In normal times we are taught to “get in touch” with our feelings in order to deal effectively with them. When depressed, this good advice no longer applies. If you are clinically depressed (see Appendix 1 for definition) you must understand your feelings within an entirely different context. It is a waste of time to lend unreasonable importance to them. When you know you have a cold, for example, you expect to have symptoms (like a runny nose) that you do not have when you are well. In a similar way, when you are depressed, your recovery will be quicker if you accept the fact that your feelings will most certainly be different from what they were before you became depressed. Since emotions vary among “normal” people, you can expect them to vary among depressives. I hope that the examples from my illness 31
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that I use below give you some idea regarding the direction your emotions may take because you are depressed. It is not wise to add any greater importance to my ideas beyond this limited perspective.
Lethargy / Inertia The most difficult emotion (or lack thereof) I had to contend with when depressed was lethargy. By this, I mean that I did not care about or enjoy nearly everything that existed in my life. I did not like my newly adopted town of Key West, Florida. I did not like Toronto or Syracuse, NY during my visits to my son and family. I did not like Detroit when I spent two days there before I drove to Key West in the dead of winter. When I arrived in Key West, I barely noticed or appreciated the beautiful warm weather that welcomed me. The question facing me was: “If I do not like where I am and do not know where I want to go, what do I do?” The simple answer to this question was that depression has a way of coloring everything dark and gloomy. There is little or no joy and pleasure in living life. I was not happy with myself, anyone or anything that came into my life. Perhaps this is the reason I remained isolated. Even though I felt alone, I at least had some control over my environment. The general label I assign to these feelings is lethargy. I call my reaction to my lethargy, “inertia.” By inertia, I mean that when I was lying down, I did not want to get up. When I knew I should eat, I did not want to cook. When I finally decided to pick up the mail in my mailbox, I did not even want to look at it. I just threw it on one of the growing piles in my kitchen and lay down exhausted. I replicated this pattern in my life ad infinitum. All my lethargy and inertia really accomplished was to keep me feeling low. I felt worthless and useless. I saw no way out of my problems. I just vegetated most days, all day. When I turned on the TV, I usually viewed whatever that channel was showing. I did not even have the energy to locate the remote control for my TV so I could see if there was anything interesting I wanted to watch. For me, this was a radical departure from the way I lived my life before becoming depressed. I was always active. I usually had several things going at the same time. I woke up in the morning full of energy. I kept busy in productive ways all day every day until I decided to go to bed. Then I fell asleep quickly and slept soundly all night.
Learn How to Handle Your Depressed Emotions â€˘ 33
This shift in these life patterns was devastating to me. My distress greatly lengthened the time it took me to recover. I was impatient to get back to â€œnormal,â€? but I did not have the energy to do anything about it. I was dissatisfied with what most people did and said in my company, but was usually too lethargic to become angry or even to express my dissatisfaction. When I did speak honestly, I was often judgmental and unreasonable. Then I regretted my unreasonable behavior. I called my emotional status being like a vegetable. Even then I realized, however, that vegetables have an important job to do. They do it by just being themselves and growing the best they can in the environment given to them by others. Humans sometimes are our own worst enemies. I certainly was. I saw no way out of my lethargy and inertia until I finally committed myself to perform daily planning. Thereafter, I kept my standards of performance within boundaries that I knew I could achieve. The main difference was that I endeavored every day to do just a little more than I accomplished on the previous day. Fortunately, this finally worked for me. My advice to other depressives is to be patient with yourselves. Understand that these kinds of feelings are part of the illness. Also, be gentle with yourself. Plan what needs to be done each day to become self-sufficient. Do whatever you can to accomplish your plans. Do not fret if it all is not accomplished. Pick up where you left off yesterday. Approach each day one day at a time. It is the only way I found to eventually dig out of my pain. See Chapter 9 for the way I performed my daily planning.
Anger For many years before becoming depressed, I was proud of how I handled my anger. I rarely disguised it, and was usually honest with everyone. In this way, I did not let the anger build up inside, and therefore was less likely to explode when I expressed it. While depressed, however, my anger often changed forms. I was primarily angry with myself. I realized that there was very little that others could do to please me. So, my expectations were low. I was too insecure and unsure of my feelings to openly express them. Stuffing my anger did not help me. Like a pressure cooker, it just built up pressure inside until my selfesteem took another beating. It became a vicious cycle I did not enjoy.
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Resistance to Change The severity of my first and second depressions required hospitalization in two different mental institutions. While hospitalized, I had time to reflect on the conditions in my life that caused my depression. I concluded that it was my failure to solve my relationship problems with my partner that created most of my major problems underlying my depressions. Just the sight of my beautiful two-month-old granddaughter on the day I was released from the hospital changed my life forever. I suddenly realized, in a vivid way, that I had other people and reasons to live my life. My insight precipitated my firm resolve to either fix my problems with my partner or end the relationship. Whatever the validity of my conclusions, I was ill prepared to handle major changes in my life. I was not yet aware of my future diagnosis as being Bi-polar. It did not take long before the mania side of my illness dominated my behavior. These combinations of conditions motivated me toward uncharacteristically rigid behavior. Instead of looking at life in a balanced way, I became highly judgmental and harsh with my partner. Two months laterâ€”after many emotional outbursts, fights, violence, drunkenness (on his part) and fear of physical harm from my partnerâ€”I threw him out of the house, closed my store and moved out of state. In retrospect, it was my poor judgment and forcing of radical changes in my life that caused my second and third rounds of depression. In the meantime, my former partner filed a major law suit against me. He claimed to own an equal partnership in both my home and business. These attacks had a major role in turning my first attack of mania into depression #2. My advice to others who are depressed is: Consider your recovery your #1 priority. Do not initiate any major changes in your life until your recovery seems complete. It is natural for recovering depressives not to want to remain depressed. The experience is so terrible that even death (suicide?) seemed preferable to staying depressed. Those who are depressed need strong support and guidance from people they are closest to. In my case, my actions generated strong and harsh reactions from my partner. These reactions fueled my determination to fix the relationship or end it. So I ended it. That decision changed my life forever.
Learn How to Handle Your Depressed Emotions • 35
Having battles with my partner also split our mutual friends into camps. Some took his side. Others took my side. Some tried to remain neutral. All were uncomfortable dealing with both of us. They knew us as a couple who loved one another. They simply could not understand the possibility that we might end our eight-year relationship. My relationship with my former partner is still not healed. I have attempted to apologize to him in person for the severity of my behavior. (I have apologized in writing and asked to meet with him.) I wish I had been conscious enough to recognize that it was I who caused his expectations—ones that I would strongly reject after my hospitalization. I might have been more understanding and moderate in dealing with and perhaps fixing my relationship rather than tearing it apart. While depressed I felt unworthy, old, ugly and undesirable. It was natural to deeply desire a recapture of my self-esteem. However, I took the energy from my apparent recovery as a reason for making major changes in my life. After my second depression, I followed a similar pattern. I ended my temporarily renewed friendship with my former partner. I charged thousands of dollars fixing up my condo so I could put it on the market and sell it. I made an impulsive decision to move to Key West. I spent thousands more dollars moving there and becoming settled. I misinterpreted the motivation for all these activities as direction from Spirit. Soon after I settled my belongings in Key West, I began to wake up and realize what I had done. These thoughts raised fears about my ability to support myself and live a new life in a completely unfamiliar part of the country away from all my roots. Soon thereafter I drifted into my third bout of depression. My fourth and fifth cases of depression started after I won and promptly ended my first post-depression job (teaching high school). The timing just happened to correspond with a change in my medication. Because my schedule changed at the same time that my medications changed, I was confused over the causes for the way I felt. By the time the high school students came for their first day of school, I was unable to speak without slurring. I had trouble walking. I lost my eye-hand coordination for my handwriting and typing on my computer. After the first day, I resigned with the principal’s blessing. The initial diagnosis for my symptoms was Parkinson’s Disease. My hopes of returning to work were temporarily crushed.
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There are some terrible facts about multiple occurrences of depression. Usually each occurrence is more severe than the previous one(s). Sometimes the medications that worked previously do not work as well (or at all) during subsequent depressed states. It often takes longer to recover as our illness recurs. As these events occurred in my life, I felt more depressed. I realized that all these typical adverse consequences of my subsequent bouts of depression were also true for me. I am grateful that I began to understand what I had previously done to trigger my mania. I firmly resolved to do what ever it took to avoid a third bout of mania. Thanks to my Higher Power, my doctors and medication, I did avoid a recurrence of mania in the forms I recognized. This enabled me to heal my depression and begin building a new life in Key West without a relapse into mania. I do not recall having a clear pattern of mania after my third bout of depression. I had one symptom of hypomania (a milder form of mania) which was tricky to manage. I was in the process of writing earlier drafts of this book. I was motivated to work on it for long hours. At the same time, I had plenty of energy and felt no fatigue from my lack of sleep. These situations caused set the stage for my fourth and fifth bouts of depression, without an intervening case of hypomania or mania. These bouts offered me the following perspectives: 1. The Golden Keys offered in this book continued to work. 2. It became much more difficult to handle my recovery without the support of a group rallied around a specific recovery program that works for all. 3. Mania and hypomania are much trickier than depression to diagnose and treat. Even my closest friends and family were understandably concerned about me and the change in my views and personality. However, I was able to convince them by my clever communication skills that my radical actions were justifiedâ€” instead of signaling the onset of mania. (See Appendix 6: The Heartbreak of Mania.) 4. I tried to fix the problems that caused my depression all at once. I wish I had had the consciousness to put my recovery ahead of these decisions that radically changed the course of my life. I might have even been able to save my eight-year relationship with my former partner. 5. I should have avoided making any significant changes in my life until I was fully recovered and my life become stable again.
Learn How to Handle Your Depressed Emotions â€˘ 37
6. I should have been more patient with the psychiatrist who first told me I was a manic/depressive. I did not understand his diagnosis. I knew people who were manic/depressive and I was certain that its symptoms did not apply to me. My ensuing arguments with my psychiatrist ended our relationship and prevented me from receiving the medication(s) that may have helped me avoid the onset of my two attacks of mania.
Sexuality I now understand that sexuality is one of the first attributes to go and one of the last to return after being depressed. At the time, however, I did not understand this phenomenon that affects most depressed people. I lost all desire for being sexual, with myself or with anyone else. I felt old, skinny and ugly. I felt very undesirable. â€œWhy would anyone else want me?â€? I often thought. Most anti-depressant medications have side effects that inhibit sexual performance. Sometimes I could not sustain an erection. Sometimes I could not reach a climax. It all did not seem worth the effort. For the most part, I remained celibate in thoughts and deeds. Since I did not have a partner living with me, having sex would have meant going out (mostly to the bars), meeting a stranger and hoping that the experience would be mutually enjoyable. For the most part, this simply did not happen. I did not leave the house very often. My usual dislike for the bar scene became even more severe. I did not want to have sex with someone I did not know. These conditions contributed to my lack of sexual enjoyment. In retrospect, my advice to depressed people is to enjoy your body as much as possible. This includes soothing baths and showers, massages, food, drink and wholesome sexual intimacy. See Appendix 5 for additional hints regarding use of alternative remedies to treat your depression.
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Hunger and Thirst Before becoming depressed I never really appreciated how great it is to experience hunger and thirst. I took both for granted. During my third depression, I went for nearly two weeks without food. The food remaining in my refrigerator and cupboards had no appeal for me. I did not move my bowels naturally for six weeks. I hardly even had to urinate, due to my limited intake of fluids. My lethargy even discouraged me from getting up and going to the bathroom. These subjects are, even now, unpleasant to write about. Experiencing them was further aggravated by the taboo nature of speaking about body functions in our society. Often, I could not even tell these things to my psychiatrist. They just seemed too difficult to discuss. In natural terms, much of my difficulty was based on my low intake of food and liquids. Also, body functions slow down for most depressed people. My condition was further aggravated by my lethargy and lack of mobility. In normal times, there is hardly a day when I go without physical exercise. While depressed, I went weeks at a time without the benefit of this healthy activity. Perhaps these uncomfortable comments will trigger one reality: there is a strong connection among the mind, body and spirit. When my mind failed to function normally, it was not long before my body functions slowed down. Soon thereafter, even my strong spiritual life seemed remote and inoperative. In other words, I created a vicious cycle that seemed endless and debilitating.
The Role Friends and Others Play in Your Recovery One of the most devastating aspects of depression is facing the intense prejudice and ignorance about mental illness that exists in our society. Many detractors think that physical illnesses are vastly different from mental illnesses. This prejudice made it very uncomfortable for me while relating to family, friends, neighbors and casual acquaintances. “Do I tell them about my illness or don’t I?” was a question with which I often struggled. In general, people I knew fell into one or more of the following groups: 1) Some people brushed me off. I thought that I acted too scary for them. This only made me feel more isolated, alone and frightened. 2) Some gave me advice based on their own life experiences. This group of friends and family were all well-intentioned. However,
Learn How to Handle Your Depressed Emotions • 39
those who had never experienced depression often said things like: “Snap out of it.” or “Do not think about it.” or “You know what to do. Do it.” Thanks a lot; but none of this advice worked for me. 3) Some sympathized and/or coddled me. What I really needed was support in pulling myself out of depression by my own boot straps. However, friends and family who were excessively sympathetic with my condition did not really help me. They allowed me to wallow in my self pity. 4) Only a few empathized with me and helped me help myself. This, to me, is the ideal kind of support I needed to help me. However, such individuals are hard to find. The above reactions are similar to the human dynamics reported by many alcoholics. Usually, recovering alcoholics are most effective in helping other alcoholics. Only a few individuals really seemed to understand my pain during my five incidents of depression. Their friendship was worth more than gold to me. It provided my only lifeline outside of my own efforts back to sanity and productivity. I especially appreciate every thing my dear friends Mark and John did to help me through my depressions. John called me long distance or sent me frequent e-mail letters. Mark took care of me and shared my pain on a daily basis during my fifth (and most severe) bout of depression. I will be grateful to both friends for the rest of my life. They helped me save my life. One thing you can count on. If a friend or relative has never experienced mental illness, it will be difficult for him or her to understand your illness. Our society has a long way to go before it becomes educated in dealing with mental illnesses. Fortunately for me, I had a lot of experience dealing with mental illness issues before I experienced depression. I knew that I was ill. Thinking that I was “crazy” had no meaning to me. However, such powerful negative words often reflect society’s true feelings about your illness.
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Prescription for Successful Relationships Your relationships are very important in your life. As a depressive you may find yourself “trapped” in a relationship that you regret. At the same time, I’ve advised you to remain in your primary relationships if at all possible. The ideas contained in this section are based on the writings of Richard J. Maybury in his book entitled Whatever Happened to Justice? (Bluestocking Press, 1992). Richard Maybury studied various ethical systems of the world’s great religions and boiled down the 10 Commandments, the Koran, the Bible and other ethical systems into two simple laws that are very powerful tools for living life. (They are “Do all you have agreed to do” and “Do not encroach on other persons or their property.”) I have adapted his teachings for use in this book: To enjoy all your relationships, at any time, certain conditions are necessary: • Your friends must keep their commitments. • They must respect you. • They must respect your property. In addition, to have successful partnerships, both you and your partner must be willing to discuss your differences openly and honestly. You must truly listen to each other without judgment and with a sincere desire to settle your differences amicably. Simple? Yes, extremely so. However, for your relationships to work for you, you must be absolutely clear with your partner about the importance of these ingredients for you to remain committed to the relationship. You must also practice what you preach. You cannot expect these components to be active in your life unless you demonstrate these principles consistently with everyone you take the time to share your friendship with. In other words, these principles are simple, but not easy. You must keep them uppermost in everything you say, think and do with your friends. If friends are unable or unwilling to conform to these guidelines, think about finding new friends. What a better place this world would be if everyone followed them. Parents also must practice what they preach consistently and completely. They must also keep their commitments with their children, respect them and respect their personal property. These things are easier said then done. However, the benefits far outweigh the costs.
Learn How to Handle Your Depressed Emotions • 41
Love / Intimacy For many years, I have understood that love, intimacy and sex are three different attributes. While depressed, I did not have a partner whom I loved to support me emotionally. I found sex to be either difficult, impossible and/or unfulfilling. What about intimacy? It took me weeks to understand how I could still achieve intimacy in my life. Thanks to a few close friends, I soon learned that my energy level increased when I had company. For example, I had a few friends (one at a time) over for dinner when I was depressed. I would not cook for myself, but I found ways to get the food I needed for guests. I even cooked some excellent meals for them. Soon after they left my home, however, I found myself exhausted and lethargic. Thank God, I was able to really communicate honestly with some of my new friends. Their support helped me understand that my illness was perhaps not as serious as I had imagined. Even petting your pet can induce healthy non-sexual intimacy. With pets, there are no hidden agendas and no expectations beyond the obvious. My advice to other depressives is to be grateful if you have a partner at home who still desires you. If love exists between you, you will find enjoyable ways to satisfy each other’s needs. Your partner can experience a full climax, for example, while you stay within the bounds that your depression places on you. This requires communications that may not be comfortable for you. However, you owe this much to your partner. The Bible says that true love never fails. In spite of all my problems when depressed, I always believed that love was the ultimate answer. I soon started participating in life fully, just like the “old” days. I remain grateful for the important role my friends Mark and John had in my recovery. John closely monitored my progress. During my fourth and fifth depressions, Mark continued to take care of me on a daily basis. I will never forget how loved they made me feel.
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Pets Can Give You Intimacy, Too! I first learned about the PAWS organization (Pets Are Wonderful Support) when I was still healthy and living in Chicago. However, I did not fully appreciate the worthwhile benefits that can come from this program until I became severely depressed. The basic idea is simple. The organization provides sick people with easy-to-maintain pets. These people include the elderly, persons with severe cancer and those with AIDS. Volunteers visit these ill people and (if necessary) help them take care of their pets. Pets offer sick people the kind of unconditional love that is rare among humans. Science is confirming the healthy benefits of having pets around during illness. Most pets love attention. They enjoy lying next to a warm body in bed. They are fun to pet and cuddle. They are not influenced by what humans look like, how they smell, their race, creed or religion. Pets exist in the now moment and get as much enjoyment out of life as possible. While I was depressed, my dog, Sandy, was sometimes the only comfort I appreciated. She seemed to understand that I was experiencing pain. She became particularly patient with the frequent interruptions in her maintenance schedule while I was ill. She rarely bothered me to feed her or to take her outside. She sustained her composure and good nature. She made me feel wanted and needed. When everything else in my life seemed gloomy, she gave me a reason to live. There may not be a PAWS organization in your community. Here are some suggestions, however, to help yourself or others to enjoy the benefits of having pets: 1. Find a gentle, house-trained pet. Use ads in newspapers, personal contacts or your local Humane Society. There are usually healthy and good-natured pets available to anyone who can take care of them. 2. Select a pet appropriate for the environment. For example, no big dogs in small spaces. Perhaps you can have a cat when dogs are prohibited by lease or condo contracts. Be sure that the pet is friendly and does not threaten others. 3. Volunteer to help the ill person take care of the pet. Usually two visits a day will work. Cats use litter boxes that must be kept clean. Dogs can be kennel trained if necessary. 4. Feed the animal(s) thoughtfully to sustain low weight and body fat. Foods that people eat may not be good for them.
Learn How to Handle Your Depressed Emotions â€˘ 43
5. Maintain an adequate bowl of fresh water at the petâ€™s disposal. They usually only need water a few times a day, in connection with their meals and sleeping patterns. The payoff for providing ill people with suitable pets is enormous. There rarely is a down side. Remember this if you try to persuade the ill person to have a pet. When we are depressed, we are afraid of anything new. It is hard to accept responsibility for an animal when we cannot even take care of ourselves. Be reassuring. Be patient. Help all you can. It is well worth the effort.
The Role of Young Children and Babies Young children and babies can add life to your intimacy. Like animals, they usually love unconditionally and innocently. As adults we become accustomed to viewing children and babies as immature with a lot to learn. In reality, children and babies may actually be closer to natural love and wisdom then the rest of us. Above, I mentioned the incident involving my granddaughter when I returned home from my first confinement to a mental institution. Her smile and sweet innocence connected me with a larger perspective. I resolved to heal myself so I could enjoy her and fill her need for a dynamic grandfather. In my mind, I even thought I heard her tell me to get better because she needed me in her life. I had no prior hallucinations or hearing of voices. I therefore just accepted this insight on face value. It was almost as if my Higher Power had arranged the incident. Depressives are often discriminated against like others with mental illnesses. Some adults might be leery of leaving us alone with their children. However, you can enjoy them anyway while their parents are present. While staying with my son and family near Toronto, her parents allowed me to baby-sit my granddaughter for short periods. In my depressed condition, this idea made me nervous. However, I rose to the occasion. I was able to play with her and be cheerful. This greatly increased my self-confidence. I knew I would protect her with my life if necessary. It was very therapeutic for me. Even while depressed, I learned to appreciate children and babies more. Soul equals Soul. They have a lot to offer if we only listen to them. The innocent intimacy they offer is holy and unconditional.
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Intimacy in Summary The whole point of this section is to underscore the importance of unconditional love to depressed people. Only self-love that mirrors the love of our Higher Power is lasting. Intimacy makes us feel good about ourselves and connects us with this inner power. Love and sex combined with intimacy may be the best overall prescription for the recovery of depressives.
Spirituality The only way I survived my crisis was to stay connected with my Higher Power. Slowly, as my spiritual awareness began to return, this task became much easier. I eventually remembered that I am always guided, guarded, protected and connected with my Source. Today I realize that I deserve this connection simply because I exist. It is “the Father’s good pleasure” to give (all) His people all the treasures of the Kingdom. For months, however, these feelings were largely absent from my consciousness while in the abyss of depression. My advice to other depressed people is to never give up trying to connect with your Higher Power. Also, understand that this will be difficult to do when you are depressed. Take responsibility for your illness. This will empower you to fully participate in your recovery. However, do not succumb to guilt, as I have done so consistently in my life. There is a sharp distinction between taking responsibility and blaming yourself. Self-blame and guilt have no redeeming characteristics. On the other hand, when depressed you may need to evaluate the tools your religion gives you to assist your recovery. Suspend your judgment about changing your religious path until after you are fully recovered. However, do not hesitate to “borrow” techniques that may work for you from other sources, even other religions. As long as we have life, we have the power to choose. I am deeply humbled and grateful to my Higher Power for these realizations. He (She, It) supported me through the “valley of the shadow of death” into the Light.
Learn How to Handle Your Depressed Emotions • 45
Brain Disorder or Mental Illness? Depression is a mental illness. Today it is increasingly called a brain disorder. This reflects science’s evolving understanding that in depression, the basic functions in the brain fail to operate normally. The trend is in the direction of doctors and scientists identifying specific brain disorders that cause the symptoms experienced with “mental illness.” (For example, in recent years, medications have been developed that greatly relieve the symptoms of depression. However, their use is not yet completely understood.) Your emotions will be completely different while you are depressed. You can count on that. The general directions of your emotions will be either negative or comatose. Do not waste your time wondering or figuring out WHY you feel depressed. Just understand that your emotions and feelings will return to normal very quickly after you recover. You can count on that, too.
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Golden Key #6 Develop an Effective Diet and Nutrition Program
t is not the purpose of this Golden Key to recommend any particular dietary or nutritional program. It is not concerned with gaining or losing weight. It does not address any particular nutritional or herbal needs to deal with undesirable symptoms. It neither recommends nor opposes the taking of medications. I am not qualified to make a professional recommendation.
The Objective of This Chapter The single objective of this chapter is to sensitize you to the strong correlation between what you eat and drink and your overall physical and mental well-being. This includes general remarks about what medications do to your system. In short, I hope you will extract from this chapter very useful guidelines to help you optimize your diet. This, in turn, maximizes the opportunities for your body chemistry and immune system to keep you healthy and full of energy. We sometimes forget that the brain is part of our body just like all our other systems. Modern terminology calls mental illness â€œbrain disorderâ€? for very good reasons. There is mounting scientific evidence
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that the neurotransmitters in the brain function differently or less efficiently for people with (for example) depression than for those who do not experience this illness. Calling these illnesses “brain disorders” also attempts to remove the social stigma associated with mental illness. Not long ago, we were dismissed as “crazy.” Those days are slowly but surely coming to a close. When we understand that what we eat and drink feeds our brains as it does our entire body, some of our helplessness can immediately be reduced. Society generally regards mental illness differently from physical illness. There are no valid reasons for this distinction. I am grateful for the great pioneering work being done by many national organizations and their local affiliates to educate us in this new way of thinking. (For a selected list, see Appendix 2, Contact Information for Selected Mental Health Organizations.)
Drink Plenty of Water I mention this first because it is not often understood by the general public. Drinking enough water is especially true when you are depressed. (See Appendix 7, How to Create a Personal Nutritious Diet for more information about your intake of fresh water.)
Carefully Examine How You Use Alcohol, Recreational Drugs and Other Harmful Substances The labels on most anti-depressant medications warn you not to consume alcohol while you are taking these medications. The final decision regarding the total elimination of alcohol is up to you. One thing is certain. Depressed persons should not take recreational drugs or use alcohol excessively. There is a growing body of scientific evidence that links depression with the predisposition toward alcoholism and drug abuse. In other words, some depressed people turn to these substances to heal their emotional pain. Those afflicted by both substance abuse and depression have a disease that is sometimes called a dual diagnosis. Organizations like Double Trouble in Recovery address the specific needs of such patients. Ironically, alcohol and many recreational drugs are actually depressants. Even though they delay the onset of the symptoms of
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depression, they do not facilitate your recovery. The long range prognosis of their use is not encouraging. First, clean strong toxic substances out of your body. Get whatever help you need. For example, you may benefit from participation in Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotic Anonymous and/or Sexual Compulsiveness groups (Appendix 10 discusses Twelve Step Programs). You may also need medical treatment and/or psychological counseling. You may require a lot of pain before you decide to rid your body of these toxins. Then move forward, doing the positive things that will give you the improvements you deeply desire to ease your depression.
Whole Uncooked Foods Based on my own research, I highly recommend that you consume at least 20% of your diet as whole, uncooked foods. These include fresh fruits and vegetables and raw nuts; whole grains and cereals. (Note that whole grains and cereals do need to be cooked for maximum absorption by the body.) Most studies recommend this basic diet that has kept humans alive and healthy for millions of years. This means that hamburgers and french fries are not whole, uncooked foods. Avoid eating large quantities of fried foods. If you cook your own food, use olive or canola oil instead of saturated fats. Better yet, try the broiler in your oven. It is generally a healthier way to cook foods than frying them. Foods high in calories and/or cholesterol should also be minimized. Here is another advantage of whole, fresh vegetables and fruit. They are lower in calories; contain maximum nutritional value, enzymes and roughage; are lower in cholesterol; and contain little or no artificial ingredients.
Organic Fruits and Vegetables Most dietitians and nutritionists agree that it is best to eat organically grown fruits and vegetables. This usually means that they are not treated with artificial fertilizers or insecticides used by the large commercial farms. Read the labels! If you have a local food store nearby, find out their sources of fruits and vegetables. Are their products locally grown? Do the farmers wait until their crops ripen on the vine before harvesting? Or are
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they picked while still green to lengthen their shelf life? Many fresh products are coated with dye to make them look healthy and appetizing. Is the store’s fresh produce grown in naturally fertilized and rotated soil? Or is it taken from commercial fields in which the soil is depleted (as is approximately 80% of food grown on U.S. soil)?
To Eat or Not to Eat When all is said and done, however, a depressive needs food every day, just like everyone else. When I was depressed, my appetite was significantly lower than normal. Others experience the opposite reaction. They eat more. Whichever is true for you, make sure the food you eat is as healthy as possible. I did not even want to look at food for days at a time when I was depressed. I ran out of food in my home and was too incapacitated to go out to buy more. Therefore, I nearly starved to death. Perhaps even more dangerous, failing to give the body the fuel it needs can have devastating effects on the basic health, energy level and the body’s immune response to communicable diseases. As a depressive, you may find it easier just to eat what is put in front of you by someone else. Unless the food is severely deficient in nutrition, save the hassle of pressing your case. You have the rest of your life to develop your long range nutrition program. Be sure to at least eat something. More frequent, smaller meals are generally recommended over fewer larger meals. (See Appendix 7, How to Create a Personal Nutritious Diet, for more information.)
Vitamins and Food Supplements In our country, mass marketing has greatly reduced the nutritional value of even the best foods we eat. By failing to naturally fertilize and rotate crops, our soil has become increasingly anemic. Foods are often picked while still green. That causes us to miss much of the nutritional value that is developed in the plant as it ripens “on the vine.” Most of the time you can be the judge by applying simple tests to the food you eat. It is said that hothouse tomatoes, for example, are rarely as desirable to see or eat as vine-ripened beefsteak tomatoes. Check out the consistency and moisture inside the shell or skin of fruits and vegetables. Do not be unduly influenced by the way they look in the stores. These foods often endure many artificial processes that are
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done to make them look appealingâ€”but they actually lack the safety and nutritional value you expect from whole, fresh, uncooked fruits and vegetables. I have tried various vitamins and food supplements for years. However, I have never been comfortable with their nutritional value. I did not feel any healthier while taking them. My energy level did not seem to change. I just followed the crowd and took them because the consensus in our society says it is better to take them than not to take them. On the other hand, there are those who swear that taking them has made a noticeable difference in their health.
Herbs And Herbal Products There exists much confusion regarding the use of herbs in our society today. Eastern cultures, on the other hand, have a rich heritage of using herbal products to heal a host of physical and mental illnesses. When products have been used by millions of people for hundreds of years, there may be something there worth investigating. There is much good information available regarding herbs and herbal products. You can start your research at your local library, bookstore or health food store. In one of the depressives support groups I attend, some members are experimenting with Hypericum, an herbal product popularly known as St. Johnâ€™s Wort. I must caution you to always consult with your physician rather than self medicate. Also, continue taking the approved antidepressant drugs prescribed by your doctor. Knowing this information gives you a launching point from which to conduct your own research. This assists you in becoming the Director of your own recovery. Usually, there is little or no risk in adding herbal products to your diet in addition to taking your medications. Do research regarding the potency of any herbs before consuming them. Like anything else, more is not necessarily better. Herbal teas, for example, seem to be accepted as beneficial by the general public. There is less known about other herbs.
A Word about Crash and Single Food Diets Instinctively, I have avoided the lure of claims made for many popular diets advertised in the media. No matter what these products contain, nothing will ever replace the long range benefits to the body of
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whole, uncooked foods. Anything else is dangerous and should be avoided. This is true for drugs that curb appetites. This is true for â€œbreakfastâ€? drinks that we use to replace meals, and probably for most bars, which basically are merely a snack. This is true for simple, single-food diets (like grapefruit or soup). Common sense tells me that I should avoid these crash diets.
To Sum It All Up Regarding Nutrition It is irresponsible to regard nutrition as irrelevant to depression. What we are chemically is related to what we eat. Our bodies have no alternative but to process whatever we eat and drink in the best way they can. No one can truly become the Director of his or her recovery without considering the nutritional impact of what s/he eats and drinks. When we are young, our natural immunity seems to protect us from severe abuse. Try to tear a teenager away from frequent greasy hamburgers, french fries or soft drinks! As we mature, however, we have less reserve in our bodies to indefinitely sustain these substances without undesirable illnesses and lower energy levels. I suggest that you try using your Higher Power to help you overcome your poor nutritional habits. Saying grace before meals is part of many cultures for some very practical reasons. Calming your mind and body before eating is a healthy idea. Expressing gratitude also has positive effects on our minds and bodies. Go within and ask your Higher Power to guide you to the right nutritional foods for you. You may be surprised at the changes that take place naturally and gently. (Now might be the right time for you to read Appendix 7, How to Create a Personal Nutritious Diet. Its content is closely associated with this chapter.)
Golden Key #7 Perform Physical and Spiritual Exercises Every Day
here are many things regarding the topic in this Golden Key that you take for granted every day:
1. You know that artists, such as actors, musicians, writers, etc., usually must work diligently at their trade for years before they are recognized as being successful. Even â€œovernight successesâ€? rarely pop on the scene without having experienced years of hard work before they were recognized. 2. You know that players on championship athletic teams pour their hearts into their game long before achieving their golden treasures. 3. You know that successful companies in the marketplace often endured much hardship. They often had serious crises, invested a lot of their own money and made many mistakes before they finally became successful. 4. You know that people who become alcoholics drank for years in a party mode before their constant assault on the body finally caused them serious problems. 5. You know that people who smoke heavily for a long period of time sometimes contract lung cancer. 53
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What, therefore, makes you think that becoming depressed was an accident? What makes you think that your illness actually came out of nowhere and struck you without warning? Conversely, what makes you think that you can sit at home, inactive, all day every day, and somehow “magically” recover? For too many years too many of us have spent all of our energy looking at what happens to others. We often fail to look knowingly into our own lives. Most of our life we have blindly either accepted or rejected the idea of “sin” preached by most traditional religions. Somehow, things that people do are labeled either as “good” or “bad.” We sometimes hear words we may think are unusual, ideas like reincarnation and karma. These may or may not attract any credibility in our minds. The Law of Cause and Effect, however, is terminology that we pay some attention to in our Western culture. (“What you sow you will also reap,” and “What goes around comes around,” is a concept that’s built into every major religion.)
The Law of Cause and Effect The Law of Cause and Effect simply recognizes that everything that happens is triggered by an underlying seed that put it into motion. Perhaps the great scientist Isaac Newton was the first to popularize the Law of Cause and Effect. He proved that for every action there exists and equal and opposite reaction. His theory, called Newton’s Laws of Motion, is now a part of everyday scientific jargon. Einstein broadened and extended this phenomenon into things like energy, things that we do not always see. His theory about the relativity of energy and matter now governs most scientific studies. The latest applications of this evolution in thinking occur in modern day quantum physics. We are beginning to understand that everything that happens in the universe is linked in “mysterious” but quantifiable ways. Space travel and modern astronomy are often propelled by these concepts.
What Does All This Have to Do with My Depression? I was self-educated in these concepts for the past thirty years of my life. First I challenged the so-called infallible truths of my church that I
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was told I was obligated to believe. When I first became depressed, however, I saw no relevance of my depression to my religious past and my illness. All I knew is that I was miserable and wanted to get better now. Unfortunately, I did not instantly heal. It happens rarely to others. Depression is so devastating to human thought and activity that depressives often feel like victims. We just want to go to a doctor and get a pill or “magic bullet” that makes us feel better. In the meantime, we sit around, vegetate, take medications, go to counseling and expect to get better. The missing link in recovery from depression is that, like holistic health, depression is a holistic illness. That means it has specific causes in many things we did and were done to us prior to its onset. The good/bad news is that it takes specific and uncharacteristically disciplined behavior on our part to recover from this overwhelming illness. Like all the artists, sports teams and financially successful people we admire, we must climb the hill of our own recovery. The first step is to accept responsibility for our contribution to our illness. It happened in the same scientific way as the complex technology that launches our satellites into space. Simply put, it is merely the Law of Cause and Effect put into painstakingly accurate application.
Application of Science to Our Depression Unless accustomed to physical exercise before becoming depressed, the whole idea that exercise has anything to do with our recovery sounds ridiculous. “Give me a pill that works!” is our cry. Such easy answers have worked for many illnesses. Formerly fatal diseases like scarlet fever, syphilis and tuberculosis have been largely eliminated by penicillin and other “miracle” drugs. So, why not depression? Will not science someday instantly “cure” this disease too? My experience says a definite “No” to this question. Physical diseases like cancer, AIDS and new immune-related illnesses do not yet have simple cures. Science finds it difficult to isolate the many variables that underlay such illnesses. Performing conclusive scientific tests on medications that treat such illnesses is also cumbersome and difficult, if not impossible. Part of the self treatment of depression relates to what we eat and drink, as discussed in Golden Key #6. Once the “fuel” is in our bodies, we must do things to make it work better.
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Perform Physical Exercises Every Day Even in the best of times, this advice sounds foolish. In the back of our minds we know we “should” exercise more often. It is slowly becoming part of our culture. After all, we reason, we are busy working every day. When we get home from work we are too tired to exercise. It is time to eat dinner and flop in front of the TV until it’s time to go to bed. Right? Not if you are depressed. You have taxed your system to the point where it no longer automatically produces what it needs from the way you live; nor does it nurture your mind (particularly the brain) with what it needs to function normally. If you want to really get better, your illness is a “red flag” from your ingenious internal security system that you must seriously consider doing things differently. Slowly, science is starting to identify why exercise is good for us. For example, science has verified that the positive circulation generated during rigorous exercise actually activates the cells in our body for 24 hours! That is a good payoff for only 15 or 20 minutes of activity. Science also has documented the production of endorphins that occurs during and after exercise. These endorphins give us a feeling of well-being, like a healthy, drugless “high.” This is our signal that the exercise is paying off. Sensitize yourself to the signals your body and mind offer you. “If it feels good, do it” is not always bad advice. I hope science will seriously investigate the benefits of achieving a full body sweat during rigorous exercise. The sweat glands are the body’s largest eliminative system. When we sweat (or perspire, to use a more socially acceptable word) our body chemistry first removes unneeded fats, poisons and toxins through the pores of our skin. This is one good reason to bathe or shower after exercise. Get rid of these toxins before they are reabsorbed by the body. While I was depressed, sometimes the only time of the day that I felt good was during and immediately after exercise. Such feelings helped me believe that my life had not yet ended. If my body could generate relief from depression for even a short period, it must still have what it needs inside to make me feel better for longer periods. However, I needed to make this happen by disciplining myself to get off the couch, put on my gym clothes and begin to exercise as much of my body as possible. While depressed, this was an oppressive thought. For weeks I just did not do it. During these same weeks I did not get noticeably better, even though I continued taking my medications and seeing my psychiatrist.
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One day, it finally “clicked” in my mind. No matter how much my depressed mind and body objected, I needed to return to my daily habit of exercise that worked so well for me all of my life. That revolting thought quickly reinstated a welcomed activity.
Seek Competent Medical Advice First The simple purpose of this section is to give you responsible advice regarding the type, duration and vigor of your exercise periods when you start them. Perhaps the most important advice is to see your doctor first if you have any reason to suspect that your body will suffer any consequences from suddenly performing unaccustomed physical activity. (You know how your muscles hurt when you occasionally work or play hard on the weekends.) Your internal organs, like your heart, could start hurting too if you are unaccustomed to physical exercise. Only, the consequences of the shock to your heart can become fatal. Here is another place where you should not self-prescribe. Go to your doctor. Tell him or her what is going on in your life. Make sure s/ he has your medical history available. Take whatever tests s/he recommends. Take his or her advice or get second opinions. Do not risk your life. It just is not worth it.
Start Slow and Build Slow If exercise is new for you, be patient with your progress. When I first began exercising again after several dormant weeks of depression, about all I could handle was to get out of bed, put on my gym clothes and take a short walk. Even that was better than vegetating in bed or watching TV. You will be surprised how resilient your body becomes. Once you give it a chance to do something healthy, it will reward you with good physical and mental feelings. Be aware that your muscles need slow coaching before they build the stamina to support your increased activity. This will not take long. However, the break-in period is essential. Whatever your chosen activity, start slowly and build slowly until you achieve your desired objective. The rule of thumb that reflects current medical wisdom is to work out at least 15 minutes, three or four times a week. My goal was to
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work out six or seven times a week for at least 30 minutes. Start where you are and move in the direction you know is right for you. You will never regret adding this life-supporting activity to your schedule.
Do You Think Your Depression Is “Special”? Perhaps scientists will have enough research in the near future to address the specific causes of depression experienced by the poor, the disadvantaged, the elderly, addicts and children. For now, I must limit the scope of my book to areas more familiar to me: average, middle class adults who become depressed. With this disclaimer in mind, I must also say that whatever the causes underlying your depression, the Golden Keys outlined in this book can still be used to unlock your recovery. In other words, do not take comfort in any excuses you may give yourself … for example, thinking your depression is more special or different from the depression of everyone else. The Golden Keys offered herein are general, life-supporting, cause-and-effect recovery tools that work for every human being. Do not be too quick to criticize until you have first given this entire program an honest trial.
Out Of Touch With My Own Feelings? If you are severely depressed, it is important to realize that it did not happen overnight and will not go away overnight. No magic pill will ever be found to “zap” your illness. It just does not, nor ever will, work that way. By the time we become depressed, it is time to record our recovery activities every day. Using a personal journal is perhaps the best way to do this (see Appendix 9, Recommended Spiritual Exercises. Another important way is using the Daily Recovery Log discussed in Appendix 11.) Remember that your depressed feelings are caused primarily by your depression. Just like a runny nose that happens to you when you have a cold, you can expect your feelings about any exercise to be negative and hopeless when you’re depressed. That is the nature of this illness. Do not lend any greater importance to your feelings than this. However, you will also find that your feelings run the gamut of emotions. Some days are better or worse than others. We are addressing one
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very real problem herein. On bad days it is hard to remember that you had good days. On good days, you either forget the bad ones or are afraid they will soon hit you again. As they say, that is the nature of the “beast” called depression.
Journal Writing I discovered my latent homosexuality three years after I was married, while my wife was in the hospital after birthing our second child. From that moment on, I lived an increasingly closeted life. I feared detection both at home and at the office. I just knew that such a discovery would ruin both my marriage and my career. Remember, these were times prior to today’s “free-for-all” society where many strange people announce their insanity on nationwide talk shows. In my day, I thought I was the only gay married man in town. My early religious training taught me to expect the worst. So I did. Then I began using my personal journal (see Appendix 9). Writing in my journal carried me from a near-neurotic, closeted homosexual living a segmented life to a well-adjusted human being with compassion.
Meditate Every Day It may be difficult for you to see any relationship between meditation (or contemplation) and your illness. The best quasi-scientific research I have seen about meditation has been performed by the organization that is involved with Transcendental Meditation (TM). They have volumes of charts that show the effects of TM on heart rates, breathing rates, many illnesses and mental acuity. My wife, children and I went through TM training together in 1975. I did it faithfully every day for over 20 years until I replaced it with the Hu chant after I joined Eckankar (see Chapter 9) in 1990. The distinctions between these forms of meditation are beyond the scope of this book. However, I have found that depressives, like everyone else, benefit from some type of daily meditation. Another quasi-scientific explanation for the benefits of meditation is that it bridges the right and left hemispheres of the brain. In other words, it addresses the inconsistencies between our feeling nature (right brain) and our thinking nature (left brain).
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It did not take me long to begin resolving the inner conflicts of my life once I started to meditate. Getting honest with myself preceded my increasing honesty with my family, work associates, friends and neighbors. It took me years to undo all the hang-ups that evolved from the events of my life: my traumatic birth, guilt-ridden childhood, discovery of my sexual orientation, divorce, early retirement and living an openly gay life with a man.
Remember What Is Important Here With all this said, it is important to remember that my story is not what is important here. What is important is the process I used to overcome my depression. Meditation and journal writing became two of the most effective tools in my recovery toolbox. They not only worked for me, they will work for you, too. However, you must make a decision to discipline and schedule your activities to include them every day as a high priority. Conventional wisdom will not support you. Even people who love you will not necessarily encourage you to meditate or write in your journal. They will think of other things, like finding the right doctor or better medications. It has taken me a long time even in this book to set you up to â€œhearâ€? this. You may still be skeptical. Please try it every day for a fair period of time and draw your own conclusions. It will not take long for your body and mind to tell you if it feels right.
How Do I Meditate? If you are now convinced that you will start to meditate, where do you begin? There are a multitude of good books on various kinds of meditation. Find one and try it. All I can say is that my 20-plus years of meditating have paid off handsomely for me. Meditation has also helped a lot of people I know. You have absolutely nothing to lose and everything to gain. It certainly beats 15 minutes of depression and despair. Over time, its benefits aggregate into a comprehensive change in your thinking.
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You may wish to try the form of meditation called the Hu Chant (located in Appendix 9). You may start to enjoy it sooner than you think.
Putting Physical and Spiritual Exercises Together Will Improve Your Life Beyond Your Wildest Expectations We are not talking about anything religious or magic here. It is just plain common sense. These activities will shortly become valuable tools in your recovery toolbox. Particularly when other things have failed, what do you have to lose except perhaps the time it takes to do these exercises? One thing depressives have in common is long periods of agonizing time. Spend part of this time doing your daily exercises. It will not take long before your hopelessness ends. You will see your Phoenix beginning to rise on the near horizon.
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Golden Key #8 Perform Activities Outside Your Home Every Day
n writing this book, I was at first astonished when the title of this Golden Key occurred to me. Did I actually want to devote an entire chapter to this relatively simple idea? As the work plan for this book unfolded, it became clear to me: the answer to my question was, YES.
It’s Not Exactly Agoraphobia, but … Agoraphobia is a specific disease listed separately from depression as a brain disorder. As defined in the Webster’s II New Riverside Dictionary, agoraphobia is: “Abnormal fear of open, esp. public, spaces”. In psychological language, agoraphobia is often used to label people who fear leaving their home. The reasons vary widely among individuals; however, the end result is very similar. People with this brain disorder often act like shut-in’s. They fear leaving their home. Any contacts with strangers or places outside their homes simply are too fearsome to risk exposure. I was never diagnosed with agoraphobia. Being depressed, however, my conduct closely resembled that of a person with agoraphobia. I did not want to see anyone, talk to anyone on the telephone, receive 63
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or write letters from anyone, or even take my dog for a walk in my neighborhood. In short, I was most comfortable staying inside my home. I resisted any suggestion that I go anywhere. When I first began recovering from depression, for example, it took me a whole day to make a bank deposit. I had to walk only one block to my bank, make my deposit and return home. I fell exhausted into bed when I finished this simple task. It was all I could manage to do for the remainder of that day. The only “cure” for this common fear among depressives is to get out of the house every day. I started with small victories like going to the bank and walking my dog. Later I added going to support group meetings and appointments with my psychiatrist and counselor. It was slow, painful and gradual. While depressed, I felt as if my home was a tomb. I was still alive and breathing, but I felt like a captive. I could not even stay on my back porch if a neighbor came outdoors to use our shared swimming pool. When walking my dog, I would cross the street to avoid having eye contact or saying hello to anyone. I did not have any major traumas that I could identify which may have caused this reaction to my illness. I just did not feel good. I was lonely and miserable at home, but I preferred staying home to contact with any unpredictable people that I might meet when I left my house. In late fall it was ideal weather in Key West, especially after the rainy and hurricane season ended. I stayed in the house anyway, thereby missing the beautiful winter that I came to the paradise of Key West to experience.
The Bottom Line Inhibitor of Your Recovery Considering my personal experience and my association with many depressives, I believe that: • Staying at home is the bottom line inhibitor of your recovery from depression. • Staying at home permits us to lie in bed or another shelter without facing our fears. • Staying at home makes it convenient and tempting for us to watch mindless programs on TV to distract ourselves from our negative thoughts.
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• • •
Staying at home increases our sense of isolation and loneliness, which, in turn, increases our self-pity. Staying at home permits us to remain in the tight comfort zone that we wallow in when depressed. Staying at home makes us feel less productive.
The Solution is Simple But Not Easy The only and best solution to this problem is to spend time outside your home every day, without exception. Make a commitment to do so right now. You may be confused, but you are not “crazy.” You may be disabled, but you are not helpless. You still have the power within to determine what is best for you. So, do it. In the Daily Recovery Log located in Appendix 11 you will have the opportunity to report your progress in spending at least an hour per day outside your home. This includes any and all activities that you are able to perform, including exercises, taking a walk, attending doctor appointments, attending support group meetings, etc. You may not be able to begin your recovery program on Day 1 with an hour. Grow where you are planted. Just muster up enough determination to start modestly. Like me, it might even be a big deal to walk one block to your bank to make a deposit. Once I did it, however, my resolve increased to do more of the same again. This is where your partner and/or close friends can help you. If, as I was, you are afraid to drive, ask a friend to drive you where you need or want to go. If you are a close friend of a depressive, call the depressive up, if they will answer the telephone. Otherwise, stop by. Tell them when you will pick them up for some activity you think is important for them to attend. In other words, you may not be able to easily give them a choice. Saying no becomes an easy out for depressives. A firm expectation that the depressive should and will leave his or her home may be exactly what the depressive needs to get the ball rolling. I am not suggesting that you attempt to run the depressive’s life or assume responsibility for him or her. I am just suggesting that the best thing you may be able to do as a friend is to get him or her out of his or her living tomb. For example, a friend of mine said he wanted to take me out to dinner. It was early in my recovery. However, I decided it would be good for me. I was still very nervous when he picked me up. I could
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not yet drive for myself. His offer made that unnecessary. Once inside the restaurant, my friend and the owners began to chat about a recent renovation to their restaurant that excited the owners. I wanted no part of this light-hearted discussion. I walked off on my own for my own personal tour. By the time we ate a great meal and left the restaurant, I almost felt “normal.” This feeling pleased me a lot. I was glad I said yes to his offer. That single incident opened new doors for me. I had gone out to eat once … I could do it again. Soon thereafter I did just that. Then I began asking guests over for dinner. The pressure of cooking a meal for others gave me the energy to prepare good-tasting meals. After a few of these occasions, it was no longer difficult for me to leave my home. I slowly and painfully grew from where the depression had limited me back in the direction of normal.
“Fake It Until You Make It.” This is a harsh oversimplification of what I did. However, cliché phrases like “Fake it until you make it” stirred me to action. I knew it was good for me to get out of the house. I took risks in doing it until it (finally) all became real and normal again for me. Attendance at Depression Support Groups is discussed under Golden Key #10 in Chapter 10. If depressives you know tell you they have begun attending such a group, find out when and where the group meets. If necessary, offer to pick them up at home, drop them off at the meeting and return to bring them home after the meeting. Do not easily take “No” for an answer. A depressive will wiggle out of, and use any excuse s/he can muster to avoid his or her fears. Understand and accept this tendency as you negotiate respectfully. However, do not let them get away with it easily. The better support groups for depressives add the expectation for regular attendance. This is an effective guideline for these groups to follow. If necessary, use this expectation to persuade the depressive to attend his or her meetings. S/he will thank you later, even if s/he gets angry with you under immediate pressure.
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End the Isolation While depressed, it is extremely important for you to end your feeling of isolation with the outside world. Discipline yourself if necessary to get out of your house every day. Start with small steps like a walk around the block. Do it today. If you are a relative or beloved friend of a depressive, lend your support to all the worthwhile activities a depressive must do to recover. Your positive attitude and expectation of results will help the depressives help themselves to a full recovery. It is well worth the effort. Do it with conviction and compassion.
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Golden Key #9 Plan Your Activities Every Day
s a middle executive in one of the world’s largest corporations, I always received state-of-the-art management training. I learned about how to motivate employees, how to evaluate them, how to manage my time, etc. During my most productive years I used a personal daily planning tool called “To Do Lists.” Using this technique I maintained a list of activities and projects that I needed to perform each quarter. Each morning when I arrived at work, I looked at my calendar (for appointments) and my long-range list of projects. I also reviewed recent past days’ activity lists to see which items remained incomplete. This combination of data told me everything important I needed to establish my priorities for the day. I usually spent no more than 10 minutes writing out the list of activities I wanted to complete each day. I numbered each task sequentially, not necessarily in order of priority. I achieved best results by writing all my planned activities on one sheet of paper. This made it easy for me to refer to the list as the day progressed and I became involved in other activities. When someone called and wanted to meet with me, for example, I could take a quick look at my activity list. Then I decided, on the spot, whether or not the unexpected request warranted my attention that day. If the request was important, I added the appointment to the bottom of my daily activity list. Most times, I drew a red line after the list of activities that I had
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listed early in the morning. This gave me the data I needed to assess my decisions made under pressure later in the day. If the request did not warrant my immediate attention, I negotiated another appointment date using my calendar. I estimated approximately how long it would take for each meeting and asked the person I was meeting with, for example, “Do you think we can do what we have to do in one hour?” I generally scheduled my appointments early in the morning if possible. This left the remainder of the day for “ad hoc,” perhaps unanticipated, activities.
What Does Planning Have to Do With My Depression? By the time I became severely depressed, I had retired from the large corporation. I had even closed my successful retail store. While I owned the flower shop, I also performed daily “To Do lists.” Part of my depression may have been caused by my lack of responsibilities after living a lifetime under pressure to constantly perform. However, it was also pleasant not to feel obligated to plan each day so carefully. Once I hit bottom in my depressions, I rarely did anything productive nearly all day, every day. I even found it difficult to motivate myself to take my dog outside for a walk. On a typical day I finally got out of bed some time after 11:00 a.m. The rest of the day, I alternated between lying on the couch to watch TV and returning to my bedroom to sleep or to watch TV. I am normally a “spotless” homemaker. I generally clean up my messes as I make them. Everything is in place before I go to bed at night. I make my bed in the morning and pick up any messes I made the previous night before I start my day. I clean my house thoroughly every week, especially areas like my bathrooms and kitchen that require detailed cleaning to maintain. As the weeks of depression rolled by, I started to criticize myself about how lazy I had become. My spotless home had lots of spots. My bathroom had soap grime all over the tub and mirror. My clothes hamper was overflowing. My unopened mail was stacked in several piles on the kitchen counter. In short, for the first time in my life, I lived in a messy house. The more I criticized myself for my laxity, the less I felt like starting anything. Unlike my busy years when fully employed, I had nothing else to do all day. While depressed, however, just the thought of cleaning the house seemed overwhelming and impossible.
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I wrote the idea about planning my daily activities in my journal several times. However, I did nothing about it. I also felt bad because I did not do it. By mid-January of 1997 I was just beginning to recover from my third bout of depression. I had returned three weeks earlier from my convalescence at my son’s house with his wife and my granddaughter. I spent Christmas Eve and Christmas Day alone. On New Year’s Eve, I attended a local play with a friend and his date. We went to their home after the play to toast in the New Year. Whoopee! I was happy that I had broken my long isolation. New Year’s Day, however, I spent alone, feeling sorry for myself. Contrast this inactivity with one of my first daily planning lists: * 1. Rise by 7:05 a.m. (I filled in the time) 2. Take Sandy (my dog) out * 3. Feed Sandy * 4. Take medications and herbs * 5. Journal exercise * 6. Do today’s activity list * 7. Shave 8. Work out * 9. Shower * 10. Meditation * 11. Take Sandy for a walk 12. Drive Sandy to Pampered Pets for a haircut. * 13. Morning clean up * 14. Open mail 15. Make out bills * 16. Send bills * 17. Listen to the radio (rather than watch TV) 18. Attend Chamber of Commerce Meeting * 19. Read Chapter 3 of Spiritual Notebook by Paul Twitchell [The activities marked with an asterisk are those that I no longer listed on my activity list once my recovery was underway. I just do them as required during the day.]
Seems Rather Basic, Doesn’t It? The whole point of this Golden Key is to specifically show depressives how they can plan their way back to normal. By January 15, 1997, I arose from bed by 7:00 a.m. Three weeks earlier, however,
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I was still struggling to get up by 11:00 a.m. I planned my way back to 7:00 a.m., one day at a time, in about 15-minute increments. Had getting up in the morning not been one of my problems, I would not have included it on my activity list. These days I usually wake up by 6:30 a.m. without an alarm and have my morning routine done in a flash before I begin my planning for the day. As basic and simple as it seems, it was the only way I was able to discipline and motivate myself out of lethargy back into the mainstream of life.
That Was Then, This Is Now After my fourth and fifth bouts of depression, it took me much longer to begin performing my daily plans. The truth is, I accomplished a lot less for a longer period of time until I began performing daily plans. Setting goals has always motivated human behavior. Our unique twist is that we use it as a recovery tool for depression. Please know that I understand the objections you may have up front about doing daily plans. All I ask is that you give this tool a fair shake before you judge it.
Some Helpful Hints for Using Activity Lists 1. Use a pencil to write out your activities. 2. Focus or list those activities that you do not normally do every day. For example, if you plan to mop the back porch, write it down. 3. Cross out the completed items in red pen. (Seeing the crossed out item(s) will make you feel good and tell you what remains to be accomplished.) 4. At the end of the day, it’s a good idea to circle those items that remain undone. (You can use the circles to flag items you want to accomplish the next day.) 5. Write your appointments on your calendar and use the calendar when you develop your activity lists. 6. Write comments in red on your list to help you quickly “see” its status. (For example, “LW” means I called a friend on the telephone and “left word” for her to return my call. Then after she
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calls me back, I cross off the “LW.”) One skill you will need to learn is how detailed your activity list needs to be. For example, I listed many minor items (flagged, above, with an asterisk) which I no longer need to specifically list because I do them every day automatically. If we make our list too specific, the items pour over onto more than one page. However, I still list small items, like “mop the back porch” if it is something I need to do, which due to my schedule that day I may not remember.
Is It Worth the Time It Takes? My experience made daily planning vital to completing all my major responsibilities. Throughout my whole career, I had sustained high job ratings and rankings among my peers. Writing activity lists also helped me develop new talents in the retail world and take a fledging business to nationwide renown in just three years. For a long time while I was depressed, I just was miserable. I did not get much done every day. My wishes to be more productive went unfulfilled. It was only when I decided to use my daily planning tool that I was able, slowly but surely, to build my stamina back to a normal level of activity. Besides writing a book, I am active in several community organizations. Now, for example, I am deeply motivated by my desire to do all I can to help depressives plan their way out of their dark hell by using the daily activity planner. It is well worth the time and discipline it takes to get there. I do not know of any faster way to move away from depression. Work on the effects of the depression until you recover sufficiently to do it more naturally and spontaneously.
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Golden Key #10 Attend Depression Support Group Meetings
efore becoming depressed, I did not even know depression support groups existed. However, I soon learned that such groups are relatively new on the scene. They are run largely independently, with each group reflecting the awareness of its local originators. These originators may or may not understand how to deal with depression and depressed people. There is at least one exception to this generalization, The National Alliance for the Mentally Ill (NAMI), which distributes a Care Group support meeting for consumers. I endured two bouts of depression without any involvement in depression support groups. The onset of my two bouts of mania shortly after recovery from depression made me believe I did not need followup therapy (see discussion of mania in Appendix 6, The Heartbreak of Mania). I felt goodâ€”a common and positive effect of mania to most people who experience it. I felt that I understood what I should do with my life to fix it. Why go anywhere else? By the time I hit bottom of my third bout of depression, however, I changed my tune. I realized that meeting with others who went through similar experiences might be helpful to me.
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Twelve Step programs had helped me in the past. Therefore, I slowly became open to the idea of attending self-help meetings with depressed people.
How Can Depressed People Help Each Other? Since there are currently no uniform standards among depression support groups, I assume that most groups are unique. Some groups are formed by providers of mental health services. Their facilitators may not have experienced depression in their lives. They therefore often take a “hands-off” approach regarding the format and the behavior of consumers attending such meetings.
Advantages of Depression Support Groups There are advantages, however, that should not be overlooked regarding participation in any depression groups: 1. Participating in them encouraged me to leave my house. There were weeks when my only trips outside my home were to attend self-help support group meetings. In my case, I attended two Twelve Step meetings and two depression meetings every week. 2. My sense of isolation diminished after regularly attending these meetings. Over time I realized that I was ill, not crazy. 3. I discussed my story with others during these meetings. I then became less reluctant to discuss my illness with others apart from meetings. 4. I made a few new friends who attended these meetings with whom I talked or met with between meetings. 5. Over time, I was able to see what kinds of things work for some depressives and what didn’t work. This took a lot of deductive reasoning.
Disadvantages of My Depression Support Groups The disadvantages of my participation in my depression support groups often dominated my thinking about my experiences: 1. Participants sometimes came and then disappeared for weeks at a time from meetings as they desired. Depressives who take the time to attend meetings are often discouraged when group mem-
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bers fail to appear. I knew, for example, that certain people only came to group meetings when they felt good enough to participate. All along, I felt that the group standards should include a commitment by participants to attend every week, especially when they do not feel like it. Facilitators were also reluctant to “pressure” sick people to do any thing against their will. My experience with Twelve Step groups convinced me that it helps to expect the group to keep coming back. There were no uniform guidelines nor meeting formats to facilitate maximum participation. The consumers attending these meetings often had little self-discipline. I believe that the group meetings I attended would have been more productive if the indulgent, self-centered behavior and cross-talk were discouraged. We did not share telephone lists among participants. We were not encouraged to call each other between meetings if we wanted or needed to discuss important matters. Having telephone lists is another strength of Twelve Step programs that works well. There was no sponsorship program wherein participants asked other depressives to become their sponsors. This program assumes that the participant will select a sponsor who is further along in his or her recovery. There is no superior dynamic for a depressed person than to feel s/he has a friend who understands the pain and is committed to his or her recovery. The philosophy of one group I attended suggested that part of its mission was to prepare group members for the “real” world. This permitted anyone to say anything, regardless of the degree of confrontation it engendered. People sometimes stopped coming to meetings for weeks or months. No attempt was made to find out why they had disappeared. Particularly with depressives, isolation can become the foundation for serious ideas of suicide. Someone needs to take responsibility for contacting members who have dropped out to determine other ways to assist them.
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The Role of Support Groups in My Later Depressions Frankly, I was too ill to receive much benefit from my depression support groups after my fourth and then fifth depressions, which came in rapid succession. The reasons for this are incorporated among the disadvantages listed above. I was also not correctly monitored for the combinations of medications I needed to overcome the depression without inciting the mania. My psychiatrist thought it was worse for me to become manic than to stay depressed. His decision caused me several months of riding on the edge of life, fearing I might commit suicide. That idea violated nearly all my spiritual principles in one potential action. I prayed and received support from an E-mail chat group composed of positive-minded people who reminded me of who I am spiritually. I donâ€™t recommend this approach for others. It is all I had to work with. I took all the genuine support that came from this outlet. I would have much preferred a support group centered around sound dynamic principles, as laid out in this book.
Recommendations for New Depression Support Groups In the Twelve Step programs I have attended, I have seen dozens of lost souls finally gain valuable insights that greatly improved the quality of their lives. I have wondered whether the process used in Twelve Step programs would work for Depressives Anonymous Support Groups. I developed a model for such meetings (contained in Appendix 12, Depressives Anonymous Meeting Notes). Over time, individuals will surface to organize these groups locally. Gradually, new ideas will evolve. For example: 1. A comprehensive bibliography of books about depression within the framework of the Twelve Step philosophy could be developed. 2. Lists of groups currently meeting in your area could be printed. 3. Promotional material could be developed to inform depressives and their supporters where they can go for effective, inexpensive group therapy.
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To Group or Not to Group? I have no desire to force or pressure anyone to do anything against his or her will or common sense. What I am suggesting is that it requires self-discipline and a sincere commitment to establish an effective recovery program. You can only expect positive results if you maintain your selfdiscipline and commitment to carry onâ€”whether you feel like it or not on particular days. I am sorry to say that there is no easy way to do this. However, the process is simple. Demonstrating such qualities will soon convince you that this program will soon begin working for you, too.
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Golden Key #11 Discover the Positive Reasons for Your Depression
ou are probably familiar with popular sayings such as: “Every cloud has a silver lining,” and, “Things look darkest before the dawn.” When I was depressed, I struggled for months in a sincere attempt to find the silver lining. Initially, I found it hard to believe that any good would ever come from five bouts of depression. This hopelessness deepened with each successive bout. I was also devastated by my allergic reaction to my antidepressant medications. As time goes by, however, I am seeing more benefits that will improve the rest of my life.
The New Meaning of Religion in My Life I wondered why God was punishing me. Perhaps for abandoning the Roman Catholic Church? Perhaps for my sexual orientation? I had explored other religions with a renewed sense of spiritual freedom after I joined the Unity Church. As a member of Unity I could explore most spiritual paths without fear of reprisal from Unity’s ministers. For several years, my wife and I explored Ken Keyes’ work. His Handbook to Higher Consciousness became an important book in the lives of my family. My wife and I also attended several workshops at his training center. 81
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I tired of the ideas of guilt and original sin as taught to me by the Roman Catholic Church. The Law of Karma (Cause and Effect) made more sense to me. I began to assume responsibility for the negative feelings, emotions and events that took place in my life. Even my relationship with my wife took on deeper and healthier meaning. We improved our relationship considerably. For several years thereafter, we even taught relationship courses together at our Unity Church. We taught our last class together after we filed jointly for divorce. We even used the same female lawyer, which was still unusual in those days. Our class was deeply impressed that we faced our problems so honestly and lovingly. I am eternally grateful to Ken Keyes and to my former wife for teaching me a much more sensible form of love: that which is unconditional. My former wife and I remain close friends even today. This makes our individual lives more cordial. It also makes our mutual involvement with our children much more natural. We do not compete for our childrenâ€™s love. We do not criticize each other in front of the children. Our children only have one father, even though my former wife has since remarried. They love both their mom and dad just as we are. There is nothing significant that they do not know about our lives. We learned, over time, that the best and only policy was honesty, especially with our children. We have never regretted this decision. For ten years I read and practiced the Course In Miracles. I learned much from the content of this spiritual path. It helped me reconcile my former beliefs in the Catholic Church with metaphysical teachings. I made several good friends while attending a Miracles support group over a number of years. These friends became my extended family after I moved to Chicago, away from my roots in Detroit. The last major change in my spiritual life was my introduction to the Eckankar church in October of 1989. My religious beliefs are now molded into one congruent spiritual system. There are no longer any inconsistencies between my everyday life and my spiritual path. However, this has not been an easy path. Once I had joined Eckankar, I realized that my attitudes and values were starting to change. These changes paved the way for a collision with my former partner. Our subsequent breakup nearly ruined my entire existence. When my series of depressions began in 1995, I did not know what to believe. As had happened during other crises earlier in my life, I questioned why God was punishing me.
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However, all that doubt is behind me now. Eckankar believes in the guidance of the Mahanta, the Living Eck Master. While depressed, there were many weeks when I did not feel the presence of the Mahanta. I challenged my belief in many Eckankar teachings during all five bouts of depression. Today, I believe that my spirituality has been strengthened by the experiences I had while depressed. It was merely the unfoldment of my karmaâ€”from this and prior lives. It was also the purging of my divided consciousness into an integral connection with the Holy Spirit. Without the agony of depressions, I might not have learned these lessons in this lifetime. I am eternally grateful for the guidance I received as a gift from the Holy Spirit to heal my spiritual wounds.
Changes in My Economic Values Before my first depression set in, I was inconsistent regarding my economic values. I did not walk as the Unity churches and Eckankar had taught me. The first major change in my financial values came only two months after I was introduced to Eckankar. My company offered an attractive early retirement package to its managers. I made the decision to accept the offer without any knowledge of how I would spend the rest of my life. I also had to find ways to recapture lost income that occurred after my retirement. The second major change came in 1992 when I decided to purchase a flower shop in the Gold Coast area of Chicago. From the relative calm I experienced during the first two years after retiring, I jumped right into the thick of another frantic work experience. I had much to learn in making a transition from the corporate world into the retail business. I was not accustomed to the changes in my cash flow that occurred as an entrepreneur. I risked the entire equity in my former home to buy the business for cash, because the banks would not lend me the money. This offended the sense of worthiness and economic reliability that I enjoyed while being an executive in my former corporation. The loss of this equity deepened my second depression. When the problems in my relationship with my former partner became serious, I started to have frequent panic attacks. Thereafter I had my first major depression (in June 1995) that required hospitalization. My final battles with my partner made me believe that my survival
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depended on my either healing the relationship or ending it. As stated above, I threw him out of my home. I now regret being so harsh. At the time, however, I saw no other alternative. (Read The Heartbreak of Mania in Appendix 6 for the causes of my behavior.) These actions set the stage for my future depressions, with intervening cycles of mania. In the meantime, I had moved to Key West, where I found no market for my job skills. My illness kept me housebound for months, during which I was unable to even look for work. These series of problems set the stage for my present economic values. I no longer fear economic loss or poverty. I trust Spirit to guide me to where I need to be. What I desire most is to become a clear channel for Its work. I have always had everything I need and most of what I want. Now I feel more reconnected to my Source. I have less and less concern for my financial future. These feelings do not excuse me from the Law of Karma. It still takes money to live on this planet. A spiritual master in training must learn to support him or herself. However, the fear-oflack mentality of my childhood is now absent. I know, deep inside, that if I stay connected to my Source, everything will take place in Divine Order. I now have much faith and little or no doubt. These changes could not have occurred without the pain of my depressions. Out of the darkness of depression, I now see and hear the Light and Sound of the Holy Spirit. I neither can nor would return to the days when I had the illusion of security working in the corporate world. I am exactly where I am supposed to be. Part of the reason I feel positive about my life today is the pain I experienced during my depressions. I am grateful that I was guided to survive these crises rather than succumb as a victim. More than ever, I am the creative cause of my life. I accept my role as a clear channel for Spirit. Whatever happens to me is a gift from Spirit to lead me Home.
First Inklings to Write This Book Even in the depth of my depressions, a “still, small voice” told me that someday I would share these experiences with others. At the time, I thought these feelings were grandiose and part of the mania. I put these ideas on the back burner and focused my attention on the job of healing my illness.
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Not long after I started to feel better, I again became very involved in my community. Since there is no local Eckankar Center in Key West, I became involved again in the local Unity Church. Only this time it was different. The winds of change had purified me. I am much more humble. My ego stays away from the political battles that often emerge in most churches. While depressed, Key West seemed like an isolated town at the end of the earth where I might spend my final days as an invalid. Now there seems to be no end to the service that I am called upon to give to my community. Now that I am recovering from still another bout of depression, I am once more becoming active in various organizations.
The New Meaning of My Depression Today I look back on my depression as a gift from Spirit to teach me how to give more service to life. Does this sound preposterous? Maybe. However, I see many other depressed people in similar boats. Depressives are often intelligent, prosperous and involved with life before their depression sets in. Herein lie the differences among depressed persons: 1. Some people assume the role of victims after they become depressed. They feel sorry for themselves. They think their pain is special. They center their lives solely around their recovery. They have little to spare for anyone else. 2. Others take responsibility for their depression. They accept their depression as a challenge that they will eventually overcome. I consider myself in category #2. However, while I was depressed, it was much more difficult than the many other challenges I had mastered all my life. I never entirely lost my belief in a Higher Power, although there were times when I felt abandoned when I became depressed. I never entirely lost my optimism, even though at times it was difficult to sustain. Today I see the debilitating effects of depression as similar to those of other serious illnesses. They all reflect the Law of Cause and Effect. In spite of the pain, they all are gifts from Spirit that call us to a greater understanding of Unconditional Love. Unlike the physical damage done by other illnesses, however, depression can be healed without any permanent damage to the body, the mind or the soul. That is why I regard this illness as a special gift from the Holy Spirit. All I have to do is maintain my recovery program. Spirit does the rest.
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What Positive Meaning Does Your Depression Have In Your Life? “Keep the faith, baby.” Never succumb to feelings of being a victim. Take responsibility for the events that occur in your life. Understand that there are no coincidences. Everything we experience is a lesson designed to teach us how to live a happier, healthier life. The simplest and easiest way to learn the positive meaning of your depression is to ask your Higher Power. One of the following exercises may help you: 1. Take several deep breaths after lying down in bed and before going to sleep. Ask the Dream Master (your Higher Power) to help you understand your illness. Your dreams can become a very powerful vehicle for such insights. When you wake up and remember a dream, immediately jot down whatever you remember in your dream journal (Appendix 9). 2. Do not wait until later. We all have a built in censor that blocks out uncomfortable ideas that threaten our ego and status quo. 3. Keep a pencil and pad and paper at your bedside. If you have a partner whom you do not wish to disturb, keep the paper and pencil in your bathroom. Then you can shut the door, turn on the light and write in your journal. 4. Review Appendix 9 for the method of meditation offered as a sample. However you decide to meditate, ask your Higher Power for insights into your depression. Make this request before you drift away mentally. Write down any insights you remember immediately after your meditation period ends. 5. Be aware of unusual “slips of the tongue” that other people make in your presence. Often these are insights, your Higher Power’s way of telling you things you may not readily think about or for yourself. These remarks will “hit” you as unusual or uncharacteristic for the particular individual to say. Write down in your journal any insights you have. These incidents seem to come out of nowhere, for no identifiable reasons. 6. Be aware of any unusual impulses you may have. For example, to turn on the radio or TV; to read a newspaper or magazine; to have your attention involuntarily attracted to billboards, license plates, passersby in the streets, etc. Ideas, words or pictures may jump out at you. These incidents are sometimes called Waking
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Dreams. They often tell us things that we do not readily understand. Record any insights in your journal. 7. During one of your journal writing sessions, write a question you want answered, like, “What blessings am I being given an opportunity to learn from my depression?” Then begin writing the answer as if someone else were writing the answer through you. You may be surprised at what you write. This is especially true if you get into an “automatic writing” mode and bypass your normal rational processes. You may also have spontaneous insights as you read a book, listen to inspirational tapes, watch “regular” (not classified as inspirational or motivational) TV shows, etc. Such insights are usually not as obvious when you are depressed. However, your small victories will soon multiply. You can count on that. You may discover other ways to deepen your understanding. Answers will come faster if you accept the Law of Cause and Effect. This Law operates scientifically in the smallest details of your life. This kind of thinking also creates the conclusion that there are few, if any, coincidences in life. Everything that happens is designed to help you learn to accept and offer unconditional love. I believe that this is the spiritual mission we all have, whether we realize it or not.
Look Forward to the Transformation Once you start thinking in the above frames of reference, your blessings will multiply. You have become the creative cause of your own existence. This feeling will also make you less fearful that another round of depression may hit you in the future. Dealing effectively with the underlying causes of your depression helps you experience entirely different patterns in your life. You soon return to the innocence and trust of your youth. You become a whole (holy) person.
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Golden Key #12 Grow Where You Are Planted, One Day At A Time
O 1. 2. 3. 4. 5.
ur final key to unlock your depression is very important. If you consider any of the Golden Keys on the surface, you may have some very real objections: Some or all of these keys may not make any sense to you. You may still think that you are different (special?) ... The “If you only knew what I know” excuse. The keys may sound too good or too easy to be true. They may seem overwhelming or impossible for you to accomplish. Etc.
If you are severely depressed, remember that you did not become this way overnight. You will therefore not completely recover overnight. Live your life one day at a time. You can learn a lot from the natural wisdom of domesticated animals. They neither work nor toil. Their owners do what is needed to earn the money to feed them. Yet, the “Father in Heaven” takes care of them. They live every day of their lives in the present moment. They accept their “destiny” in life without question. They know what they want and expect to get it. 89
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We humans are sometimes our own worst enemies. We fret over what happened in the past. We also worry about what might happen to us in the future. Depressives often reflect an extreme outcome of these kinds of thoughts. The last place we look is into each NOW moment. One analogy that I use in my life is: I look at life as a giant restaurant. Every day I look at the “menu” and decide what to order. I usually get what I order, whether I remember ordering it or not. This sounds like an oversimplification. However, it works better for me than thinking that everything that happens to me is accidental. By accepting responsibility for the events of my life, I become the creative cause of my own experience. How many people do you know who move through a series of disastrous relationships in their lives? For example, some are attracted to alcoholics, spendthrifts or sexually promiscuous partners. They move through life with what they believe to be different partners, but to me, they are really the same partner in different bodies. We keep attracting the same lessons into our lives until we get them right. Then we may be ready to move ahead to the next layer of lessons. Life experiences are like onionskins. We keep peeling off one layer at a time. There seems to be no end to the number of layers. This sometimes discourages us.
What Is the Point Behind All This Theory? The above illustrations simply reflect the Law of Cause and Effect. We get what we need in life, not necessarily what we think we want. That is simply how life works. We may not like it. I have found no way to escape this pattern, which I would gladly do if I thought I could get away with it. My depressions have taught me that I could delay learning some lessons. But I could not deny the lessons I had taken almost 50 years to face. To remain in the now moment, we must learn to live one day at a time. Make the best out of the opportunities that each day offers you. Believe that there is deep meaning in all your experiences.
Grow Where You Are “Planted” This sounds like a cliché. However, it is also the way life works. We cannot escape the lessons we are here to learn, no matter how hard we try.
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Did you ever know people who continuously seek transformation through geographic relocation? When things get rough in the city they live in, they move to another city. They think that their problems will be different in the new city. But wherever we move, we take our inner consciousness with us. Ever notice how we seem to meet the same kind of people and face the same kind of problems no matter where we live? It is further proof that the Law of Cause and Effect is not heavily influenced by the town in which we happen to reside. Depressives are particularly vulnerable to shock and major life changes. That is why I recommend that you do not change your job, religion or mate while you are depressed. Your thinking and reasoning processes do not always function as well when you are depressed. For example, I moved from the depth of depression into mania virtually overnight. My Bi-polar illness was undiagnosed at the time, and I misinterpreted my energy and new ideas as impulses from Spirit. I was wrong. I paid a heavy price for the impulsiveness that came with mania. The good news is that in spite of myself, I made it through my crises anyway. Today, I know this means that I was, nevertheless, protected by my Higher Power. I kept tapping into this resource whenever I understood that this option was available to me. However, it took five bouts of depression with two intervening bouts of mania before I got it right. These are the reasons I recommend that you “grow where you are planted.” This way you at least avoid the unfamiliar circumstances that happen when you make major decisions to uproot your life.
One Day at a Time If you are anything like me, you may not be a very patient patient. In other words, when I am sick, I become obsessed with the idea of getting better. I want it NOW. Life simply does not happen this way. This obsession only adds a new set of problems to your life. If you have eaten junk food most of your life, for example, do not expect to switch to a healthy diet overnight. Be gentle with yourself. Make a commitment to improve your diet. Then do something about it, immediately. Make your action discrete and achievable. Simply add good food to your present diet. As you go along, continue to substitute good food for some of your junk food. As you begin to feel better, this feeling will motivate you to do more. However, it’s not just because you read about it in a book, it’s because you want to do it and believe it will benefit you. This makes a big difference.
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Resolve to start your journey with small steps, one day at a time. In the beginning you may take two steps forward, only to experience one step backwards. Instead of becoming discouraged over your “failure,” be grateful that you are still one step ahead of where you were in the beginning of your recovery program. Eventually a series of small steps will trigger giant leaps forward. All at once, for example, you will find yourself more attracted to better food than you were with your old diet. Your body and mind will reward you for your efforts. This encourages you to stick with your commitment to your recovery. As your reading of this book comes to a close, resolve that you now understand how to become the Director of your own recovery. Over time, you will know yourself better than anyone else within this context. You will still need others to advise and support you. However, this time there is a new twist: Instead of looking outside yourself for someone else to rescue you, you enjoy and experience life with greater hope and expectation. Your life works better when you do things for yourself. One day at a time. How many times have you heard this cliché? Does it sound too easy or irrelevant to your illness? Think again.
Sorry, No Magic Bullets Here Until now you may have been waiting for science to develop the “magic” pill that will cure your illness. While this has indeed happened with many other diseases, it will not happen for your depression. The underlying causes are too complex, inbred and interactive for any single substance or activity to resolve. This may become a good news/bad news insight for you. The good news is that you now understand what it will take to overcome your illness. The bad news is that it is not easy. It may require major changes in your thinking and behavior that you have held sacred since your childhood. Your old “wineskin” is wearing out. It is time to develop a new wineskin. Only you, however, can do it for yourself. (Shucks!) One of the biggest fallacies of traditional Christian religions is that they look upon someone else to save them (often Jesus). While this sounds simple and pious, life simply does not work this way. Even within today’s modified Bibles, scholars have not found any evidence
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that Jesus ever said this about himself. He did say: “Come, follow me.” He often explained that “in his name” meant in his nature. In other words, follow his example. Putting him on a pedestal relieves us of the responsibilities it really takes to solve our own problems. Long after you may have rejected the practice of your childhood religion, the values linger on and on. I have been amazed, for example, how many times I have fallen into the trap of the guilt I learned as a very young child. Intellectually I “handled” this issue long ago. Emotionally, however, I regressed to this “excuse” when my life turned sour. In retrospect, the only good this regression did for me was to prove that it would no longer work in my life. Spirit is calling me to a higher level of my spiritual understanding. I no longer am waiting around until I die to get my eternal reward (or go to heaven). I am living in eternity now, whether I am aware of it or not. My hell or heaven is happening here and now. My depression was hell. My recovery is knocking at the doorway to heaven. I know I still have many lessons to learn. There is no end to those layers of onionskin. I must continue to practice the kind of living and thinking which will prevent a relapse. The difference now is that it is not a chore. It is a blessing that I achieved the hard way.
Your Power of Choice I often remember the question and answer I memorized from the Baltimore Catechism as a very young child: “Why did God create you?” “To love, honor and serve Him in this world and be happy with Him in the next.” This truth is simply stated for the mind of a child to absorb. I will not elaborate on my interpretation of the statement today. My point is simple: I still believe the essence of this truth. The “catch” here is important. Our Higher Power also gave us free will. We have the power to choose. We can accept or reject our beliefs whenever we please. I do not believe that Americans have the right to force democracy down the throats of other nations. However, I also believe that human beings thrive in a democracy because the events that influence their lives are largely determined by the choices they make in a free society. Of course, there are many abuses. Of course, life seems unfair. Looking at it from a spiritual perspective, we get what we need for our growth.
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Be thankful that you live in a country that gives you the power to choose. If you are depressed, consider making different choices in the future. You are getting what you ordered from your “menu” of life. If you like what life is giving you, do not change your choices. If you do not like it, however, make different choices. It is not easy. But it is that simple.
Remember That This is a Holistic Program Depression is a holistic illness. It consumes your entire being. Therefore, it requires a holistic program to mend it. Most of the time I read books, watch educational TV or listen to a lecture with the hope that I can learn at least one new idea to practice in my daily life. Imagine how our lives are transformed by each new idea. They become the building blocks for the quality of life we live in the future. This is not intended as a warning, but as good advice to maximize your recovery from depression. Your chances for recovery increase proportionately to the number of Golden Keys you incorporate into your daily life. There is no doubt in my mind that learning any one of them will help you. Neither can I see any of them deepening your depression. In a sense, I lived my whole life setting myself up for my depressions. When they persisted in spite of everything I learned all my life to the contrary, I thought my life was over. However, my illness was a blessing from Spirit to call me to a higher understanding of Truth. Your life is not over. Your illness can be regarded as a temporary interlude to teach you what you need to know to survive better than ever, for the rest of your life. This is the promise of this book. I have attempted to pass my truth on to you for your use. Take what you want and leave the rest.
Is Your “Phoenix” Ready To Rise? As the old saying goes: “When the student is ready, the teacher appears.” Are you ready?
riting this book has been a heart-wrenching experience for me. It has helped me to exorcise the pain remaining from the frantic conditions that caused my depressions. It also helped me deal with the forgiveness that still remains incomplete in my consciousness. Difficult lessons are often the best teachers. I accept responsibility for the part I played in creating the difficulties that caused my depression. I also totally forgive myself for them. If I ever experience similar difficulties again in my life, I know that I should look at myself in the mirror rather than point my finger at anyone else. I have no hidden agendas, nothing to hide in my life. I just want to help depressives survive perhaps the most difficult era of your lives. That was the purpose for writing this book. To summarize the most important lessons I learned from my depressions: 1. Anti-depressant medications may be regarded as the miracle drugs of the age. If they are prescribed by your doctor, no one who is clinically depressed should try to recover without them. If the side effects are ghastly, there are plenty of other medications to try that wonâ€™t harm you. 2. However, medications alone are not enough. Depression is a holistic disease. Only a holistic program can ease the breakdown of the many systems in your body that usually respond adversely to your depression. 3. Depressives are not victims. They can and must become the Directors of their own recoveries. 4. Your odds of recovering increase greatly if you recognize the Higher Power that exists within you. It will support your recovery. 5. Twelve Step programs offer a recovery model for all kinds of illnesses, not just from alcohol and drugs. This includes depression. 6. Depressives should always work closely with their helping professionals. Doctors are Godâ€™s children too. Most doctors have dedicated their lives to serving you. Give them a chance to help you. 7. Here is a tall order: You will recover faster if you regard your depression as a blessing. Make your recovery an adventure in overcoming. You will never regret it. 95
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Appendix 1: Clinical Definition of Depression The following definition of depression is from Criteria for Major Depressive Episode (DSM-IV, p. 327) A. Five or more of the following symptoms have been present during the same 2-week period and represent a change from previous functioning; at least one of the symptoms is either: (1) depressed mood or (2) loss of interest or pleasure. (Note: Do not include symptoms that are clearly due to a general medical condition; or mood-incongruent delusions or hallucinations.) 1. Depressed mood most of the day, nearly every day, as indicated by either subjective report (e.g., feels sad or empty) or observation made by others (e.g., appears tearful). Note: In children and adolescents, can be an irritable mood. 2. Markedly diminished interest or pleasure in all, or almost all, activities most of the day, nearly every day (as indicated by either subjective account or observation made by others). 3. Significant weight loss when not dieting or weight gain (e.g., a change of more than 5% of the body weight in a month), or decrease or increase in appetite nearly every day. Note: In children, consider failure to make expected weight gains. 4. Insomnia or hypersomnia nearly every day. 5. Psychomotor agitation or retardation nearly every day (observable by others, not merely subjective feelings of restlessness or being slowed down) 6. Fatigue or loss of energy nearly every day 7. Feelings of worthlessness or excessive or inappropriate guilt (which may be delusional) nearly every day (not merely selfreproach or guilt about being sick) 8. Diminished ability to think or concentrate, or indecisiveness, nearly every day (either by subjective account or as observed by others) 9. Recurrent thoughts of death (not just fear of dying), recurrent suicidal ideation without a specific plan, or a suicide attempt or a specific plan for committing suicide. B. The symptoms do not meet the criteria for a Mixed Episode [ed. not described herein].
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C. The symptoms cause clinically significant distress or impairment in social, occupational, or other important areas of functioning. D. The symptoms are not due to the direct physiological effects of a substance (e.g. drug abuse, a medication) or a general medical condition (e.g. hypothyrodism), E. The symptoms are not better accounted for by bereavement, i.e., after the loss of the loved one, the symptoms persist for longer than 2 months or are characterized by marked functional impairment, morbid preoccupation with worthlessness, suicidal ideation, psychotic symptoms, or psychomotor retardation. A Note of Caution in Interpreting the above Clinical Definition of Depression: The above clinical definition of depression is offered merely as a starting point for those concerned about their mental condition; and for those who are concerned for the mental health of themselves or their loved ones. There is no intention of encouraging self-diagnosis. Persons who are concerned about their condition should immediately consult professional assistance from licensed providers of medical and/or mental health services. A starting place for further research is one or more of the mental health institutions listed in Appendix 2.
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Appendix 2: Contact Information for Selected Mental Health Organizations Agency for Health Care Policy and Research (AHCPR) 2101 E. Jefferson St., Suite 501 Rockville, MD 20852 Telephone: 301-594-1364 Fax: 301-290-3841 Website: http://www.ahcpr.gov Email: firstname.lastname@example.org American Mental Health Alliance 1415 Beacon Street Brookline, MA 02446 Telephone: 617-739-3522 Fax: 617-739 3510 Website: http://www.mental-health-coop.com/index.html Email: AMHA@mental-health-coop.com American Psychiatric Association 1400 K Street NW Washington, DC 20005 Telephone: 888-357-7924 Fax: 202-682-6850 Website: http://www.psych.org Email: email@example.com American Psychological Association 750 First Street, NE Washington, DC 20002-4242 Telephone: 202-336-5500 Toll Free: 800-374-2721 http://www.apa.org/psychnet/depression.html Dean Foundation 2711 Allen Blvd. Suite 300 Middleton, WI 53562 Telephone: 608-827-2300 Toll Free: 800-844-6015 Fax: 608-827-2399 Website: http://www.dean.org Email: Dean_Foundation@ssmhc.com
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Depression Wellness Network 9500 Roosevelt Way NE #302 Seattle, WA 98115 Telephone: 206-528-9975 Website: http://www.depressionwellness.net Email: firstname.lastname@example.org [The Depression Wellness Network is a non-profit holistic support and resource service for those experiencing depression, their family and friends and those providing various treatment approaches.]
Double Trouble in Recovery 261 Central Avenue Albany, NY 12206 518-434-1393 or 1-800-643-7462 Fax: 518-434-3823 Website: http://www.wellness.com Email: email@example.com National Alliance for the Mentally Ill (NAMI) Colonial Place Three 2107 Wilson Blvd. Arlington, VA 22201-3042 Telephone: 703-524-7600 NAMI HelpLine: 800-950 NAMI (6264) Website: http://www.nami.org National Depressive and Manic-Depressive Association 730 Franklin Street, Suite 501 Chicago, IL 60610-7204 Telephone: 312-642-0049 Toll Free: 800-826-3632 Fax: 312-642-7243 Website: http://www.ndmda.org National Empowerment Center, Inc. Telephone: 800-POWER-2-U Website: http://www.power2u.org
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National Institute of Mental Health Office of Communication and Public Liaison Information Resources and Inquiries Branch 6001 Executive Boulevard, Rm. 8184 Bethesda, MD 20892-9663 Telephone: 301-443-8410 Fax: 301-443-6790 Website: http://www.nimh.nih.gov Email: firstname.lastname@example.org National Foundation for Depressive Illness (NAFDI) PO Box 2257 New York, NY 10016 Toll Free: 800-239-1265 Website: http://www.depression.org National Mental Health Association 1201 Prince Street Alexandria, VA 22314-2971 Telephone: 703-684-5968 Fax: 703-684-5968 Website: http://www.nmha.org National Mental Health Consumers’ Self-Help Clearinghouse 1211 Chestnut Street, Suite 1207 Philadelphia, PA 19107 Telephone: 215-751-1810 Toll Free: 800-553-4539 Fax: 215-636-6312 Website: http://www.mhselfhelp.org Email: email@example.com Self-Help Source (Self-Help information only in New York state) 784 Washington Ave Albany, NY 12203 Toll Free: 888-230-6138 http://www.selfhelpsource.org
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Stanley Foundation Bi-Polar Network A Program of the NAMI Research Institute Telephone: 800-518-SFBN Fax: 301-571-0768 Website: http://www.stanleyfdn.org E-Mail: firstname.lastname@example.org Total Fitness 1951 Northside Drive Atlanta, GA 30318 Telephone: 404-350-8581 Website: http://www.totalfitness.net [The mission of Total Fitness is to empower our clients to achieve total fitness of mind, body and spirit through individualized exercise and nutrition programs, ongoing education and positive partnership. The company offers seminars in mind-body integration and holistic methods of achieving peace and joy.]
Note Regarding Contact Information: The above list is not intended to be all-inclusive nor is it a recommendation of any organizations listed herein. The list is included as a starting point to assist the reader in performing research if so desired into the subject matter written in this book. The sources for most of these organizations were originally furnished by the listings on the National Institutes of Mental Healthâ€™s website as of June 1997 and from the Mood Disorders Support Group/ NY Newsletter, Fall 1997 issue. Subsequently, the list has been updated and added to as of January 2001.
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Appendix 3: The Myth about the Phoenix Bird “Ovid tells the story of the Phoenix Bird as follows: Most beings spring from other individuals. But there is a certain bird that reproduces itself. The Assyrians call it the Phoenix. It does not live on fruit or flowers, but on frankincense and odoriferous gums. When it has lived 500 years, it builds itself a nest in the branches of the oak, or at the top of a palm tree. It collects cinnamon, spikenard and myrrh for its nest. From these materials it builds a pile on which it deposits itself. It then breathes its last breath and dies in the flames of the fire. From the body of the parent bird, a young Phoenix issues forth, destined to live as long as its predecessor. Its nest is both its own cradle and its parent’s sepulcher. When it has gained sufficient strength, it lifts its nest from the tree. It carries the nest to the city of Heliopolis in Egypt and takes it inside the Temple of the Sun.” — Quoted from Stories of the Gods and Heroes by Sally Benson
Application of this Myth in My Life After my first bout of depression, I had the illustration that’s on the cover of this book tattooed onto my left bicep. Throughout my agonizing recoveries from depression, this tattoo reminded me of my commitment to rise from the dust of my own ashes. Thanks to the support of the many good forces described in this book—I did. You can also remember the Phoenix bird to symbolize your own recovery.
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Appendix 4: Personal Health Inventory Use the following scale when answering each of the 10 questions below: Legend for Scoring Each Statement: 5 = True virtually all the time 4 = True most of the time 3 = True some of the time 2 = Not true some of the time 1 = Not true most of the time 0 = Not true virtually all the time __ 1. I consider my body to be relatively free from pain. __ 2. I am not addicted to nicotine or any non-prescription drugs. __ 3. I consume alcohol less than three times a week in small quantities. __ 4. I take less than three prescribed medications each day. __ 5. My involvement in my job or occupation is relatively stress free. __ 6. My involvement in my primary relationship(s) is (are) relatively stress free. __ 7. I perform rigorous exercise for at least 20 minutes, 3 times or more every week. __ 8. On the average, 20% or more of the food I eat is whole, uncooked food. __ 9. I only watch TV shows that I enjoy for insignificant periods of time. __ 10. I frequently have trouble either falling asleep or staying asleep all night. ___ TOTAL Check those statement(s) that apply to you: ____ I am currently a provider of mental health services ____ I am reading this book to help a friend or relative. ____ I am concerned about my own mental health. ____ I am currently using one or more mental health services. ____ Other________________________________________
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Appendix 5: How to Develop Your Own Professional Support Team (Cross reference the content of this Appendix 5 while studying Chapter 4.)
Find The Right Mental Health Provider For You Many of the dynamics for finding the right mental health provider are similar to those described in Chapter 4 for finding the right physician. The three broad categories of mental health providers are: 1. Psychiatrists. These have a medical certification plus postgraduate training in mental health. They are generally considered experts in prescribing drugs to treat depression and other brain disorders. 2. Psychologists. These generally have a Ph.D. degree. They are not generally certified to prescribe drugs. 3. Counselors. This category is often a mixed bag of professionals. Most states require a Masterâ€™s Degree in psychology or counseling and post-graduate internship to become certified counselors. Standardization for certification is less reliable among the mental health providers than they are for medial doctors. There is no organization as powerful as the American Medical Association to steward standards and to police abuses. Insurance coverage to treat mental illnesses varies among the states. As of this writing, employees of the Federal Government and all insurance companies serving in the following 19 states offer some form of parity for mental health care as they do for medical care: 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8. 9. 10.
Arizona Arkansas Colorado Connecticut Delaware Georgia Indiana Maine Maryland Minnesota
11. 12. 13. 14. 15. 16. 17. 18. 19.
Missouri New Hampshire North Carolina Rhode Island South Carolina South Dakota Texas Tennessee Vermont
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Most insurance companies in other states require a higher deductible and co-payment for mental illness. If out-of-pocket money is important to you, it is best to find out what coverage is available in your state before you seek professional help. Many depressives are sufficiently disabled to qualify for Social Security Insurance (SSI) offered by the Federal Government. As might be expected, budget cuts at the national and state levels have put many helpful mental heath programs on the chopping block. Organizations like the National Association for Mental Illness (NAMI) are working hard to protect the legal rights of citizens with depression and other brain disorders. See Appendix 2 for contact information.
What to Look For in a Mental Health Provider I recommend these criteria for selecting your primary mental health provider: 1. Pick someone you trust. Personalities of mental health providers vary all over the map. Make sure that you trust your provider with your confidentiality. 2. Pick someone who understands you. For example, I did not believe that my sexual orientation had much to do with my status as a depressive. However, I did not want that to become a problem between us. 3. Pick someone who really listens to you. S/he is your paid helping professional. This makes you the customer. Expect the same level of attention that you would while shopping for something important. Make sure that your questions are answered. Do not settle for a run-around. You deserve this kind of respect. 4. Make sure your provider understands your illness. If you are Bipolar, for example, find out how much your provider knows about your illness. (See Manic/Depressive in Appendix 6.) 5. Beware of your providerâ€™s expectations regarding how long it will take before you can expect to become healthy and active in your life again. To me it did not matter why I was depressed. I just wanted to know what I had to do to get better quickly. I shared my goals with my counselor. I truly believed that he would not require me to attend any more treatments than were absolutely necessary.
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Alternative Therapies Alternative therapies have become a growing phenomenon in the United States for the past 20-plus years. However, depressed persons are generally not adventuresome. If anything, they may revert back to more conservative therapies to play it safe. I know many depressed persons who claim they have benefited from the types of alternative or complementary therapies explained below. The word “alternative” simply means that it varies from traditional therapies generally recommended by the American Medical Association. These therapies are often called unscientific, unverifiable, optional or ineffective by their detractors. They are included herein to recommend activities that have worked in the lives of at least some depressives that I know. It is best to perform many of the alternative therapies under the supervision of your medical doctor. It is not always easy to find a doctor who understands or recommends such therapies. It is best, however, if you have medical oversight.
Chiropractic Care Chiropractic care has become so mainstream that I hesitate to include it on a list of alternative therapies. However, receiving such care is not often considered by depressed persons, their loved ones or their medical providers. Today, chiropractic colleges teach their students more than just “bone cracking.” Modern chiropractic care is much more eclectic. It includes soft tissue work (muscles and ligaments), deep massage, radiology, and many other techniques. It’s just one more tool in your remedy toolbox that might work if you are so inclined.
Hypnosis and Regression Therapy Some depressed people claim that their depression is relieved by hypnosis and/or regression therapy. Some clients want to be regressed back to (what they believe is) their prior lives. Others want to re-experience forgotten childhood traumas and sadness that may underlie their depression. There are dangers that you should consider in using regression therapy. Some patients become traumatized by the uncovering of
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forgotten memories. Some critics even claim that the incidents never really happened, but were uncovered via the therapistâ€™s leading questions. A few sensational cases of presumed rapes and other sexual abuses provide good stories for the tabloids. Many of these stories lack credibility. As a depressive, your job is to recover. Do it wisely. Minimize your risks.
Acupuncture Acupuncture is an ancient practice, particularly in Eastern cultures. Until recently, Western medicine has largely ignored it. I know of no one who complains about being adversely affected by acupuncture treatments. Many of us have benefited from their use. Acupunctureâ€™s basic premise is that the energy centers in the body can be brought into balance with this technique. It is often claimed that the energy centers (chakras) of the body are crucial to the functioning of all internal systems, including the functioning of the neurotransmitters in the brain. You may wish to give acupuncture a chance to help your depression. The cost for acupuncture is usually not covered by most health insurance companies. I do understand, however, that some HMOs are reimbursed for using acupuncture in conjunction with other treatments it provides for patients who are ill. Ask your insurance company to find out what is covered.
General / Therapeutic Massage and Acupressure The laying on of hands is an ancient healing practice. Current scientific experiments often cite improvements in many health conditions by the use of massage. Children, for example, benefit when they are touched lovingly by their parents, guardians and/or helping professionals. There are almost never any negative consequences from gentle, general massage. Ask your spouse or a friend to rub your head and shoulders, feet, legs, etc. If nothing else, it will relax you and give you pleasure. Deeper therapeutic types of massage may also be helpful. There is a wide range of methodologies regarding massage. I prefer those forms of massage wherein the practitioner is licensed, eclectic and works gently within my pain threshold.
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Herbal Remedies Some countries are more familiar with the use of herbs to treat depression than in the United States. In Germany, for example, many medical doctors recommend Hypericum (popularly called St. Johnâ€™s Wort) to treat mild depression. There are many clinical studies supporting this recommendation; although the use of herbs is not universally accepted among providers of mental health services. A relatively new non-prescription product called 5-HTP, is a natural supplement that has produced positive results in many patients I know who are experiencing depression, anxiety and sleeplessness. It can now be found in stores that sell herbal supplements. Its ability to regulate serotonin levels has been endorsed by many doctors. There exists a large mass of reference materials on other herbs to treat various illnesses, including depression. Visit your local library, health food store or book store. Research natural herbal products carefully. Consult with your medical physician before abandoning your prescribed medications. His or her knowledge and consent will help him or her track your progress and monitor the possible return of symptoms. Otherwise, foolish action could signal the beginning of a return to severe depression.
Long, Hot Baths and Showers Showers often serve a limited function in our livesâ€”to clean our bodies. However, there is a growing understanding that showers and baths can also have a very soothing effect on the body and mind. A long, comfortably warm or hot (not scalding) bath or shower is best, followed by a gradual cooling off. Some people may elect to finish their sessions with very cold water to stimulate their internal organs, skin and blood. This, however, is not necessary. Taking long, hot baths after a long, hard day is a popular practice that seems to benefit its participants. They often use bath salts, oils, milk, tea and other additives that moisturize the skin and please their sense of smell. Dimmed lighting and soothing music also may add to the enjoyment.
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To Sum It All Up If all this sounds confusing or overwhelming to you right now, do not worry. It is all here in print for you to review later. Or you may ask a trusted partner, friend or relative to discuss these matters with you. Finding the right provider of mental health services for you is what is important. For example, it is okay if your chosen provider is well known and respected in your community. What is more important to you, however, is how you feel when you are telling your story to him or her; and your level of trust. Perhaps the support you receive from a trusted friend, relative or a fellow participant in a support group will also be valuable to you.
Conclusions from Possible Use of Alternative Therapies Be wise, be aware, be cautious. There may be something in this category of alternative therapies for you; or there may not be. Do not feel any pressure to try these solutions as a replacement for conventional medicine. Your Higher Power created doctors and medicines too. By the standards of earlier people, the cures achieved by modern medicine are indeed miracles. However, modern medicine has its own blind spots, assumptions and areas of ineffectiveness. If the time is right for you to try any alternative therapies, a small voice inside will attract you to it.
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Appendix 6: The Heartbreak of Mania I did not intend to write anything about mania in this book. I changed my mind, however, after my fourth and fifth bouts of depression took their course. I found recovery to be much more difficult. My severe reaction to the medications left me physically much sicker than my previous bouts. Here are some of the basics, as I understand them. Mania can take several forms: 1. Hypomania describes the mildest form of euphoria, wherein the patient feels good, certainly is not depressed, but may demonstrate one or more of the symptoms described below for mania and manic psychosis. 2. A patient with mania or hypermania experiences a strong sense of euphoria; may become judgmental and impatient with others; usually does not require much sleep to sustain his or her energy level; and may exhibit erratic and unrealistic spending habits. 3. A patient with manic psychosis may demonstrate one or more of the symptoms listed above for mania; plus s/he may experience misleading outer instances of irrational and delusional behavior (e.g., sees things that are not there); and has stronger outbursts of anger when s/he is displeased.
Medications - A Vital Balancing Act When an individual is clinically depressed s/he may require an antidepressant medication to eliminate or reduce the severe symptoms. When an individual is a Manic/Depressive, s/he is subject to excessive highs that often follow the deep low moods. The same medications that worked well for the depression may trigger manic behavior. (I will use this generic term to describe all three of the above forms of mania.) A depressive must maintain a close personal relationship with his or her psychiatrist. The patient can be taught the warning signals of maniaâ€”and be instructed to call his or her doctor when and if the warning signals occur. In my case, I had two complicating factors: 1. I became allergic to neuroleptic medications which caused me severe physical and emotional problems; 2. The anti-depressant that appeared to work fine for my depression (in the psychiatristâ€™s view) triggered the onset of my mania and
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hypomania. After my fifth bout of depression, my psychiatrist recommended that I try a different anti-depressant. So far, it is working fine. However, it may take several more months before I am confident that I will not have a recurrence of the mania, which, in turn, may trigger another round of depression.
Why I Write This Book - In Spite of My Failures As I honestly stated throughout this book, the frequent recurrences of depression nearly drove me to suicideâ€”in which case no book would have ever been published. However, looking at the same data differently, I recovered from depression five times using the techniques offered in this book. The fourth and fifth bouts of depression were much more severe. My recovery was slower. However, the same techniques worked when I used them. I gradually realized that others might benefit from my suffering. The idea of writing this book became even more my avocation. I wanted to replace the current state of confusion with a program that helps other depressives recover. Most depressives will be reluctant to perform one or more of the steps stipulated in this program. This is where the group experience comes in. If we form a network of support groups to practice and gain success using this program, individuals in the groups will be encouraged to try the program because it works. This is similar to the experiences of alcoholics and drug addicts in Alcoholic Anonymous (AA) and Narcotic Anonymous (NA) programs. Addicts help addicts help themselves. It is hard for an empowered alcoholic to con another alcoholic. In the same way, it is hard for an empowered depressive to con another depressive. The self-pity often relied upon by depressives often becomes a deterrent to recovery. No one wants to second guess a sick person or force him or her to do things unwisely. I hope this explanation gives family members and providers of mental health care the confidence to encourage depressives to practice the program offered.
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Why I Wrote This Book - The Bottom Line The complications to my depression caused by my mania gave me several hardships that it should not be necessary for others to endure. I have added this imperfect summary of my mania reluctantly because I have not researched it to the same degree as depression. I hope it offers some caution to Manic/Depressives that with more attention to their medications and behavior, they, too, can recover.
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Appendix 7: How to Create a Personal Nutritious Diet More About Your Intake of Water What in heaven’s name could drinking water have to do with healing your depression? (Refer to Chapter 6 for the introduction of this topic.) The correct answer to this question is—Plenty! While depressed, all your body functions slow down, just like your brain activity. This includes your eliminative system. Anti-depressant medications all have side effects from the toxins they contain. Whatever your body cannot use it needs to pass safely through your body. Your urinary and digestive systems are two ways to do this. Plain water is well known to be your best option. Drinking coffee, tea and soft drinks containing water have a completely different chemical reaction within the body. They all contain substances (like caffeine) which the body assimilates differently than plain water. All the research I’ve done that recommends drinking water make the point that they are talking about just plain water. I encourage you to drink plenty of water every day. How much is “plenty”? All you desire to drink is one right answer. Different doctors and nutritional programs may vary regarding how many 8-ounce glasses of water you drink every day. One common element, however, is the recommendation to drink more water than you may have been accustomed to drinking. What kind of water should you drink? My tendency is to drink either spring water or water filtered out of my kitchen faucet by a good water-filtering system. There are several good water filtering systems available on the market. Bottled water is generally more expensive than other sources of alternate water supplies. It might be preferable in the short run to pick up gallon size bottles of distilled or spring water available in plentiful supply at your food and health food stores. Alternate ways to obtain pure water—like purchasing a good water filter— often involve a significant up-front cost. The moral of this story is simply to drink the best water supply available to you. It is far more important to drink whatever water is available to you out of the faucet in most cities than not to drink enough water.
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It is good to drink throughout the day, because by the time your feel thirsty, your body is telling you that you are already dehydrated. Drink as much water as you want. Your body knows what it needs. Listen to it. There is no clinical proof regarding the following claim … however, there is a growing body of anecdotal evidence that supports the idea that drinking plenty of water helps mildly depressed people. You can wait a few years until such evidence becomes verified. Or you can simply start drinking more water now and see how you feel after a few days. Your body will tell you if you feel differently. Get your left brain out of the way and see for yourself. My particular bias is tilted toward natural sources of food and beverages. Therefore, I lean toward spring water over distilled water; naturally sugared beverages over diet drinks; and natural coffee beans over those that have been decaffeinated. Moderation is the key here.
Limit Your Intake of Snacks How about snacks? Processed snacks generally contain too much salt, sugar and artificial preservatives. Why not try fresh carrot or celery sticks? They satisfy cravings the mouth has for chewing. Their natural ingredients are better than fried potato chips. You can eat as much as you want, as often as you desire. I am generally overweight during normal times. I did not mind losing the first 10 or 20 pounds. Objectively, I moved from 20 pounds overweight to just about an “ideal” weight according to standard height, bone structure and age tables. However, it is never wise to gain or lose weight too quickly. It actually produces a shock to your body. The last thing a depressive needs is body trauma.
Phytochemicals Most people know about vitamins and food supplements. In 1994 the U.S. Congress passed The Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act (DSHEA), creating a new class of food products to be regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA)—to be called phytochemicals. Literally, phytochemicals means “plant chemicals.” The theory behind phytochemicals is that they are natural food substances that prove the effectiveness of their components.
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Further, phytochemicals must meet FDA testing standards. Even though these standards are less stringent than FDA standards for drugs, they do confirm that claims made on the labels of phytochemical products actually relieve symptoms of illnesses. They offer consumers the assurance that these food products are regulated (unlike vitamins and most food supplements) and have the positive impact claimed on the labels. It is outside the scope of this book to elaborate in depth regarding this topic. However, use of phytochemicals has been a growing trend for many years. They are flourishing in Europe. A word of caution: natural aloe vera is recognized and processed by the body just like food, because it is food. Most of us older folks remember how our grandparents used fresh aloe vera extracted from leaves grown on windowsills at home to treat burns and other skin abrasions. The problem with most aloe vera products on the market today is that they rarely contain their original healing properties. These properties begin to deteriorate once the aloe is extracted from the leaves. In other words, they become dead molecules that the body no longer recognizes as food. Also, it does not process dead molecules as well as the aloe vera freshly extracted from the plant leaves. Unfortunately, in todayâ€™s marketing frenzy, many aloe vera products are advertised (falsely) as live, natural or pure. Consumers will not be protected from these false claims until the new law is eventually enacted. Currently, this new law is being opposed by many lobby groups. I use Mannatech products that are protected by dozens of international patents for their harvesting and production standards. These standards preserve the potency of the aloe vera and Ambrotose ingredients. Fresh fruits and vegetables are harvested after ripening on the vine (prior to spoiling). Thereafter they are quickly freeze dried and encapsulated in the preservatives that protect the nutritional value of the fruits and vegetables for an extended period. There is a growing body of evidence that suggests that the nutritional value of (even) the good food we eat may not help the human body maintain the integrity of its immune system. The aging of American baby boomers creates a large class of consumers who seek products like phytochemicals, which they hope will slow down or reduce the signs of aging. Someday science may prove that depression, as well as many immune-related illnesses, is caused by the bodyâ€™s inability to reproduce
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the natural immunity that humans enjoyed until modern times. Phytochemicals work through the natural chemistry of the molecules in the body. These molecules have a complex “alphabet” that determines what enzymes the cells must produce to sustain optimal immunity. It also protects the body from all kinds of immune-related illnesses, including arthritis and AIDS.
The Value of a Nutritious Diet What does all this have to do with you? Maybe nothing. Maybe plenty. Once you sensitize yourself to the quality of the food you eat, you may have captured one of the reasons that contributed to the onset of your depression. It also offers you an option you may wish to pursue to help you help yourself recover faster. Experts are currently documenting the long-term health effects of significant overweight. There is still little evidence that clearly identifies how much over weight is too much weight for our long-term health. “Twiggy” female shapes and “V-Shape” male bodies may lure us into believing that how we look is more important than our health or how we feel. To me this is categorically untrue. Some cultures regard the “rounded,” full, voluptuous look as sexually attractive in women. Today the Twiggy look is out. However, many men and women experiment with radical diets to improve their own self-esteem and what they believe is their attractiveness to the opposite sex. I prefer the look of my overweight Italian frame over the skin-andbone look I had while I was depressed. It is all a question of sensible balance.
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Appendix 8: Recommended Physical Exercises CAUTION: Please see your doctor and read the precautions included in Chapter 7 before you begin your physical exercises.
Dress for the Occasion If you are already depressed, this is the hardest step of all. Convince yourself that you are going to put on roomy and practical exercise attire. Fool yourself if necessary. Tell yourself, for example, you may not feel like exercising – but that you will (at least) get yourself ready for exercising. In this case, “Just do it” is wise advice. Believe it or not, this may be one of the most difficult battles for you in your depressed condition. No matter what your physical condition, you are capable of changing your clothes. Force yourself if necessary. It is the beginning of an important journey that will yield the highest dividends.
“Just” Take a Walk There is rarely any harm in taking a walk. Very few individuals will be medically incapable of performing this useful preliminary step. Take a walk by yourself around your house or around the block. Take your pet for a walk. Just get your body moving. As said above, overcoming your inertia is the most difficult, yet simplest, step of all. Gradually pick up your speed while walking. Breathe deeply. As you loosen up, swing your arms. Take at least a 15-minute walk out in the fresh air. Your body and mind will reward you handsomely for your effort.
Stretching Exercises There are many books you can borrow from your local library regarding safe stretching exercises. You can also purchase books and video tapes to get you started. Use these stretching exercises to warm your body and increase the flexibility of your muscles. Whatever other activities you plan within your exercise program, start with stretching for at least a few moments. It will surprise you how quickly you begin to feel better doing your stretching exercises as you begin to deep breathe from the depths of your diaphragm.
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Congratulations on Winning Half of Your Battle Now you have accomplished the most difficult part of your daily program. There are hundreds of exercises you can perform after stretching. Again, your local library or bookstore can help you develop your exercise program. Walking, jogging, biking, skiing, baseball, football, basketball are just a few you can use. Remember to start slowly and build gradually. Really connect with your body. It will tell you what feels right. Whatever you decide to do, do it gracefully and gently (at first). It doesn’t take long for you to begin enjoying your chosen sports. Time will slip away as you get lost in your activity. Playing music or self-help video or audio tapes may distract you from the burden you perceive. Free your mind as you build your level of activity.
Take a Warm Bath or Shower Whether or not you become sweaty, take a warm bath or shower. Take your time and enjoy yourself. Use a mild bath soap and a washcloth or brush to scrub your entire body. This cleans out your pores and increases your circulation. For thirty years I have enjoyed the “perks” offered by many health clubs such as steam baths, saunas and whirlpools. Even when I am tired when I begin my exercises, I always look forward to using them— just to spoil myself, because I am worth it.
Can Anything So Simple Be So Worthwhile? You’ll be amazed how good you feel about yourself for taking the effort to exercise regularly. Do it for at least 15 minutes (preferably) each day. 15 minutes of exercise three times a week is your initial goal once your exercise session begins.
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Appendix 9: Recommended Spiritual Exercises
Spiritual Exercises Defined The word “spiritual” used in this Appendix is broadly defined as follows: Exercises designed to enhance your mental and/or spiritual faculties. No association with a particular religion or any religion is implied. For depressives, these exercises are particularly useful in calming the mind and connecting you with your Higher Power as s/he understands it. Practice of these exercises is designed to generate peace of mind and relaxation. It’s not even remotely related to brainwashing. On the contrary, practice of these exercises leads to spiritual freedom in the broadest sense of the word.
Meditation The word “meditation” implies relaxation of mental faculties. The process is usually performed with deep breathing from the diaphragm. No one kind of meditation is required. Readers are encouraged to follow whatever spiritual or mental path that suits them, including more elaborate systems of meditation such as Yoga, Transcendental Meditation, Mantras, Tai Chi, etc. The practice recommended herein is merely a starting point. There are many books available in your library or local bookstore, which encompass a wide range of entirely suitable practices.
Generic Exercise You might get yourself started by trying the following exercise: 1. Sit in a comfortable chair. The important component is to maintain an erect posture without making yourself uncomfortable. Lying in bed is not recommended unless you want to meditate before you go to sleep. 2. Take five deep breaths using your diaphragm. 3. Choose a mantra (word or words) that is soothing to you. For example, words like: love, peace, joy, Jesus, Buddha, God. As an Eckist I prefer the word Hu (pronounced Heuuuuuuu) which is
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an ancient love song to God. Repeat this mantra five times. If you are alone, say or sing your mantra out loud. Otherwise, silently is just fine. Repeat steps one and two two more times, for a total of three cycles. If you began reciting your mantra out loud, sing or say it silently for as long as you wish. It should take about five minutes to do your deep breathing five times, and recite your mantra for a total of three cycles. Your goal is to eventually meditate for at least 15 minutes. If you become distracted or restless, quit soon after repeating your chosen mantra and alternating deep breaths five times (three cycles each). Gradually increase your meditation period in one or two-minute intervals until you achieve your goal. I generally meditate 30 minutes. Use how you feel as a measure of how long you should meditate. Listening to quiet recorded music is acceptable, but should not be necessary. Use your mantra and deep breaths as a vehicle to occupy your mind. If your thoughts distract your attention, gently transfer them back to your mantra and deep breathing.
That is all that is required to meditate. Soon you will notice subtle differences in the way you feel after your meditation period ends. These effects will gradually improve the quality of your entire life in subtle but definite ways.
Journal Writing – A Valuable Connection Here are some helpful tips to improve the effectiveness of your journal writing experience: 1. For practical reasons, use three-hole punched plain lined paper and pencil. 2. Start each new journal day on a new piece of paper. It’s okay to continue on the back of each page for the same date. 3. Enter the current date and time at the top of each journal page. 4. File completed journal pages chronologically in a three-ring binder. 5. Write in your journal approximately the same time each day. 6. Take a few deep breaths before you begin writing in your journal. Ask your Higher Power to guide you.
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7. Write whatever comes to your mind; even if it’s something like: “I have no idea what I’m going to write today.” 8. As you build interest and steam writing in your journal, place your mind on “automatic” and write in a stream of consciousness mode. 9. Consciously try NOT to screen your writing. Be honest. Be direct. 10. Write only in the first person: I or me.
Maintain a Separate Dream Journal Keep a pencil and bound paper pad next to your bed. When you awake in the middle of the night remembering a dream, take the time to write it down immediately. If you don’t want to disturb your partner, take your journal in another room where you can give yourself enough lighting. My bathroom has always been my favorite place for late night journal writing. If you wake up the morning and remember a dream, write down whatever details you remember as soon as possible. Don’t be concerned at all about whatever you write making sense. Dreams are very private experiences for every individual. Their symbolism is also unique to your own consciousness. Do not ever be ashamed about your dreams. You may do acts within your dreams which you don’t believe you would ever do in the waking state. Accept them at face value and record all the details you remember. It is wise not to share your dreams with others unless you have an explicit contract of confidentiality with a loved one. Develop sharing with someone you trust. Don’t look for him or her to interpret your dreams for you. However, it’s OK to request feedback from your trusted friend. Over time, dreams can provide you with specific direction. Sometimes the meaning will be crystal clear to you. Sometimes not. Do not judge your dreams. It’s one effective way your Higher Power can provide you with spiritual guidance. Trust this power. You will never regret it.
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Summary of Journal Writing Use the above guidelines to start your journal writing experience, particularly if the experience is new to you. Spend at least fifteen minutes performing your journal writing experience every day. This is a very valuable way to make your journal your “best friend.” Another way to look at your journals: consider your daily journal a diary of sorts. Keep your dream journal in a separate binder. There is no one right way to keep your journal. Over time you will develop your own style. This is perfectly acceptable. The important discipline that it may take you time to develop is to write in your journal every day. When possible, do it approximately at the same time of day. Such experiences constitute an appointment between you and your Higher Power. Consider this time of day as sacred. As a depressive you will gain valuable insights into your life that will help you understand why you have been depressed. This will be true for you—especially when you develop the personal discipline to perform this practice on a daily basis. Consider your journal as a sacred gift from your Higher Power. It will enrich your life beyond your wildest expectations.
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Appendix 10: The Twelve Steps of Co-Dependents Anonymous The material in this appendix is taken primarily from the Co-Dependents Anonymous Newcomer’s Handbook. It is published by the SCO office, PO Box 33577 Phoenix, AZ 85067-3577. Telephone: 602277-7791; Fax 602-274-6111. This edition is the first printing of the CoDA Conference Approved Text dated February 14, 1995. The Grandfather of Twelve Step programs is Alcoholic Anonymous (AA). CoDA was modeled after the AA program. The author uses it herein because his background is primarily in CoDA rather than AA. Narcotics Anonymous is also based on the Twelve Steps. It focuses on people who have a problem with drugs. While less pervasive than AA, most of the official Twelve Step programs can be accessed through AA. People with drinking or drug addiction problems can normally find a listing for Alcoholics Anonymous in their local phone book. One call is usually all it takes to receive assistance in contacting the desired organization.
Preamble The Co-Dependents Anonymous Program of Recovery “Co-Dependents Anonymous is a fellowship of men and women whose common purpose is to develop healthy relationships. The only requirement for membership is a desire for healthy and fulfilling relationships. We gather together to support and share with each other on a journey of self-discovery—learning to love the self. Living the program allows each of us to become totally honest with ourselves about our personal histories and our own codependent behaviors. “We rely upon the Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions for knowledge and wisdom. These are the principles of our program and guides to developing honest and fulfilling relationships with ourselves and others. In CoDA we each learn to build a bridge to a Higher Power of our own understanding, and we allow others the same privilege. “This renewal process is a gift of healing for us. By actively working the program of Co-Dependents Anonymous, we can each realize a new joy, acceptance and serenity in our lives.”
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CoDA Opening Prayer In the spirit of love and truth, we ask you, Higher Power, To guide us as we share our experience, strength and hope. We open our hearts to the light of wisdom, The warmth of love, and to the joy of acceptance.
CoDA Closing Prayer We thank you, Higher Power, For all we have received from this meeting. As we close, may we take with us The wisdom, love, acceptance and hope of recovery.
Welcome (C88) “We welcome you to Co-Dependents Anonymous as a program of recovery from codependence where each of us may find freedom where there has been bondage and peace where there has been turmoil in our relationships with others and ourselves. “Most of us have been searching for ways to overcome the dilemmas of the conflicts in our relationships and our childhoods. Many of us were raised in families where addictions existed—some of us were not. In either case, we have found in each of our lives that codependence is a most deeply-rooted, compulsive behavior and that it is born out of our sometimes moderately, sometimes extremely dysfunctional family systems. “We have each experienced in our own ways the painful trauma of the emptiness of our childhood and relationships throughout our lives. We attempted to use others—our mates, our friends and even our children, as our sole source of identity, value, and well-being and as a way to restore within us the emotional losses from our childhoods. Our histories may include other powerful addictions which at times we have to (sic) used to cope with our codependence. “We have all learned to survive life, but in CoDA we are learning to live life. Through applying the Twelve Steps and principles found in CoDA to our daily life and relationships, both present and past, we can experience a new freedom from our self-defeating lifestyles. It is an
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individual growth process. Each of us is growing at our own pace and will continue to do so as we remain open to God’s will for us on a daily basis. Our sharing is our way of identification and helps us to free the emotional bonds of our past and the compulsive control of our present. No matter how traumatic your past or despairing your present may seem, there is hope for a new day in the program of Co-Dependents Anonymous. No longer do you need to rely on others as a power greater than yourself. May you instead find here a new strength within to be what God intended—Precious and Free.”
The Twelve Steps (C88) of Co-Dependents Anonymous Reprinted for adaptation with permission of Alcoholics Anonymous World Services, Inc.
1. We admitted we were powerless over others, that our lives had become unmanageable. 2. Came to believe that a power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity. 3. Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood God. 4. Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves. 5. Admitted to God, to ourselves and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs. 6. Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character. 7. Humbly asked God to remove our shortcomings. 8. Made a list of all the persons we had harmed and became willing to make amends to them all. 9. Made direct amends to such people wherever possible except when to do so would injure them or others. 10. Continued to take personal inventory and, when we were wrong, promptly admitted it. 11. Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God, as we understood God, praying only for knowledge of God’s will for us and for the power to carry that out. 12. Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to other codependents and to practice these principles in all our affairs.
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The Twelve Traditions of Co-Dependents Anonymous This is the short form, reprinted for adaptation with permission of Alcoholics anonymous World Services, Inc.
1. Our common welfare should come first; personal recovery depends on CoDA unity. 2. For our group purpose there is but one ultimate authority: a loving higher power as expressed to our group conscience. Our leaders are trusted servants; they do not govern. 3. The only requirement for membership in CoDA is a desire for healthy and loving relationships. 4. Each group should remain autonomous except in matters affecting other groups or CoDA as a whole. 5. Each group has but one purpose: to carry its message to other codependents who still suffer. 6. A CoDA meeting ought never to endorse, finance, or lend the CoDA name to any related facility or outside enterprise, lest problems of money, property and prestige divert us from our primary spiritual aim. 7. Every CoDA group ought to be fully self-supporting, declining outside contributions. 8. Co-Dependents Anonymous should remain forever nonprofessional, but our service centers may employ special workers. 9. CoDA, as such, ought never be organized; but we may create service boards or committees directly responsible to those they serve. 10. CoDA has no opinion on outside issues; hence, the CoDA name ought never be drawn into public controversy. 11. Our public relations policy is based on attraction rather than promotion; we need always maintain personal anonymity at the level of press, radio and films. 12. Anonymity is the spiritual foundation of al our traditions; ever reminding us to place principles before personalities.
The Twelve Promises of Co-Dependents Anonymous I can expect a miraculous change in my life by working the program of Co-Dependents Anonymous. As I make an honest effort to work the Twelve Steps and follow the Twelve Traditions...
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1. I know a new sense of belonging. The feelings of emptiness and loneliness will disappear. 2. I am no longer controlled by my fears. I overcome my fears and act with courage, integrity, and dignity. 3. I know a new freedom. 4. I release myself from worry, guilt, and regret about my past and present. I am aware enough not to repeat it. 5. I know a new love and acceptance of myself and others. I feel genuinely lovable, loving and loved. 6. I learn to see myself as equal to others. My new and renewed relationships are all with equal partners. 7. I am capable of developing and maintaining healthy and loving relationships. The need to control and manipulate others will disappear as I learn to trust those who are trustworthy. 8. I learn that it is possible for me to mendâ€”to become more loving, intimate, and supportive. I have the choice of communicating with my family in a way which is safe for me and respectful of them. 9. I acknowledge that I am a unique and precious creation. 10. I no longer need to rely solely on others to provide my sense of worth. 11. I trust the guidance I receive from my Higher Power and come to believe in my own capabilities. 12. I gradually experience serenity, strength and spiritual growth in my daily life.
The Four Parts of Our Program I. Attending meetings. II. Sharing Fellowship III. Working the Twelve Steps IV. Sponsorship
The Serenity Prayer Used at Twelve Step Meetings God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change courage to change the things I can; and wisdom to know the difference.
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Appendix 11: Daily Recovery Log The Daily Recovery Log contains activities that I practiced virtually every day of my life—until I became severely depressed. I can almost track the decline of my mental health with my successive avoidance of each of these items. When I hit bottom, I did none of them. Conversely, I can track my recovery back to full participation in life by my return to the activities listed on the Daily Recovery Log. After gaining full use of my faculties, I began monitoring the progress of other depressed people with whom I increasingly came into contact. After a while, I could identify a direct relationship between their recoveries and the practice of these practical guides for healthy living. I then asked myself, “How can I present the recovery activities in a clear and simple fashion to encourage depressives to voluntarily do them—and in that way to facilitate their own recoveries?” I also wanted to create a simple tally system with which depressed people can begin wherever they are; and monitor their own progress by becoming aware of the practices listed. Hopefully, these objectives are achieved in this section. I can’t stress too strongly that it is NOT necessary for depressives to perform ALL of the activities every day—or even any day—to begin their recovery programs. What IS required, however, is a commitment to stretch your limits and monitor your progress every day. The raw scores will provide you with a meaningful monitor of your progress. Remember, you are not competing with anybody else. Focus entirely on your own recovery. Using the Daily Recovery Log adds a simple monitoring system to track your own progress. If you have any questions regarding your medical fitness to perform any of the following activities, please ask your doctor. Instructions For Using The Daily Recovery Log Examine the Daily Recovery Log form at the end of this Appendix as you read the following instructions. (You may wish to make copies of this form for a practice exercise and for future use.)
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Column Instructions Most of the columns are self-explanatory: a) Column A contains a brief description of the activity to be performed each day. b) Column B contains the maximum daily points that you can earn each day for each activity. c) Column C lists the days of the week. Please fill in the Week Beginning date at the top of the page so you can organize the forms in calendar order. In that way, youâ€™ll be able to more accurately identify the trend in your recovery. d) Column D lists the grand total for the week for each activity. Add your raw scores across for each day and enter this total into Column D. Line Instructions 1. Morning Routine This is perhaps the most individualized activity on the list. It depends entirely on what you regularly did in the morning as each day begins. See Chapter 9 for the kind of activities I listed when first recovering. Scoring your morning routine is also highly individualized: a) Give yourself 10 points if you perform all your usual and necessary morning routine activities. b) Give yourself 0 points if you stayed in bed most of the day and did none of the activities. c) Give yourself between 1 and 9 points to reflect how completely you accomplished the activities that you have determined are necessary for you to feel as though you started your day in a productive way. 2. Food Supplements The purpose of this activity is to record your taking of the vitamins, food supplements and possible herbs that you feel are helpful to your recovery. Review Chapter 6 to help you establish your own program. Scoring this activity is somewhat subjective: a) Give yourself 0 points if you make no effort to take food supplements, vitamins or herbs to supplement your nutrition program. b) Give yourself between 1 and 7 points if you move in the right direction, depending on your consistency and appropriate quantities ingested.
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c) Give yourself 10 points if your food supplement/vitamin program (actually taking them) is what you have determined is proper for you. 3. Medications Throughout this book I have strongly urged you to take all the medications prescribed by your doctor. If the side effects of your medications are severe, consult with your doctor immediately. You may respond better to lower doses of the same drug, while still retaining its benefits. There may be other drugs that you can try. In any case, take all your medications as prescribed. If this does not feel right, find another doctor. Get another professional opinion. Remember that drugs have a highly individualized effect. Not everyone experiences all the same side effects equally. Some patients experience no side effects from medications that for other patients are very uncomfortable or have dangerous consequences. Also, doctors do not generally read minds. If your medications have serious side effects, call your doctor and insist on being heard. It is your right. It is his or her duty to serve you. Use common sense and you will find great results from taking most recommended medications. However: If you are anything like me, you resist taking any drugs. Antidepressants are particularly powerful. There is some evidence that the side effects can be tragic. Those who feel similarly can learn much by reading, Talking Back to Prozac—What Doctors Aren’t Telling You about Today’s Most Controversial Drug, by Peter R. and Ginger Ross Breggin. It is published by St. Martin’s Paperbacks, 1995. Dr Breggin offers detailed information regarding procedures required by the Federal Drug Administration (FDA). It also candidly describes the complex relationships among the FDA, pharmaceutical companies, advertising agencies and doctors. The last thing I wanted to do when depressed was to read anything tedious or serious. My anxiety was so severe that I did not want to “hear” the problems described in this book. All I wanted was for the doctor to give me the right medicine to make me well. However, reading this book is essential for users of any major drugs. Perhaps a friend or relative can read the book and discuss its contents with you. You owe it to yourself.
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Disclaimer: Let nothing said herein give you license to irresponsibly cease taking your medication as prescribed by your doctor. Responsibility is the key word. Your mental health is your most precious asset. It governs all your activities. Once depressed, your road to recovery is long and narrow. Someday scientists may develop better pills to treat depression. Without any personal medical qualifications, I strongly believe that medicines alone do not “cure” depression. It is simply too complex and holistic a disease for any pill to treat. You would not dream of refusing proper bandaging to cover an open wound until your body has a chance to heal the injury. In the same manner, little harm is done if you take your medications as prescribed, especially if you are doing all the other activities required for your recovery. Once you improve and stabilize your depression, you may decide to revisit the role and types of medications you use. The safest thing for you to do is to stick with conventional medical wisdom. Score this item similarly to the description offered for taking food supplements. a) Give yourself 0 points if you make no effort to take your prescribed medications. b) Give yourself between 1 and 9 points if you move in the right direction, depending on your consistency and appropriate quantities of medications ingested. c) Give yourself 10 points if you ingest all prescribed medications each day. 4. Wholesome Diet One thing is certain. Food containing a lot of fat, calories and/or cholesterol is not healthy. On the other end of the spectrum are whole uncooked fruits and vegetables, raw seeds and whole cereals. You may find yourself somewhere between these extremes. What we are looking for in this activity is your conscious awareness of your mind-body connection. Food that is good for your body is good for your brain too, and vice versa. Grow where you are planted. Do not go to extremes. Move in the direction of a better diet, slowly but surely. Do not abruptly eliminate all calories, sugars and fats if your body is used to them. It is too great
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a shock on your entire body. However, gradually replace these foods with better foods. Refer to the guidelines contained in Chapter 6 and Appendix 7. Score yourself on this item based on the direction your intake of food is moving: a) Give yourself 0 points if you eat nothing, or eat only food containing poor nutrition. Your body needs the right kind of fuel to operate efficiently, just like your car does. b) Give yourself between 1 and 9 points if you are consciously aware about the quantity and quality of the food you eat and make definite improvements in the right direction. c) Give yourself 10 points if you feel good about the quantity and quality of the food you ate all day. 5. Meditation + 15 minutes Review Chapter 7 and Appendix 9 for ways you can experiment to find the right meditation technique for you. When you finish meditating, you will be happy you took these precious moments to help your recovery. There is no better way to resolve the inconsistencies between your thoughts (left brain) and your feelings (right brain). If you are not accustomed to meditating, don’t try to go 15 minutes right away. Start with 5 or 10 minutes, depending on your success (or comfort). Once you start enjoying the experience, gradually increase the time you meditate by one or two minutes each day. Fifteen minutes is usually sufficient to achieve good results. Use the following type of scoring scheme for this activity: a) Give yourself 0 points if you do not meditate. b) Give yourself 1 - 5 points if you seriously attempt to meditate. c) Give yourself 6 or 7 points if you go through the motions, but find that you can only meditate for a short period. d) Give yourself 8 - 10 points if you meditate 15 minutes or more, generally following the recommended guidelines. Keep in mind that your score is a personal matter. It is nobody else’s business. Cultivate honesty with yourself. Monitor your progress over time.
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6. Exercise 15+ minutes This activity might be challenging for some of you. When you hit bottom emotionally, moving your body anywhere requires unbelievable effort. However, begin wherever your body is accustomed. Taking a “normal” walk is fine to start. Taking a “power” walk is better. And so on. While taking medications, exercising is particularly beneficial, especially if you develop a full body sweat. Your sweat glands are the largest eliminative system in your body. When you sweat, your body uses its chemical wisdom to firstly eliminate harmful substances. To the degree that you are experiencing side effects from your medication, build up your physical stamina safely but quickly until you sweat profusely. You will feel invigorated, especially after your post-exercise shower or bath. Wear comfortable clothing. Avoid extreme temperatures. Give your body the room or fabrics it needs to “breathe.” Do not overexert. See your doctor if you have any reason to believe that your body will react negatively to your planned exercise. Start slowly for short periods until you build the stamina and muscles required to do what you enjoy most. Sometimes listening to music or self-help tapes makes your experience more enjoyable. You may even desire to watch the ever-increasing exercise programs on TV as you follow the hosts’ instructions. Look forward to the drugless “high” feeling after a vigorous exercise. It is totally natural and healthy. Your endorphins reward your body for a job well done. (See Chapter 7 for more information.) Score yourself as follows: a) Give yourself 0 points if you simply do not work out. b) Give yourself between 1 and 5 points if you dress for working out and at least begin your planned routine. c) Give yourself between 6 and 10 points if you work out 15 minutes or more, depending on how long and what level of exertion you accomplish. 7. Journal 15+ minutes Many good books about journal writing are available from your library or bookstore. All it really takes, however are paper and pencil. Use three-hole paper and a loose leaf binder to file your journal notes by journal date.
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See Chapter 7 and Appendix 9 for additional guidelines. Score yourself as follows for this activity: a) Give yourself 0 points if you make no entries in your journal. b) Give yourself 5 points if you sit down with a piece of paper for your journal and write a minimum of one sentence. c) Give yourself between 6 and 10 points if you perform journal writing for 15 or more minutes; and are pleased with the quality of this experience. 8. Daily Plan Your basic daily plan should only take about 5 minutes of your time. It is best to do it either at night before you go to bed; or in the morning before your day gets out of control. Then you have everything you plan to achieve on one page (if you do it right). See Chapter 7 and Appendix 9 for details. If you should remember additional items later in the day, either add them to todayâ€™s plan (if by then you think you can still do it); or write on a separate piece of paper for consideration the next day. If you are depressed, planning your day gives you incentive you might not otherwise have to get anything done. Be gentle with yourself. But also be disciplined and specific. What do you really need to do today? What tasks performed today will make your life easier tomorrow? What are your minimum expectations for living life today? What can you do today that will (at least) point you in the overall direction you want your life to go? These are simple but important questions. Only you can be authority about what you do. Score yourself as follows for this activity: a) Give yourself 0 points if you perform no daily plan. b) Give yourself 5 points if you write a plan for this day. c) Give yourself 6 - 10 points if you write a daily plan and execute it well (even if you later decided not to do some activities because others took longer; or unpredictable events overcame your schedule during the day). 9. Telephone / Mail These activities are basic to human survival in our society. To the depressed person, however, these activities often assume intimidating overtones.
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If you do not like yourself, why would anyone else want to talk to you? If you feel terrible, why would you want to talk to anyone else? In addition, it might be a bill collector, telephone solicitor or someone else you just don’t like. Depressed people commonly resist opening mail: 1) Even in normal times, opening mail can be irritating. In today’s information age, there is also much junk mail cleverly designed to “hook” us into giving it serious consideration. 2) Most bills come to us through the mail. Depressed people may be experiencing financial hardship due to their illness. Their disease adds another reason to avoid the unpleasant activity of opening the mail and seeing unexpected bills or notices for late payment. Score yourself as follows for this activity: a) Give yourself 0 points if you do not open your mail and do not answer your telephone calls. b) Give yourself 5 points if you open your mail and answer most of your telephone calls. c) Give yourself 6 - 10 points if you open your mail and answer your telephone calls comfortably and consistently. 10. Out of House 1+ hour Taking a walk is a gentle way to get out of the house. You may also want to perform a power walk to perform two recovery activities at the same time—your daily exercise plus being out of the house. Attending self-help meetings and/or appointments with helping professionals encourages you to be out of the house while working directly on your recovery at the same time. Start wherever you are at. Keep leaving your home longer and more often until it no longer is a problem for you. Chapter 8 offers many more suggestions regarding the benefits of this activity. Score yourself as follows for this activity: a) Give yourself 0 points if you stay in the house all day. b) If you go to work all day, give yourself 10 points. You deserve it. c) Also, give yourself 10 points if you are out of the house for other reasons for 1 hour or more. d) Give yourself 1 - 9 points depending on the quantity and quality of the time you spend outside your home.
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Totals This is simply adding the points you assigned to your activities for the 10 items listed on your Daily Recovery Log. In a sense, your raw score tells you how each day went compared to your objectives. Comparing days of the week might give you a clue regarding the trend in your recovery. Are the totals for days of the week randomly up and down? Are they all disappointingly low compared to the total possible points (100)? Do you see a trend in a good direction or an undesirable one? Remember also to tally (add) the weekly totals for the 10 activities, recorded in Column D. This helps you monitor the specific areas you might want to give more attention to next week. Summary Of Your Daily Recovery Log Activities Remember that the whole purpose for the Daily Recovery Log is to encourage depressed people to overcome lethargy and inertia. It also provides a simple tool to monitor your daily recovery process. Do not expect too much. Be more concerned about the direction of your recovery rather than meeting all your expectations all at once. Remember that a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. Start today to assure your total recoveryâ€”one step, one day at a time. The most important thing to remember is that it is your relative score, not your raw score, that gives you the most valuable feedback. Look for progress (even slow progress) over time. If you avoid some activities completely, write the reason(s) in your journal. We are NOT talking about GUILT. Guilt has no redeeming qualities. We are talking about attempting to objectively quantify your performance in activities that will help you recover from depression. Remember that you are not competing with anyone else. You simply monitor your raw score during the week and perhaps compare your score to earlier weeks. Any positive progress is good news. It is also positive to identify any stuck places. You have an idea where to focus your attention and energy in the future. You will not be sorry if you take this Daily Recovery Log seriously. It can do nothing to harm you. It may even offer you tools that will make your future even better than you were before you became depressed. Keep the faith.
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Appendix 12: Depressives Anonymous Meeting Notes We could just talk about how to conduct Depressives Anonymous meetings. Or we can perform some role playing. Imagine yourself being deeply depressed. You are currently under the care of a mental health care provider. You may be nervous when you attend your first DA (Depressives Anonymous) meeting. You have a friend who also attends this group. The friend agreed to pick you up to attend this meeting. When you arrive at the meeting, you are surprised that most people in the group look “normal.” In other words, they have had very severe depression or they would not be in this group. However, some have made great progress in their recoveries. Knowing this makes you more comfortable and more confident that the program will help you too. With the above ideas in mind, read the following meeting notes. Imagine the power that is generated when a group is dedicated to mutual recovery. They share their stories regarding their successes and challenges. Do not be surprised if you still have reservations after reading the following meeting notes. After all the hardships you have endured during your depression, it may not be easy to be around people who know that you also can recover. All you need to do is to keep coming back to these meetings. Also you must be willing to maintain your Daily Recovery Log every day and report your progress on completing the activities when you attend DA meetings. Up until this time of writing, there have never been any groups quite like this one. You will not be coddled. You will be expected to assume primary responsibility for your own recovery. Yet the group will support you. Your fellow depressives will understand your pain. In time the group will love you. Your comfort level rises significantly as you notice these circumstances.
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Suggested Meeting Format for Depressives Anonymous Meetings MODERATOR
Will you please join me in a moment of silence; followed by the serenity prayerâ€Ś. ALL
Lord, grant me serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference. MODERATOR
Is there anyone here for the first tine? We welcome you to the regular ______________ weekly Depressives Anonymous meeting. We hope you will find the help and friendship in this fellowship that we have been privileged to enjoy. We are living our lives with the problem of depression. We are here to solve our common problem and help others to recover from their depression. There are three requirements for membership: 1. A deep desire to overcome your depression as quickly as possible 2. Willingness to follow the guidelines offered by this program 3. A Referral Form from your sponsor. S/he must know you well enough to recommend your participation in this program. There are no dues or fees for membership in our group. We collect voluntary contributions near the end of our meeting to defray costs of materials and to help other groups like ours get started. We are not allied with any sect, denomination, politics, organization or institution. We do not wish to engage in any controversy. We neither endorse nor oppose any cause. Our primary purpose is to recover from depression. We also help other depressed people to achieve this same objective. We urge you to sincerely try our program. It is helping others wherein many of us find solutions that lead to serenity. So much depends on our own attitudes. As we learn to place our problems in their true perspective, we find they lose their power to dominate our thoughts and our lives.
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Our Depressives Anonymous program is based on the Twelve Suggested Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous. We try, little by little and one day at a time, to apply these principles to our lives, along with our slogans and the Serenity Prayer. The loving interchange of help among members and daily use of our Recovery Log thus makes us ready to receive the priceless gift of serenity. Like all Twelve Step programs, we are an anonymous fellowship. Who you see here, what you hear here, stays here when you leave here. Only in this way can we feel free to say what is on our minds and in our hearts. This is how we help one another. In that spirit of anonymity, may we go around the room with first names only please? “Hi, I’m ______. I am a depressive.” (Group responds with: “Hi, ______” to each individual) MODERATOR
Study of the 12 Steps is essential to progress in the Depressives Anonymous program. The principles they embody are universal. They also are applicable to everyone, whatever his/her personal belief system or creed. In Depressives Anonymous, we strive for an ever deeper understanding of these steps and pray for the wisdom to carry them on in our lives. Would you please join me by each reading one or two of the twelve steps as we go around the room? 1. Admitted we are powerless over our lives—that our lives had become unmanageable. 2. Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity. 3. Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of our Higher Power, as we understand It. 4. Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves. 5. Admitted to our Higher Power and to another human being, the exact nature of our wrongs. 6. Were entirely ready to have our Higher Power remove all these defects of character. 7. Humbly asked our Higher Power to remove our shortcomings. 8. Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.
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9. Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others. 10. Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it. 11. Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God, as we understand Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out. 12. Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to other depressives; and to practice these principles in all our affairs. MODERATOR
Notice in all these steps which we have read that the past tense is used in every verb. In truth, we may not have actually “worked” on any of these steps. We use the past tense to help us to visualize what we commit ourselves to accomplish in this program. This sets the stage for our inner guidance system or Higher Power to help us actually accomplish these steps. MODERATOR
Today we will focus on Step ___. (Repeat the words to this step.) (Follow whatever way is planned to cover this step.) Would you please join me in reciting the twelve traditions of AA? (Each participant read one or more of the following traditions.) The Twelve Traditions 1. Our common welfare should come first; personal recovery depends on DA unity. 2. For our group purpose there is but one ultimate authority: a loving higher power as expressed to our group conscience. Our leaders are trusted servants; they do not govern. 3. The only requirement for membership in DA is a desire for healthy and loving relationships. 4. Each group should remain autonomous except in matters affecting other groups or DA as a whole. 5. Each group has but one purpose: to carry its message to other depressives who still suffer.
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6. A DA meeting ought never to endorse, finance, or lend the DA name to any related facility or outside enterprise, lest problems of money, property and prestige divert us from our primary spiritual aim. 7. Every DA group ought to be fully self-supporting, declining outside contributions. 8. DA groups should remain forever nonprofessional, but our service centers may employ special workers. 9. DA, as such, ought never be organized. We may, however, create service boards or committees directly responsible to those they serve. 10. DA has no opinion on outside issues; hence, the DA name ought never be drawn into public controversy. 11. Our public relations policy is based on attraction rather than promotion. We need to always maintain personal anonymity at the level of press, radio and films. 12. Anonymity is the spiritual foundation of all our traditions. This reminds us to place principles before personalities. MODERATOR
Please take a few minutes to review these traditions. Are there questions regarding how each function should work within our local group? MODERATOR
The real heart of our gathering contains two round table discussions. During the second roundtable, we will have an open forum for anyone who wishes to ask a question about their recovery. You may also ask questions regarding how others are dealing with recovery activities in their own lives. (The group might find it helpful to listen to a guest speaker. Whatever their professional qualifications or speaking skills, the important qualification is for the guest speaker to have experienced and recovered from severe depression. Only in this way can the group relate to his or her experiences.) (This is a good spot to introduce the guest speaker. Give the group a brief biography of the speaker, focusing especially on the recovery aspects of his or her life. Group welcomes the speaker with a supportive welcome) (The guest speaker has up to 15 minutes to speak, followed by a question and answer session.) (You may ask the speaker any question you desire. S/he, however, may choose not to answer specific questions if s/he chooses).
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Our first round table discussion begins in just a minute. I ask each of you to open your Daily Recovery Log for the most recent complete week in front of you. We will ask each person to share his or her experience in completing and scoring the activities on his or her log. We ask that you pass in this week’s recovery log to the Moderator after the meeting. We will keep them in a confidential file for later reference. We will reveal the contents of your logs only to specific individuals and only with your specific approval. Those who do speak are asked to limit their sharing to 3 to 5 minutes to give every one a chance to share. There is to be no cross-talk during this session. In other words, no one is to ask the speaker questions or comment on what the speaker says. Any questions before we begin Round Table Discussion #1? We now begin. MODERATOR
We have no dues or fees, but we do have expenses. We pass the basket around the room for those who are able to make a contribution. (Pass the “hat.” The group should appoint a Treasurer to count the money and a verifier to watch the Treasurer record the weekly running totals.) MODERATOR
Now is our time for personal sharing of our hopes, successes, fears and failures. First, we would like to give everyone an opportunity to raise any questions you personally have regarding the sharing that occurred during Round Table Discussion #1. Then we will open the discussion to any other issues you may want to share regarding the objectives of this program. We encourage you to only speak in the first person (I or me). We ask you to avoid cross-talk like asking questions or commenting with your personal opinion on what a previous person has shared. We do this to give all the freedom to honestly share his/her feelings and ideas without fear. The greatest gift this kind of program has brought to other depressives has been a safe sounding board for those issues that may be preventing us from living life as healthy as we would otherwise choose to live.
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If you decide to speak, please introduce yourself using your first name: Hi, I’m (Jerry). The group responds by acknowledging you: (Hi, (Jerry.)) This practice helps discourage “off the cuff” cross talk and more than one person speaking at a time. We often learn more by carefully listening to what each person “means” when he/she speaks than we do by aimless talking. (Group has open discussion until a few minutes before the scheduled closing of the meeting.) MODERATOR
Does any one else have a burning desire to share anything with the group before we close? In closing, I would like to say that the opinions expressed here were strictly those of the persons who gave them. Take what you like and leave the rest. The things you heard here were spoken in confidence and should be treated as confidential. Keep them within the walls of this room and the confines of your mind. A few special words to those of you who have not been with us long. Whatever your problems, there are those among us who have had them too. If you keep an open mind, you will find help. You will come to realize that there is no situation too difficult to be improved. There is no unhappiness too great to be lessened. MODERATOR
Would you please go around the room, reading one or two of the Promises of DA? Pause briefly after reading each promise to allow the idea to “sink” in. 1. I know a new sense of belonging. The feelings of emptiness and loneliness will disappear. (Pause) 2. I am no longer controlled by my fears. I overcome my fears and act with courage, integrity, and dignity. (Pause) 3. I know a new freedom. (Pause) 4. I release myself from worry, guilt, and regret about my past and present. I am aware enough not to repeat it. (Pause) 5. I know a new love and acceptance of myself and others. I feel genuinely lovable, loving and loved. (Pause) 6. I learn to see myself as equal to others. My new and renewed relationships are all with equal partners. (Pause)
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7. I am capable of developing and maintaining healthy and loving relationships. The need to control and manipulate others will disappear as I learn to trust those who are trustworthy. (Pause) 8. I learn that it is possible for me to mend—to become more loving, intimate, and supportive. I have the choice of communicating with my family in a way which is safe for me and respectful of them. (Pause) 9. I acknowledge that I am a unique and precious creation. (Pause) 10. I no longer need to rely solely on others to provide my sense of worth. (Pause) 11. I trust the guidance I receive from my Higher Power and come to believe in my own capabilities. (Pause) 12. I gradually experience serenity, strength and spiritual growth in my daily life. (Pause) MODERATOR
We are not perfect. The welcome we give you may not show you the warmth we have in our hearts for you. You may not like all of us. After a while, however, you will discover that you will love us in a special way as we already love you. Talk to each other as often as necessary between meetings. Take a copy of our telephone list. If you wish, you can add your first name and telephone number to our master list. It will be printed the next time our list is updated. To join this group you must have a Sponsor. Sponsors agree to give you whatever personal attention, feedback and oversight you may need. Reason things out with someone else. But let there be no gossip nor criticism of one another during or after our meetings. Instead, let the understanding, love and peace of the program grow in you one day at a time. Will all who care to, please stand, join hands in a circle and say the WE version of the Serenity Prayer? ALL
Lord, grant us the serenity to accept the things we cannot change, courage to change the things we can, and wisdom to know that difference is us. (Shake each other’s hands playfully as you say:) Keep coming back. It works if you work it.
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(We suggest you share a hug with at least one person in the room before you leave.)
Telephone List for ____________________________________ Depressives Anonymous Meeting (Call ___________________________ at _______________________for information.)
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Summary of the Golden Keys with Related Information from the Appendices
Golden Key #1: Discover a Higher Power of Your Understanding. • It is very difficult for depressives to accept the idea of a Higher Power because their illness adversely affects their entire outlook on life. • Our experiences with religion in our childhood affects us nearly all our lives. • Depressives often challenge the very existence of a Higher Power whom they often regard as responsible for their troubles when they are depressed. • Depressives should seek counsel either from their religion or elsewhere. This improves their self-esteem, helps them understand their spiritual roots, offers solutions to help them relax and feel better about themselves, does not require blind allegiance or to abandon their childhood religions; and respects individual rights over any deference it gives to their clergy. • It is generally unwise for depressives to abandon their present religion while depressed. • One general rule is for depressives to do things that feel good, like taking baths, receiving massages, taking walks, etc. • Depressives often demonstrate a tendency to regard themselves as victims. See the next point: • Take a look in the mirror to see the person most responsible for your depression. Golden Key #2: Take a Personal Health Inventory. • The Phoenix bird (like most animals) understands its fate with more realism than humans do theirs. • When you are depressed, the fire is already burning in your nest. Don’t just dump water on it. Do something to address your dilemmas. • The Personal Health Inventory is designed to help you understand the depth of your depression. • It is up to you to “pull yourself up by your own bootstraps.”
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To more objectively assess your responses your Personal Health Inventory, go over them with a trusted friend. On a separate sheet of paper, write at least one sentence about any responses on your Personal Inventory that raise your own concerns about your mental health. Your journey of a thousand miles may have begun once you complete your Personal Health Inventory.
Golden Key #3: Decide Whether Hospitalization Is Right for You. • Families of the mentally ill might need to advise their beloved depressives what to expect while confined to a mental institution. • Mental institutions are not filled with uncaring, dark-hearted sadists. • Mental institutions are best suited for patients who are homeless, unable to monitor their intake of medications and/or nutritious food, and who are at risk of committing suicide. • Correctly understanding patients at risk of committing suicide can be very tricky for the uninformed. Get professional advice. • The author’s best advice is to make as few changes in your life as possible while you are depressed. • If you’re already involved in a relationship while you are depressed, stay in it if at all possible. • You can take measures to increase the intimacy you need, especially while depressed. Related Activities: • Review the definition of clinical depression contained in Appendix 1 • Call the mental institutions listed in Appendix 2 for any information about depression they can send you. • Carefully take and assess “your Personal Health Inventory” contained in Appendix 4. Golden Key #4: Form Your Own Professional Support Team. • If you go the extra mile as early as possible to form your own professional support team, you will save yourself much hardship and grief.
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• • •
• • • • • • • •
I recall the decade of the 1950s when TV doctor shows made us believe that doctors were always wise, patient with their patients, and spent high quality time serving their needs. The truth about doctors is that most of them are dedicated to serving your needs. You need a physician in your life who looks at your body as a whole, integrated system – my definition of holistic. Prescription drugs alone will never cure depression, which is a holistic illness and requires a holistic remedy. The Federal Drug Administration’s system for approving drugs works well in most cases, although it has many flaws which sometimes create dangerous outcomes. The father of modern medicine, Hippocrates, is given credit for saying: “Let your medicine be your food and your food be your medicine.” Most prescription drugs, however, are artificial chemicals that are not regarded by the body as food. Many vitamins and food supplements are not ingested by the body as food. Many variables that affect your health. They are only imperfectly measured by “double blind,” so-called scientific studies. It is well worth your time to find a holistic physician if at all possible. Most doctors play it safe by recommending only drugs approved by the FDA. Many so-called natural food products are neither natural nor recognized by the body as food. The prescription drug industry has done much to educate doctors regarding the latest innovations in the development of new drugs. The down side of the prescription drug industry is the exclusion of natural food substances from the consciousness of most doctors. You may have to search extensively to find a pioneer of modern medicine who embraces a holistic approach to his/her profession. No doctor has all the right answers for your health. The responsibility lies squarely on your shoulders to filter your doctor’s advice through your own common sense.
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Golden Key #5: Learn How to Handle Your Depressed Emotions. • The moods you experience when depressed vary as widely among depressives as they do among the general population. • Giving excessive attention to your feelings while depressed is not necessarily wise. • One common feeling among most depressives is lethargy: you may not care about anything nor enjoy anything in your life. • Inertia is also a common reaction to depression: you may not have the energy to do the most basic things you need to live your life more successfully. • The most important quality most depressives need is patience. • Your anger often becomes more intense and uncontrollable when you are depressed. • Resistance to change often accompanies depression. • It is wise to make as few changes in your lifestyle as possible while you are depressed. This includes your religion, your job, your venue, your partners and friends. • While depressed, your #1 job is to work on your recovery. No exceptions. • Each recurrence of depression is usually more severe and longer lasting than previous bouts. • Among depressives, sexuality is generally the first characteristic to subside and the last to return to normal. • Your appetite for food and drink often change dramatically when depressed. • The reaction of your friends profoundly impacts most depressives. You do not need friends who brush you off, give you unsolicited advise or coddle you excessively. You do need friends who empathize with you and assist you in helping yourself. • The prescription for successful relationships is to find friends who keep all their commitments, respect you and respect your property. • You need a partner who is willing and able to discuss your differences with mutual respect, is not judgmental, and has an eye on amicably settling inevitable differences. • Love, sex and intimacy are three entirely distinct attributes. Achieving a satisfactory outcome in love and sex is the most difficult.
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However, there are many ways to achieve intimacy, which acts as a surrogate for love and sex. Pets are wonderful sources of achieving intimacy, and are perhaps your best bet besides having little children in your life who love you unconditionally. Giving back to life is the best way to get whatever you want in your life. Give more of what you want to get. Spirituality is the best and fastest way to heal your disease. It has nothing to do with any religion. Rather it is system of ethics that can and should guide all your values. Today, depression is regarded as a brain disorder, which simply means that scientists have discovered chemical changes which take place in the brain while depressed.
Golden Key #6: Develop an Effective Diet and Nutrition Program. • The objective of this chapter is to sensitize you to the relationship between what you eat and drink and your illness. • What we ingest into our bodies to a large extent determines our overall state of health, including our moods. • Drinking plenty of the best water available is also important to depressives. • Non-prescription drugs, alcohol and recreational drugs usually have bad consequences for those who are depressed. • The author’s best advice is to eat as much of whole foods as possible, including grains and natural nuts. • Organic fruits and vegetables should constitute a major part of your diet. • Care should be taken in choosing the most healthy vitamins and food supplements. Don’t be fooled by false advertising. Read labels carefully. • A growing trend in Europe, as in Eastern philosophies, is the use of natural herbs and unprocessed herbal products. • Depressives should avoid “crash” and single-food diets.
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Appendix 5: How to Develop Your Own Professional Support Team • There are three general categories of mental health providers: psychiatrists, psychologists and counselors. • If funds are important to you, check whether your state has parity of health insurance benefits. Most non-parity states have a higher deductible for mental illnesses and lower benefits. This is an unjust treatment based in large part on ignorance about mental illnesses. • Look for a mental health provider you trust, understands your illness and really listens to you. • Find out how long your mental health provider will need to regularly see you. Don’t settle for open-ended time periods. Your immediate goal is to return to normal living. • Alternative therapies can help depressives, including Chiropractic care, hypnosis, regression therapies, acupuncture, general and therapeutic massage, acupressure, herbal remedies, and hot, long baths and showers. Appendix 6: The Heartbreak of Mania • Patients with Bipolar Depression have double trouble. • Mania can take several forms, described by their relative level of severity: hypomania, mania or hypermania, and manic psychosis. • For a Bipolar Depressive, taking medications can be very tricky. Some anti-depressant medications can actually trigger mania. • Self-pity, often indulged in by depressives, can easily become self-defeating. • Twelve Step programs contain many valuable lessons that can help depressives. Appendix 7: How to Create a Personal Nutritious Diet • When you are depressed, most body functions slow down. It’s important to drink plenty of the best available water, every day. • Most snacks are highly processed foods containing high amounts of fats, sugars and artificial preservatives. You should consciously limit your intake of these foods.
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• • • •
Phytochemicals are, literally, plant foods. They are growing in popularity and are replacing many less pure food supplements. The need for phytochemicals is amplified by the erosion of our soil and depletion of natural fertilizers. Aloe vera in its natural form contains many healing properties. Never underestimate the importance of everything you eat and drink in enhancing your immune system.
Golden Key #7: Perform Physical and Spiritual Exercises Every Day. • We have many examples from everyday life that prove that artists, actors, musicians, writers and sports champions rarely become successful overnight. Rather, their eventual success is acquired a day at a time over many years. • The Law of Karma is also popularly called the Law of Cause and Effect. This title is less scary to Westerners and sounds more scientific than the word karma. • The Law of Cause and Effect was first popularized by the scientist Isaac Newton. • Einstein extended the Law of Cause and Effect into the field of energy. • Quantum physics is perhaps the final domain for application of the law of Cause and Effect into science. • Depression, like most other serious illness, doesn’t just “happen.” Like all other phenomena, it is subject to this Law of Cause and Effect. • Depression, like most holistic illnesses, affects several systems within the body simultaneously. • A simple pill is not, nor ever will be, available to “cure” depression. Like all other holistic serious illnesses, depression requires a holistic response. • Science is only beginning to recognize and document the holistic response the body and brain react to as a response to daily exercise. • Your goal for physical exercise is simply to do it every day for 15 or more minutes. • Achieving a full body sweat during and after exercise helps the body eliminate many of the harmful toxins contained in most medications.
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• • • • •
Seek competent medical advice before you begin any rigorous exercises. A daily walk is rarely considered too rigorous by most doctors. Start slowly and build slowly is usually good advice for most rigorous exercise. There are no valid excuses for refusing to exercise every day. The use of a written journal is perhaps the best way to keep an accurate record of your recovery. Use your journal to record your feelings, not your daily activities. All you really need to begin your journal writing is a pencil and paper. Elaborate systems are available if you require them, but they are not necessary. Daily meditation is another spiritual exercise that will begin yielding results almost immediately in your life. But it requires the daily discipline that most people lack. “Just do it” is my best advice. Be aware that most friends, loved ones and even medical doctors will not support your performance of physical and spiritual exercises AS recovery tools in your recovery tool box. Rather, they will acknowledge taking pills and following your doctors’ advice.
Golden Key #8: Perform Activities Outside Your Home Every Day. • Many depressives experience symptoms very similar to agoraphobia; that is, they remain homebound for days or weeks at a time without valid reasons. • The relative comfort achieved by depressives by staying homebound are offset by many hazardous consequences not readily understood by them. • My best advice for depressives is get out of your “tomb” every day for at least one hour. • There are many “excuses” which appear to be valid to depressives to justify their isolation. These are illusions, not reality. Don’t submit to this tendency. • Like most Golden Keys given in this book, this Golden Key, Perform Activities Outside Your Home Every Day is simple, but not necessarily easy. • In this case, “Fake it until you make it” may be the best advice.
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Golden Key #9 : Plan Your Activities Every Day. • This Golden Key proves how serious you are about recovering from depression. The easy way out is not to plan. • If you do it right, it will take you less than five minutes to do your Daily Plan. Your Daily Plan can become your primary recovery tool. It is well worth the time it takes. But if you are typical, you will resist doing it anyway. • Depressives often become depressed because they lack the personal discipline it takes to perform correct habits every day. • This is the only case where I ask you to do it because it’s good for you. • In less than a week, you will have lain the foundation to improve the quality of your entire life beyond your wildest expectations. Appendix 8: Recommended Physical Exercises • See your doctor first and before beginning any strenuous exercise program. • The most difficult thing for most depressives is to dress for exercise. This is why this point is emphasized so strongly. You give yourself 5 points on your Daily Recovery Log just for getting dressed for exercise. • Taking a walk is generally healthful for you no matter how bad a shape you are in. • Stretching prior to exercise is healthy, and, prior to rigorous exercise, is necessary. • Pick out your favorite activity and develop your exercise program accordingly. • Taking a warm bath or shower after exercise gets rid of the toxins your body secreted during exercise and prevents them from being reabsorbed by the body. Do it while your body is cooling off, or not long thereafter. Appendix 9: Recommended Spiritual Exercises • The word “spiritual” used herein has nothing do with any religion. Consider it a form of mental development. • The word “meditation” is also not meant to fall within any religious context.
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• • •
The generic meditation exercise offered in this Appendix is merely one starting point you can use if you desire. Journal writing is a valuable discipline that will richly enhance your life. If you already have vivid dream experiences, create a separate dream journal besides your regular journal. If not, then prior to falling asleep, ask your Higher Power to help you remember your dreams.
Golden Key #10: Attend Depression Support Group Meetings. • Attendance at Depression Support Group meetings should become a top priority for all depressives. • The basic concept underlying DSG (Depression Support Group) meetings is based on a basic premise first popularized by Alcoholics Anonymous: Depressives in recovery help other depressives based on their experiences while depressed. • It is best NOT to have professional mental health providers be team leaders in DSG meetings—although they may serve an unofficial role as consultants among equals. • The DSG meetings designed for this book require every member to have a sponsor who has prior experience in attending such meetings. Sponsors are encouraged to attend at least the first few meetings with their sponsees to be sure that their sponsees are comfortable and firmly rooted in their recovery process. • Depressives must realize that their participation in DSG meetings is an integral part of their recovery. They must therefore be willing to overcome any hesitation they may have in attending the meetings as an integral part of their recovery program. The benefits offered by these meetings far outweigh the effort required to become assimilated into the loving dynamics they offer. • Depressives suffering from suicidal tendencies are not welcome to participate in DSG meetings unless their participation is authorized by a licensed professional. No exceptions to this rule. • Participation in DSG meetings also requires that participants track their progress every day on the Daily Recovery Log; and bring their completed Daily Recovery Logs every week to DSG meetings.
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Golden Key #11: Discover the Positive Reasons for Your Depression. • Practicing this Golden Key requires a basic commitment to a Higher Power of your understanding. In other words, it requires faith and is not necessarily logical (especially for a depressive) to think this way. • Your life can become healthier, happier and more prosperous if you are willing to practice this Golden Key. • A basic understanding of the Law of Cause and Effect will help you realize that there are reasons underlying your depression that are directly your responsibility. • There are many layers in the onionskin that represents your life. This is the main reason your problems may temporarily appear more severe when you become depressed. The whole idea is to keep on keeping on, and to trust your feelings and inclinations. There is no short cut to these dynamics. • There are absolutely no exceptions to this basic Law of Life: There are no pure coincidences to the major events that happen to you. • You may use spiritual exercises to help you understand the blessings that underlie your depression. In particular, this includes meditation, journal writing and writing all you remember about your dreams in your Dream Journal. • Be aware of apparent “slips of the tongue” that sharply gain your attention. Your friend, a TV program, the radio, license plates and many other external signs can become Golden Wisdom as much as any other events that just seem to happen in your life. • A direct approach to understand the blessings underlying your depression is to ask your Higher Power. For example, ask for help from your Higher Power before meditation and before going to sleep. Then write down anything significant that happens in your life, no matter what the sources. • The promise of this Golden Key is that you will make unprecedented transformations when you practice it. You will become a holy (whole) person for perhaps the first time in your life.
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Golden Key #12: Grow Where You Are Planted – One Day at a Time. • The basic idea underlying this Golden Key is simple: You must accept responsibility for what happens to you in your life – in spite of your feelings, which may want to place the “blame” somewhere else or on someone else. • Take the awareness that most animals possess: they ultimately accept whatever conditions they cannot change in their lives. • One analogy has helped me through all my problems. I consider my life as a giant restaurant. I attract the conditions I ordered on the menu, whether I realize it or not. • We always get what we need in life, not necessarily what we think we want. • Where we live, the jobs we have, our chosen partners and the major conditions that prevail in our lives are direct responses to the Law of Cause and Effect (the Law of Karma). • Once one becomes depressed, it is easier to blame where we live, our job, our religion or our partners for our problems. However, this delays recovery unless we work out these important issues (even while depressed) rather than blame anyone or anything else. • “Grow where you are planted” means to learn to accept the basic conditions that occur in your life without making any major changes in the outer trappings of your life. • “One day at a time” means to be aware of your immediate feelings and surroundings each and every possible opportunity. You cannot ever change your past. Also, you cannot change your future without changing at least some of your basic values and beliefs. • Change never progresses in a straight line. For example, you may take two steps forward then become overwhelmed by a temporary step backwards. That is precisely where and when you make the changes needed in your life to make your recovery permanent. • No “magic bullets” are available in this book. You must be willing to make the changes that your illness of depression bring to your immediate attention. This pill may appear to be bitter; but it is the only way I have discovered to recover from this illness. • To use a biblical analogy, you must first develop a new wineskin before you are ready to develop a new life.
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• • • •
Your Power of Choice is your most precious asset. Use it or lose it. Our government and most of our institutions make forcing others to accept their values an inappropriate change agent. Depression is a wholistic illness, which requires a holistic program to overcome. Your depression is considered incurable by most medical people. You may beat the odds only by following a wholistic response to your illness. Is your “Phoenix” ready to resurrect? When the student is ready, the teacher appears. You have not chosen this path by accident. Use the opportunity wisely.
Appendix 10: The Twelve Steps of Co-Dependents Anonymous • The passage excerpted from the Co-Dependents Anonymous Handbook illustrates the major dynamics of most Twelve Step Programs. • The CoDA Opening Prayer sets the tone of the entire meeting by acknowledging the Higher Power of our understanding. • The CoDA Closing Prayer thanks the Higher Power of our Understanding for the blessings received during the meeting. • The CoDA Welcome offers the common background experienced by most people who attend such meetings. • The Twelve Steps recited during all Twelve Step meetings use the past tense as an affirmation of our commitment to their occurrence in our lives over time. During Depressives Anonymous meetings, each step should be studied during every meeting. • Every person who attends Twelve Step meetings should strictly adhere to the Twelve Traditions. Over time, they have proven to be essential guidelines to the success of these meetings. • The Twelve Promises are just as valid for depressives as they are for all other Twelve Step Meetings. Study each one with the expectation that all will eventually demonstrate their promises in your life. • The four parts of all Twelve Step programs are built into the text offered in Appendix 12, Depressives Anonymous meeting notes: attending meetings, sharing fellowship, working with the twelve steps, and sponsorship.
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The Serenity Prayer is an essential part of every Twelve Step meeting: “God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference.”
Appendix 11: Daily Recovery Log • The Daily Recovery Log remains the heart and soul of the recovery process defined in this book. • I need a commitment from each person: Use the Daily Recovery Log for at least a month before you evaluate its effectiveness. • You need to understand the dynamics of this log and be comfortable using it. • If you are like most people, you will not naturally wish to use this log as an integral part of your life. It has many subtle purposes built into it that are part of the genius designed into this book by me and my Higher Power … for you. • You must first establish a starting point from which to build your statistics in future weeks. The whole idea is to start wherever you are comfortable and monitor your progress every day. • There is a direct relationship between your recovery and most of the Golden Keys. • You may find it necessary to overcome a great deal of inertia and lethargy to use the Daily Recovery Log. Don’t expect it to immediately or naturally become part of daily routine. It takes personal discipline. Appendix 12: Depressives Anonymous Meeting Notes Meetings of Depressives Anonymous and what the organization can mean for you.
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INDEX Activity lists ....................................................................69, 72-73 Acupuncture .............................................................. 26, 107, 152 Agoraphobia ...................................................................... 63, 154 Alcoholics Anonymous ..... xvii, 49, 111, 123, 125, 126, 140, 156 Anger ......................................................................... 33, 110, 150 Babies ........................................................................................ 43 Baths .......................................................... 37, 108, 118, 147, 152 Brain disorder ................................... 45, 47-48, 63, 104-105, 151 Children ................................................... 40, 43, 58, 96, 107, 151 Chiropractic care ............................................................. 106, 152 Co-Dependents Anonymous .............................................123-127 Crash diets ................................................................................. 52 Daily Plan ........................................................................ 134, 155 Daily Recovery Log.............. 58, 65, 128-138, 143, 155-156, 160 Depression Support Groups ....................................................... 66 Depression, clinical definition of .........................................96-97 Depression, positive reasons for ...................................81-88, 157 Depressives Anonymous Meetings ...................................138-146 Dream journal ............................................. 86, 121-122, 156-157 Drugs, prescription ...............................................22-23, 103, 149 Economic values ...................................................................83-84 Emotions while depressed ............................................31-46, 150 Feelings.................................................................53-61, 150, 154 Food supplements ............. 22-25, 50-51, 114-115, 129, 131, 149, ......................................................................................... 151, 153 Foods, uncooked .................................................................. 49, 52 Friends, role of .....................................................................38-40 Fruits & vegetables, uncooked .............................49-51, 115, 131 Golden keys .............................................................................. xiv Groups ..................................................................................75-79 Grow where you are planted .................................................89-94 Herbs .......................................................22-23, 51, 108, 129, 151 Higher Power ............................................................................1-5 Holistic Physicians .................................................................... 26 Holistic Physicians, How to find ............................20, 24-26, 149 Hunger, Thirst ............................................................................ 38 Hypnosis .......................................................................... 106, 152
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Hippocrates ........................................................................ 23, 149 Inertia ............................................................32-33, 117, 136, 150 Isolation ......................................................65, 67, 71, 76-77, 154 Journal writing ................. 59-60, 87, 120-122, 133, 154, 156-157 Lethargy ............................................32-33, 38, 72, 136, 150, 160 Lipkin, Dr. David M .................................................................. xv Love/Intimacy ............................................................................ 41 Mail................................................................. 32, 70-71, 134-135 Magic bullets ..................................................................... 92, 158 Mania ....................................................................................... 109 Massage ................................................26, 37, 106-107, 147, 152 Medications ....................... xv, 9, 12, 15, 20-24, 36-37, 45, 47-48 .............. 51, 55-56, 60, 81, 95, 103, 108, 110, 113, 130-133, 148 Meditation ......... 24, 59-60, 86, 119-120, 125, 132, 141, 154-157 Mental Health Institutions ................................................... 11, 97 Mental health providers .......... xvi, 11, 15, 21, 104, 105, 152, 156 Nutrition program ................................................ 47, 50, 147, 151 One day at a time ........................33, 72, 89, 90-92, 136, 140, 158 Out of house .................................................................63-67, 135 PAWS (Pets Are Wonderful Support) ........................................ 42 Personal Health Inventory ....................................... 7, 9, 103, 147 Pets .........................................................................16, 41-43, 151 Phoenix Bird ............................................................. xiv, 102, 147 Physical exercises ...................................................... 56, 117, 155 Phytochemicals ...................................................22, 114-116, 153 Planning, Daily ........................................................ 33, 69, 71, 73 Power of choice ................................................................. 93, 159 Professional Support Team ................................ 19, 104, 148, 152 Regression therapy .......................................................... 106, 152 Relationships, commited ..................................................... 12, 40 Resistance to change ....................................................34-37, 168 Serenity Prayer .........................................................127-140, 160 Sexuality ............................................................................ 37, 150 Showers ..................................................................... 37, 108, 152 Single food diets ...........................................................51-52, 151 Snacks .............................................................................. 114, 152 Spiritual exercises .............................. 3, 53, 58, 61, 119, 153, 155 Spirituality ......................................................................... 44, 151 Suicide .................................... 12, 14-16, 29, 77-78, 96, 111, 148
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Telephone calls ........................................................................ 135 Twelve Promises .............................................................. 126, 159 Twelve Steps ............................................................ xvii, 123-127 Twelve Traditions ............................................ 123, 126, 141, 159 Victim .............................................................................. 4, 28, 84 Vitamins ....................................22-23, 25, 50, 114, 129, 149, 151 Water ........................................................... 48, 113-114, 151-152
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About the Author Tony Schwarz was a remarkable man. Among his many talents, he was a polished public speaker and developer of management training systems for corporate America. Tony studied, tracked and recorded his own mental roller coaster so he could better describe to other sufferers and their families what it would take to rise out of severe depression. He realized it was critical to focus on the keys necessary to unlock the disabling hold that depression inflicts on its victims. It was his sheer will and determination to give this gift to humanity that kept him on track. Phoenix Rising provides a self-help approach to regaining control of your life. The step-by-step process is easy to follow for even those who are at the lowest point of depression. It is the wish of Tony and his family that his book will show the way out and give hope to those who suffer with this disease, and understanding to those who love and care for them. Tony took control of his own life by developing a holistic and healthy lifestyle. These practices enabled him to finish Phoenix Rising despite many physical challenges. Unfortunately, he suffered from a heart attack while his manuscript was in editing. His family has lovingly completed the publishing of his book in his absence.
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Unlike most other serious illnesses, it is possible for you to recover from depression without a long rehabilitation period. Your job is to...
Published on May 5, 2010
Unlike most other serious illnesses, it is possible for you to recover from depression without a long rehabilitation period. Your job is to...