Why “Rescue Yourself”?
Depression, by its very nature, is a disease of victimhood. Chronic depression sufferers overwhelmingly have histories of trauma in childhood. Depression further traumatizes those of us with the illness, causing our lives to screech to a passive halt.
No matter how good the therapist or how effective the medication, we can’t truly get well until we take full and complete responsibility for our recovery. Taking responsibility is a proactive stance, the antithesis of our past victimization. When we stop looking to others–whether doctors, mental health professionals, or our families–to fix us, and start stepping up ourselves, the trauma stops. Slowly, gradually, yet surely, we heal. Functionality returns. The darkness recedes, and there is hope.
During the early years of my illness, I became increasingly frustrated with both the limited content of the information I was receiving from my doctor and therapist and by its fractured nature. My doctor was med-happy. The more meds at ever-higher doses, the better, in his opinion. My therapist helped me explore my feelings and to “cope.” But I was not getting better–just the opposite. My life was circling the drain, and everything I held dear was disappearing. No one seemed to be able to tell me what I needed to do to truly get well, and the concept of a whole-person approach to recovery from depression was almost non-existent.
In desperation, I started reading up on depression, to the best of my ability at the time (my ability to read and process information cognitively was pretty much shot). I learned simple self-help strategies that, as I began to practice them, helped me far more than the medication and gave me hope that I could somehow get my life back. Honoring my own wisdom and doing what worked for me literally made the difference between life and death.
The term “CPR” implies a drastic attempt to resuscitate someone who is dying. Indeed. Living with depression isn’t living at all; it is a state of being dead with a barely discernible pulse. A completely new approach to recovery from this illness is required if you are to get well. You must become your own advocate and your own expert–even if you’re not sure what that looks like. To assert, “I am going to do whatever it takes to get well and get my life back, no matter what,” is the equivalent of the paramedics applying the paddles to a coding patient’s chest. It is the difference between life and death. With each life-affirming choice you make, the next choice to be made becomes clearer. Healing happens.
In the context of this blog, “CPR” stands for the following concepts:
C = Care for self radically. (One of the definitions for “radical” is “forming a basis or a foundation.”)
P = Practice reliance on a Higher Power.
R = Re-vision and revitalize your life.
How Can You Perform CPR on Yourself?
A friend and follower of this blog pointed out that CPR is always performed by one person on another. Aren’t “rescue yourself” and “CPR” contradictions in terms?
This is one of those delightful paradoxes that, like all true paradoxes, contains seeds of profound spiritual truth. By stepping up and starting to make life-affirming choices, one choice at a time, one day at a time, we engage the “magic” of synergy. Other people see what we’re up to and want to help. Resources, such as books, support groups, alternative therapies, become available. Someone emails us a link to the website that answers our current question. A job we can actually do and still take care of ourselves opens up.
In other words: Yes, we have to save ourselves. And we don’t have to do it alone. Indeed, it is not even possible to get well all on our own. Thank goodness for that!
Note: This article is a re-post of the entry entitled “About the Title,” listed under the About This Blog section on the sidebar. I wanted to bring attention to the important issue of self-responsibility in recovering from depression; hence, I re-posted it as a regular blog entry.
(c) 2011 by Patricia R. Henschen, M.A.