Tag Archives: Higher Power

Top Ten Principles for Depression Recovery

“Joy does not simply happen to us. We have to choose joy and keep choosing it every day.” — Henri Nouwen

For depression levels: All

These Principles form a strong foundation for health and everyday happiness.

There’s been one positive, unintended side effect of having recurrent debilitating depression over the last several years: It’s given me time to think. In between depressive episodes, I have pondered what it really takes to get well and be well on an ongoing basis.

I came up with 10 foundational Principles that have helped me to keep moving in the direction of wellness. I can’t say as I’ve mastered them all; far from it. As I’ve mentioned before, having depression and choosing to undertake the journey to recovery is an ongoing hero’s journey (see Hitting the Trail–Part 3). However, keeping these Principles in mind helps me to bridge the gaps between despair and hope, passivity and activity, and disempowerment and empowerment. More importantly, practicing these Principles makes the essential difference between remaining ill with depression and recovering from it fully.

As an example, here’s Principle #5: “I am not a victim. Even though depression has taken away my motivation, there are still some things I can do to help myself. Therefore, I do one thing right now to feel better.” One of the ways I live this Principle is by belonging to a wellness center operated by the local hospital. The monthly, no-contract fee is very reasonable; it’s near my house; and I can go to as many yoga, water aerobics, and studio classes as I want. Because the classes are on a regular schedule, and because the instructors and other members know me and remark if I don’t show up, it’s relatively easy for me to grab my gear and just go. I seldom actually feel like going, but I know I will feel so much better afterward; conversely, I know I am inviting depression if I don’t exercise.

The Principles

1.     I am not my depression. Depression is an illness I experience. Therefore, I quit saying, “I’m depressed,” and look for ways to treat the illness.

2.     No matter what diagnosis I received, it is not definitive. Remission and even complete healing are possible. Therefore, I choose to believe that I can become completely well and go on to live a rewarding life.

3.     My feelings are not facts. They are real only if I let them be. Therefore, I make choices based on what I know and not on what I feel.

4.     I am not alone. It may feel that way most of the time, but there are lots of people who are willing and able to help me. Therefore, I reach out for support daily.

5.     I am not a victim. Even though depression has taken away my motivation, there are still some things I can do to help myself. Therefore, I do one thing right now to feel better.

6.     I am not my past. While understanding how past experiences contributed to my depression can be useful, ultimately, this will not heal me. Therefore, I forgive the past to the best of my ability, see the good in my present, and project hope into the future.

7.     I am responsible for improving my state of health and state of mind. No one can heal me, rescue me, or make my life better but me. Therefore, I stop waiting and start acting.

8.     The Universe is on my side, even though it might not seem like it. The more aware I become of Divine forces working on my behalf and call upon them to help me, the more they will do so. Therefore, I develop a simple daily practice of prayer and meditation.

9.     Although depression affects every aspect of my life, it isn’t personal. Life isn’t out to get me. Therefore, I choose to stop feeling persecuted and start looking for the deeper meaning of my illness.

10.  My experience of depression is unique to me. Although friends, loved ones, and colleagues care about me, they will never “get it.” Therefore, I stop demanding that others understand me and make specific, practical requests for help instead.

Working with these Principles invites beauty, order, and wellness into your life.

Working with the Principles

Rather than seeing these Principles for depression recovery as “to-do’s” or “shoulds” that you have to memorize and act on immediately, I invite you to simply write down in your journal or on a scrap of paper that you post in a visible location the Principle that speaks to you the most right now. Just read it aloud a couple of times a day and ponder the possibilities that Principle could open up for you.

Say to yourself, “If this were true, I could… .” Or, “If this were true, it might mean… .” Do some journaling in response to these springboards. Discuss the Principle with a friend or therapist. Introduce it at a support group meeting. See what opens up! You may find that you are inspired to take certain actions. Write down these inspirations so can keep track of them; select one to follow through on, asking for help from your support team if you need it.

When you feel that you’ve got this one embedded in your consciousness, pick another one and go through the same process. You might wish to rotate the Principles once a month, coming back to the first one you selected in the rotation after 10 months. Each Principle informs all the others, and you’ll be able to look at the older ones with fresh eyes and a heightened consciousness.

Share Your Experiences

I invite you to share your experiences in working with these Principles by leaving a comment below. I hope they make as much difference for you as they have for me.

(c) 2011 by Patricia R. Henschen, M.A.

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We’re Back!

“Just don’t give up trying to do what you really want to do. Where there’s love and inspiration, I don’t think you can go wrong.” –Ella Fitzgerald

Thank you for joining me on this journey!

After a two-month hiatus, Rescue Yourself: CPR for Depressives is back. I’ve retooled the website for a fresher look, added some new widgets, and included an about me page. I had loads of fun adding unique photo headers at the top of each “About” page (see the links at the top of the blog); with the exception of one, all the photos are from the Huntington Library and Botanical Gardens near Pasadena, California. And yes, I took them all! I am in the process of redefining the categories so that they will be more obvious and act more like an index. Look for the more user-friendly categories sometime this coming week.

Pretty pictures aside, it is my hope that the blog will be more readable, enjoyable, and useful to you.  Many thanks to everyone who gave input via the poll I posted in July. I am looking forward to doing some cool things with the blog such as interviews with experts in the health and wellness fields, recipes for foods that supercharge the brain, and even some guided visualizations using audio technology.

I hope your summer was everything you needed it to be, as free from depression as possible. I found myself in the midst of a few depressive episodes, largely due to the extreme heat and exceptional drought here in Texas, the likes of which haven’t been seen since–well, never. We broke every heat and dryness record here since they started recording such things. Excessive heat can actually inflame the brain and make depression worse. (Hmm, maybe, just maybe, Texas isn’t the right place for me!)

I’ve been cogitating a lot this summer on the true nature of depression, not just how it manifests, but what causes it, why some people get it and others don’t, and what–going beyond the physical and emotional symptoms–it really is. It’s my opinion that chronic, recalcitrant depression is, by and large, a spiritual illness, or what medical intuitive Caroline Myss calls “mystical depression.” I’ll be talking more about that in a future blog post.

Also coming up in the next couple of months will be an in-depth look at the underpinnings of the CPR recovery program: Care for yourself radically, Practice reliance on a Higher Power, and Re-vision and revitalize your life. As part of this exploration, I’ll introduce the Twelve Pillars of Wellness, material that I developed a few years ago for a live workshop entitled “Going Beyond Depression,” which I gave in Tucson in 2004. Additionally, you’ll have a chance to try more interactive exercises, including some forays into the expressive arts, and you’ll be seeing more insights from leading lights in the fields of nutrition, exercise physiology, spirituality, and alternative healing.

St. Francis is a worthy exemplar of serentiy for us.

I spent the last few weeks recovering from acute bronchitis. When my lungs aren’t working, there isn’t a whole lot I can do except rest, sleep, and think. In between nebulizer treatments, I got to thinking about what it really means to heal and if complete healing from depression (not to mention bum lungs!) is possible. I don’t have a definitive answer to that question, but I invite you to explore that possibility with me in the weeks and months to come.

I’m glad to be back here at CPR for Depressives, and I hope you’ll continue to not only follow the blog as new posts appear, but actually try the exercises and suggestions and report back on how well they worked or didn’t work for you. It’s through sharing our experience, strength, and hope with each other that we are better able to recover from depression and create lives that are rewarding and infused with everyday happiness. I look forward to serving you by sharing not just knowledge about what it takes to recover from depression, but also wisdom about living an amazing life, no matter what challenges we face.

Until next time,

Patricia

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Top Ten Remedies for Depression Emergencies — Part 2

“The mind is its own place, and in itself, can make a heaven of Hell, and a hell of Heaven.” — by John Milton

Where there is life, there is hope.

For depression level(s):  Severe.

Before continuing with the last five of my top ten remedies for depression emergencies (for the first five, see Top Ten Remedies for Depression Emergencies — Part 1), I want to focus on what you should not do if you are experiencing a depression emergency. The emotional pain of severe depression can be acute, making us want to do anything to make it stop. However, any self-destructive or acting-out behavior might alleviate that pain for all of five minutes, after which you will feel much worse. I have been there, more times than I can count. Trust me, it doesn’t help.

Here’s what doesn‘t work:

  • Overeating;
  • Eating neurotoxic foods, such as wheat, refined sugar, artificial sweeteners, and processed foods;
  • Drinking and drugging;
  • Excessive smoking;
  • Spending sprees;
  • Isolating;
  • Cutting (self-mutilation);
  • Putting in motion plans to commit suicide.

If you are seriously contemplating suicide, call 911 or 1-800-273-TALK (8255). If you need to go to the hospital, ask a family member or friend to take you, or call 911 for an ambulance. You are too precious to take your own life. Don’t do it. The world needs your unique gifts and talents, and you deserve to get well and enjoy your life. It can happen, but only if you give yourself a chance.

With that said, here are the last five remedies for depression emergencies:

5.    Increase your dosage of Omega-3’s. If you’re currently taking 1000 mg. of fish oil, take 2000. If you’re currently taking 2000 mg., take 3000. If you aren’t currently taking any at all, get some high-quality, mercury-free fish oil as soon as you can and start with 1000 mg. A “normal” dose (for folks without depression) is 1000 mg.; a therapeutic dose starts at 3000 mg. As with any supplement, you are responsible for determining whether this is the right thing for you.

4.     Call your therapist. Try to get in to see her immediately for an emergency session. She can talk you out of the really scary place you’re in, give you some additional coping strategies, and determine whether you need to be admitted to a hospital on an inpatient basis.

3.     Go to a support group meeting. I recommend you go to a face-to-face 12-Step meeting. If you are not in 12-Step recovery, that’s okay; you can still attend an open meeting of almost any fellowship. The important thing is not that you share the outward manifestation of addiction, whether it be alcoholism, compulsive overeating, drug addiction, codependence, or what-have-you; but that you connect with people who have experienced many of the same struggles you have and who understand what it’s like to be in emotional pain. Their experience, strength, and hope can get you over this rough patch and help you to feel connected and empowered.

The following fellowships are the most likely to have open meetings in your area:

Your town may also have a depression support group. Chances are, however, that they don’t meet very often and may not meet soon enough to help you through your current depressive crisis. To find a depression support group near you, contact your local hospital; they frequently sponsor these groups. You can also go to the Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance’s (DBSA’s) website.

2.     Get a massage or other bodywork and/or energy work. Getting some type of body work done, such as massage, craniosacral, or reflexology and/or some energy work, such as Reiki or Therapeutic Touch, will not only be healing for you but will also help you to feel connected and nurtured. To find a practitioner in any of these modalities (and many others) visit massagetherapy.com’s referral page.

You have the option to activate your very own spiritual "SWAT team."

1.     Call in the spiritual SWAT team. That’s right. It’s time to bring in the big guns. Connecting to your Higher Power accomplishes three things: a) It allows you to surrender and let go of your fear and anxiety and turn them over to something bigger than yourself, b) it helps you to feel supported and connected, and c) it activates spiritual healing forces on your behalf.

Here are just a few suggestions on how to activate your own spiritual “SWAT team”:

  • Ask a friend, loved one, or your spiritual community to activate a prayer chain on your behalf. Family members and friends of people with cancer and other serious illnesses do this all the time. You are just as sick and just as in need of the loving care of other people and of your Higher Power. This has the added benefit of allowing people to actively care for you instead of just wondering how they can help you.
  • Work the first three Steps of 12-Step recovery around your depression; discuss them with another person. You don’t even have to be in a 12-Step program to do this. The Steps go like this:
    Step 1: I admit I am powerless over depression; it is making my life unmanageable.
    Step 2: I believe that a power greater than myself can restore me to sanity.
    Step 3: I turn my will and my life over to the care of God as I understand God.
  • Call upon the Archangel Raphael and his team of healing angels. Ask them to surround you and send the healing white light of God’s presence and love into your brain to heal it. This technique can be especially powerful and effective if you ask some friends to join you in “seeing” the angels doing their healing work.

You do not have to suffer. Do what it takes to stabilize yourself at this time, and then start taking proactive steps to rescue yourself and live well in spite of having depression. Whoever you are, wherever you are, my prayers are with you.

(c) 2011 by Patricia R. Henschen, M.A.

Do you know anyone who is in a depressive crisis? If so, please share this with them! It may help.

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Filed under Making Tracks, Survival Toolkit, Top Ten Lists

Derailed—And What to Do About It

“Life is about not knowing, having to change, taking the moment and making the best of it, without knowing what’s going to happen next.” – Gilda Radner

For Depression Level(s): Severe depression that has somewhat resolved.

There you are, chugging more-or-less merrily—or at least functionally—along, doing your job, shopping for groceries, spending time with your friends, when—WHAM! The train of your life jumps the tracks and you find yourself laid out on the couch, severely depressed and unable to function.

Forget work. Forget doing the dishes. Forget paying your bills on time. Forget being a support to your partner or friends. Forget feeling even halfway good.

Recurring depressive episodes can stop us in our tracks.

You’ve been derailed.

Depression is once again your constant companion, for days or even weeks. Who knows why it happened? Could be you ate one too many snack-sized Häagen-Dazs ice cream bars over the last couple of weeks. Could be you misplaced the yoga schedule. Could be you forgot to take your medication or supplements. Could be Mercury is in retrograde, a butterfly sneezed in Spain, or there was a hiccup in the time-space continuum.

Could be anything. Really, the reason why depression has revisited you, like an ex-lover you thought you’d dumped but who keeps turning up on your doorstep, is not that important.

The question is: What do you do about it?

I had to ask myself that question last week when I found myself smack dab in the middle of another depressive episode. I felt exhausted, achy, and lethargic. I couldn’t focus, couldn’t do chores, and certainly couldn’t write. All I wanted to do was sleep. You know the drill.

Getting yanked back into severe depression is kind of like having a bad cold. You used to get bad colds a lot, but not so much anymore. You’ve gotten to where you enjoy life without colds—the contrast with the way things used to be evokes deep appreciation. It makes you angry that yet again you have a bad cold, with all that goes along with it. “None of this should be happening,” you think. “I’ve worked so hard to get to the point where bad colds are not such an issue anymore.” Yet, here you are. You have one. All you can do is wait it out.

But wait—that’s not quite true. Even though a bad cold cannot be “cured,” there are things you can do to speed up the healing process. We all know what they are: Drink plenty of fluids, take Vitamin C, eat chicken noodle soup, rest.

It’s the same with a depressive episode. Although you and I have both worked hard to overcome severe depression through medication and/or supplements, lifestyle changes, therapy, and the complete restructuring of our lives, brain chemistry being what it is, it’s inevitable that we will from time to time find ourselves falling back down that dark well of despair.

There are things we can do, however, to ease the severity of the episode and shorten its duration. Since I used to work for NASA, I like acronyms. They serve as useful mnemonic devices. Here is a five-step process using the acronym TRACK. The steps can be taken in any order and are ongoing; in fact, the more you do them, the more they reinforce each other.

T = Take radical care of yourself. This means eating high-quality nutrition, exercising daily, taking the meds or supplements that are part of your regimen, and getting plenty of rest.

R = Refuse to eat sugar and wheat. Both of these substances have been shown to play havoc with brain chemistry. Do yourself a favor and leave them out of your diet.

Using the TRACK process can bring back contentment and functionality.

A = Accept the situation. Although it’s natural to be angry that you are once again at the mercy of severe depression, staying angry will ensure that you stay depressed. Accept what’s happening and let go of the anger. Here is where it can be helpful to ask the assistance of your Higher Power. Say a simple prayer such as, “God, here I am again, depressed. I don’t know how I got here, and I’m powerless over it. I’m so mad. Please help me to accept this situation and let go of my anger. With your help I know it’s possible. Thank you.”

C = Connect with family and friends. It is important not to isolate during the episode. Talk to at least one friend or family member per day, either by phone or in person.

K = Keep a low profile. Reduce your current commitment level and don’t accept any new ones. Now is not the time to launch a major project at work, give a speech at Toastmasters, or have friends over for dinner. Really, if none of these things takes place this week, what’s the worst that could happen? Learning to say “no” is one of the most important skills you can develop.

With the TRACK process and a little time, you will soon be chugging merrily along in your life.

(c) 2011 by Patricia R. Henschen, M.A.

Did you find the TRACK process useful? If so, please leave a comment below and share your experience with others.

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It’s In the Hands

“Sometimes, if you want to see a change for the better, you have to take things into your own hands.” – Clint Eastwood

If you have depression, you are probably intimately acquainted with anxiety as well. The comorbidity rate (the likelihood of two diseases coexisting in the same person at the same time) for depression and anxiety is quite high—58% of people diagnosed with major depressive disorder also experience some form of anxiety disorder.[i] And here you thought you were somehow abnormal!

Anxiety hits during times of stress

While depression feels like wearing cement blocks chained to your ankles, anxiety feels like cement blocks are piled on your chest. Breathing is constricted, and the heart rate speeds up. Other physical symptoms can include headaches, fatigue, sweating, nausea, tense muscles, super-sensitive skin, heightened startle reflex, and trembling. Along with the physical symptoms come mental and emotional ones: Worry, irritability, restlessness, difficulty concentrating, a distorted view of problems or events, and a desire to isolate.

Interestingly, many researchers in the depression and anxiety fields believe that “a brain serotonin abnormality has more to do with anxiety than with depression,”[ii] according to Dr. Charles L. Whitfield, but because pharmaceutical companies have told us for more than 20 years that depression is caused by the brain’s inability to utilize serotonin properly (all the better to sell antidepressant drugs), that’s what we believe. This actually makes sense to me. In my own experience, taking SSRIs didn’t do much for my depression but seemed to alleviate the anxiety somewhat, if only by making me feel numb.

Riding a wave of anxiety can feel very much like riding a surfboard: You’re not at all sure you’re going to be able to keep your balance and you’re very much afraid you’re going to end up floundering about in water over your head. The unconscious impulse is to freeze and grab on to anything that feels familiar, whether it be a place, a person, or a routine; and to avoid anything that feels threatening. This is the old freeze-or-flee paradigm. Functioning normally becomes difficult, if not impossible.

For this reason, it’s important to interrupt the fear messages your brain is sending to your body and mind. (Let’s face it: Your brain doesn’t always interpret things accurately; it just thinks it does.) There are a number of ways to do this:

  • Physical engagement—for example, aerobic exercise;
  • Mental engagement—for example, cognitive-behavioral therapy;
  • Spiritual engagement—for example, meditation.

Try this simple exercise I developed to relieve anxiety that incorporates both physical and spiritual engagement:

1)    Find a quiet place where you can be alone for about five minutes. If this is a restroom stall at your workplace, so be it.

2)    Take note of your anxiety level: On a scale of 1-10, with 1 being barely noticeable and 10 being off the charts.

3)    Take three deep breaths. By “deep” breath, I mean, inhale to the count of four; hold for two; exhale to the count of four. If you can go for counts of six, three, six, do so.

4)    Rub your hands together until they are warm. This may take from one to two minutes.

5)    Place your left palm over your heart and your right palm over your solar plexus, about 2-4” above your navel. (The solar plexus is the spot where we frequently feel we have a “knot in the stomach.”)

6)    Continue breathing deeply. On the inhale, say to yourself, “I am a beloved child of God.” On the exhale, say to yourself, “I let go of all that does not serve me. I am safe.” Do this for one minute, or until you are feeling calmer and better able to function.

7)    Smile. Bask in the feeling of being loved and safe.

8)    Take note of your anxiety level now. Has it gone down?

If you do not “arrive” at a place of feeling connected to your Higher Power, don’t worry about it. The point is to feel better, not to have a transformative spiritual experience. The more you practice this exercise, the more powerful and effective it becomes.

(c) 2011 by Patricia R. Henschen, M.A.


[ii] Charles L. Whitfield, M.D., The Truth About Depression: Choices for Healing (Deerfield Beach, FL: Health Communications, 2003) 15.

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I Matter, My Life Matters

“Know that although in the eternal scheme of things you are small, you are also unique and irreplaceable, as are all your fellow humans everywhere in the world.” –Margaret Laurence

Today’s post is a “valentine” to everyone reading this blog who has struggled with depression. It is in the first person so that, when you read it, you can really get how important you are, how much you matter. Ask someone on your support team to listen while you read this aloud to her or him. I’m not going to wish you a happy St. Valentine’s day because this day can be triggering to many with depression, especially if they are single. Instead, I am going to wish you a Happy You Matter Day!

================================================================

I Have Always Mattered--And So Have You

Does my life matter? I better believe it does! How can I ask such a ridiculous question? Do I matter? Now I know I have entered the realm of the unreal. Did not the Creator make me? Just because I have depression and it feels like I’m not doing much of anything useful doesn’t mean I don’t matter. Are there not trees and birds and sky, all with their respective place and purpose in the Universe? Just because they are ubiquitous and we take them for granted does not mean they don’t matter.

Could any of us say that trees do not matter? Even a single one? What if all the trees, one by one, were eliminated from the face of the Earth? What then? The Earth would be barren and we would slowly asphyxiate from an overload of superheated carbon monoxide. On top of that, we’d have no shade in the summer or colored leaves in the fall. Of course trees matter!

And birds? Such as the mockingbird outside my window that persists in singing her own lilting song every day? She is a completely self-expressed being, a perfect example of how to be. Without birds, I would not be cheered, the insect population wouldn’t be kept down, and the trees might not exist because they probably wouldn’t get pollinated. And we all know what happens without trees! Of course the birds matter!

And the sky? Without the sky, we would have no atmosphere and this planet would not be able to support any life. Little children would not be able to ask, “Why is the sky blue?” We wouldn’t have the weather to fill up our conversations and provide jobs to thousands of meteorologists. Of course the sky matters!

And I? Do I matter? Just like the trees and birds and sky, I, too, have my crucial, unique part to play. Without me, the fabric of the Universe would unravel ever so slightly and not be quite as beautiful to behold. Every time I doubt my own worth, am not true to myself, or act as if I don’t matter or somehow am not real, then holes appear in the fabric, eventually assuming the magnitude of cosmic tears that cannot be mended. The really tragic part is, every time the fabric begins to unravel or a hole appears in it because of my I-don’t-mattering, the Universe goes into spasms of terrible, painful agony.

It’s true. Check it out: Next time you are I-don’t-mattering yourself, see how great and shiny and wonderful you feel. Not, right? You don’t think it’s painful to have someone rip you to shreds because they’re not playing their part full out, with integrity? Sure you do. You experienced it when you went through your divorce. You felt it keenly when someone you trusted lied to you. You agonized over all the times people could have genuinely shared themselves with you and didn’t. Hell, yes, it hurts! So quit doing it to yourself!

If my assertion that I matter, my life matters, is true, as indeed it is–what then? It means:

  • I speak my truth, strongly and without apology, instead of manipulating through silence, resentment, and anger.
  • Recognizing that I have needs and honoring them, taking care of myself in ways that bring me health, well-being, prosperity, and aliveness.
  • Being true to myself and making right choices that are aligned with my inner being—and saying no to those things that hurt me.
  • Sharing my essential gifts with the world through my authentic work instead of selfishly hiding them under the guise of, “I’m not important. I have nothing to offer. I don’t matter.”
  • Expressing myself with a glad heart through my art, writing, singing, and dance. As I was created, so I create!
  • Allowing myself to connect meaningfully to other people and refusing to hide anymore.
  • I glory in my unique self by accepting every part of me and never, ever cutting myself down.
  • Peeling back the layers of fear and pretense one by one until all that remains is my essence, my God-self.

All of this I choose to share with the world as a stand for harmony, healing, relatedness, and love for all human beings, creatures, and the planet. So, yes, I MATTER. MY LIFE MATTERS. AND SO DOES YOURS.

(c) 2011 by Patricia R. Henschen, M.A.

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Willingness: The Key to Recovery

“What we call the secret of happiness is no more a secret than our willingness to choose life.” – by Leo Buscaglia

The essence of recovery from depression is to become willing to do the impossible: namely, to show up for your life. You don’t have to know how you’re going to get up and out of bed, make breakfast, and get yourself to work (if, indeed, you are working at this point); goodness knows you don’t want to do any of those things. You only have to be willing to. It’s a starting place, a baby step. Every moment of every day that we’re not asleep presents us with the opportunity to express our willingness to be well, if only to ourselves. And if we’re not willing, we get to ask for help with that.

What’s the difference between wanting and willingness? We all want to be well. When we’re not feeling so bad that death would be preferable, we want to be well. But are we willing to be? Wanting and willingness are not the same thing. Wanting is an ephemeral hope, an emotion that, especially for depressives, is fleeting and sometimes unrecognizable. But we know we’re supposed to want to be well, and so, dutifully, we do.

Willingness, on the other hand, requires giving something up. We know this intuitively. We’re not quite sure yet what it will end up being, but we understand at some level that there is something we’re pretty attached to, as yet undefined, that we’ll have to let go of in order to become well.

I’ve had a lot of time to think about whether I even wanted to be here on the planet, never mind whether I was willing to be here. Most of the time, I didn’t. It was too hard. The thought of even attempting to climb out of the deep, dark well that I was trapped in was overwhelming and contained within it the seeds of its own failure. But I knew that feeling like getting better wasn’t going to happen for me. After years of being mired by severe depression, I finally realized that I was never going to feel like doing anything. I had learned through years of 12-Step recovery that the way out was through: through willingness. The rest would follow. And if I wasn’t willing to be well, I could pray for the willingness to become willing.

How do you know if you’re willing to be well? If you did the journaling exercise from the previous blog post (“A Key Question,” July 8, 2010), you may have been surprised by what you learned from writing with your non-dominant hand. If you feel comfortable sharing what you wrote or simply discussing what you learned, please feel free to do so in the Comments section.

Another simple way to determine if you’re willing to be well is to close your eyes and focus your attention on your heart center. Imagine that your heart has doors, kind of like French doors that open outward. Ask yourself: “Am I willing to be well?” Quick—are the doors of your heart open or closed? Perhaps even bolted or chained? Open doors denote that, yes, you are willing to be well. The road to recovery won’t be an easy one to travel, but it’s doable. You’re already well on your way. Closed or locked doors indicate, hmmm, a certain reluctance to changing the status quo. And that’s okay. It’s not a permanent condition. (Neither is depression, for that matter. But we’ll go more into that at another time.)

How can you shift from unwillingness to willingness? Through the use of prayer and affirmations, potent tools for life transformation. First, ask your Higher Power, whatever that means to you, “Please give me the willingness to become willing to be well,” or whatever version of that feels best to you. Second, begin affirming, as you go throughout your day, “I am willing to be well; I am willing to be well; I am willing to be well.” It may take a few days, a few weeks, a few months, perhaps even a few years before you feel a shift. Everyone’s journey to recovery is different; everyone walks a different path. There is no right timetable; there is only your timetable.

I honestly don’t remember how long it took me to move from unwillingness to willingness; I think it was probably a couple of years. My depression was so intractable, it was like trying to move the Rock of Gibraltar (which I have, in fact, seen in person and which is truly massive). No matter how low I got, however, I remembered to say to myself, “I am willing to be well; I am willing to be well; I am willing to be well.” It gave me something to hang on to; it gave me hope.

Even if you don’t believe that saying a six-word sentence (out loud if you’re alone, or silently in your mind if others are around) repeatedly could make a difference for you, what have you got to lose? Try it.

Next time: “The Dailies.”

(c) 2010 by Patricia R. Henschen

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