Dealing with the Blues

I am grateful to be living in an area where I no longer experience winter. However, the post holiday season can be a difficult time for many of us. We spend so much time preparing for Christmas, Hanukkah or special days as well as the New Year and suddenly, it’s all over. If you live in the northern hemisphere, you suddenly notice that daylight is short and there are three to four more months of winter to deal with. The January Blues are very real for many people. Seasonal Affective Disorder may also play a part in our sense of depression.

I have dealt with depression for far too many years. Sometimes I have been able to manage on my own, or with the help of a friend. At other times I’ve taken natural medications such as St. John´s Wort. For about five years I took prescription antidepressants. Clinical depression is very real and most of us experience it at some point in our lives. Some of us are able to come out of it without taking anything and others need varying degrees of assistance to deal with the depression. Everyone is different and so it is important not to compare with others but to treat it properly.

Since I have been in recovery dealing with depression has become easier. After a few years in my program and, with my doctor’s advice, I was able to slowly wean myself off of the medications for depression. However, that doesn’t mean that I am ‘cured’. I still have to be conscious about how I am feeling.

So what do I do when I feel myself spiraling down? There are a number of things that help me. I get my butt to a meeting. When I am down, I don’t want to see anyone. And that’s probably the worst thing for me. I need to get out of my head. Going to a meeting helps me to get out of myself and engage with others. A meeting also reminds me that I am not alone in all of this. I do have a lot of support. After the meeting I can talk to my sponsor.

Exercise also works. It doesn’t have to be a three hour marathon at the gym. A walk to the store instead of driving, or taking the dogs for a extra walk. Getting the body moving releases endorphins which help to regulate our mood. There’s a very steep path near my home up to the top of a mountain that doesn’t take more than ten minutes to climb, but it leads to a great view, it’s good exercise and my dogs love the run.

As much as I griped about it when I was first in recovery, I now often write a Gratitude List. There are always at least three things that I can be grateful for. Again, writing this list takes my focus away from those things that I find depressing. How can I be depressed when I have been given so much?

Clinical depression is very serious. If none of these suggestions help to alleviate your depression, seek professional help as soon as possible. There may be a chemical imbalance in your body and like I did, you may need to take a medication to help correct the imbalance.  It may be that you need to talk to someone who is a professional and has more experience than your sponsor or your friends in the meeting rooms. In the same way that if you had a bad head ache lasting a week without seeing your doctor, don’t let depression go untreated when it lasts a week.

We all have down days. It’s normal. But remember that the better days are on the way. We don’t have to remain down. It’s not the end of the world. I’ve often shared that even in Recovery, I still have ups and downs in my moods and how I feel, but the extremes of feeling really good or really sad now seem to be gone and for that,  I am grateful.

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russian blue kitten on brown woven basket

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A World of Miracles

The more I investigate, the more I realize that what we know is only a scratch on the surface of truth, of what Einstein called the “persistent illusion” of reality. When I open myself up to even just the ‘possibility’ of there being something out there greater than myself, I also open myself up to perceiving the wonders that surround us always but that we don’t always notice as we make our busy way through life.
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A friend at a meeting this morning talked about going for a hike with his brother to a water fall. The trek was much more arduous than they had expected. When they finally arrived, it because a mystical experience for one of them. As they drew closer they heard the sound becoming more and more intense until the cascade slowly revealed itself through the undergrowth of the trees.  My buddy saw how the sun was beaming light down through the trees and the mist rising from the water as it hit the rocks on the way down to a blue pool below. He felt the spray, watched the butterflies and took the whole thing in as a Higher Power moment. For his brother, it was a nice waterfall, but it held nothing of the spiritual aspect. Two people, two points of view of the same experience.

Our experience of anything depends upon our perspective and past experiences. Perhaps it’s my bias, but I believe that those of us who have been through difficult times and are making our way through recovery have to, perhaps, work harder than others to see the beauty of things and the wonders of the people and the world around us. Perhaps it’s because we were so wrapped up in ourselves, our ego and our disease that we couldn’t see it before. Perhaps we’re no different than anyone else. But it is important to take the time to look outside of ourselves to stand in awe and appreciate what is happening around us at any particular time. And even if you don’t wish to attribute what you see or what happened to you to your Higher Power, you can still appreciate the ‘miracle’ of it all.

During this time of year, we tend to see more positive things happening around us because our perspective has changed around the holidays and we expect to see the miracle of Christmas. I believe that these things are always happening around us. Every day there are wonders and sights to behold that will cause us to pause if we look for them. If you want to take the magic of Christmas with you through the whole year, then take this attitude with you. Miracles don’t only happen one day a year, or on 42nd Street in NYC or in Bedford Falls with Jimmy Stewart realizing that he’s the ‘richest man in town’. They around around us all the time. But we have to look for them.

From a sunny and hot Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica, (don’t be too jealous), I wish everyone a Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays! ¡Feliz Navidad!

There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, Than are dreamt of in your philosophy.

– Shakespeare, Hamlet

 

Conscious Contact

I still bristle when someone sends me a message on social media that tells me that God is blessing me this day, or that Jesus holds me in his arms. It brings back a past of rules, laws and feelings of guilt and shame. I am grateful for all I learned about religion and its practice but it is not my way of approaching my Higher Power now. There’s nothing wrong with the message. I hope to receive the blessings of my Higher Power and to feel the comfort of the Energy that surrounds and sustains us.

It’s the word God that bothers me, though I still say it. I use the word because it’s easier than explaining my concept of Higher Power. I use the word God and everyone understands that I am talking about something that is more than just me. At the same time, I would prefer that we had another word in English that conveys this concept. The image of an white haired, bearded man perched on a throne in a cloud is no longer my idea of what Source Consciousness is.

I am grateful that my recovery program allows me to choose my own concept of a Higher Power. It was a great relief when I came into the room that it wasn’t full of bible thumping proselytizers who were going to save me. I was able to find a ‘God of my own understanding’. This concept, though I didn’t understand it at the time, gave me an opening into developing a new and very different understanding of connecting to a power that had always been part of my life and brought me to recovery.

aerial photography of river

Photo by Elena Zhuravleva on Pexels.com

I have pretty much given up on trying to define exactly what my Higher Power is. I believe that defining that power will limit it. It’s enough to know it’s here with me. What does continue to change as I live my program is my understanding of that Power. By looking at the faiths of the world and different spiritual practices, I am deepening in my knowledge of how everything seems to work and I am left awed and amazed at how everything fits together. One of the gifts of my past is through it I can follow how the events that happened along the twists and valleys of my path have brought me to where and who I am today. Sometimes, even as things are happening and circumstances are changing, I take a step back and wonder how all of it is going to fit together, because it will. It always does.

The Eleventh Step invites me to improve my conscious contact with this Power by means of prayer and mediation, talking and listening, seeking and reflecting. I open my day by sitting on the terrace and watch the growing light as it illuminates the trees that surround me and enjoy the birds and other creatures passing by. It’s a wonderful way to open to gratitude first thing in the morning. It might not be traditional meditation but it’s working for me at this time. I expect that in the future, as my understanding of this Higher Power grows, how I keep in consciously contact with that Power will also grow. Today I receive the gift and feel the peace of knowing that I am not alone. I am grateful. pexels-photo-312839.jpeg