The 12 steps taught me the way out of addiction. But they didn’t help me with depression. Luckily, for me, I have dysthymia which is a lifetime experience. But it is milder than other depression types and it comes and goes. I have had to learn everything about my depression by myself. I am sure that is true for most of us with co-occurring or dual diagnosis. The mental health field can provide labels, medication, and sometimes, if you are very, very lucky, good counseling. But we have to become our own mental health expert. It is an individual journey.
For some other perceptions:
1. From Bigid Elsken Galloway: “Create a Team to Battle Fears and Loneliness”:
“When you realize there is nothing lacking, the whole world belongs to you.” ~Lao Tzu
Five years ago, I found myself rebuilding my life after my fourteen-year marriage ended. During those first months preceding my divorce, crushing feelings of fear and loneliness often consumed me. Thankfully, I began seeing a wonderful therapist named Muriel.
Each week, I held my breath until it was time for my appointment, when I could curl up on Muriel’s sofa and exhale all my anxieties.
One week, when I was particularly overwhelmed, Muriel gave me the number of the local Crisis Hotline and insisted that I save it in my mobile phone.
“I’m not suicidal!” I said, laughing as I dutifully recorded the number.
A few nights later, I awakened in the middle of the night filled with anxiety and fear. I couldn’t stop crying. I called a good friend, but she didn’t answer. Just as I began to panic, I remembered the number Muriel gave me.
After pouring my heart out to a complete stranger at the Crisis Hotline Center, an hour later I hung up the phone and promptly fell asleep. (In fact, I felt better from the moment I heard the volunteer’s voice on the end of the line.)
Having the right resource empowered me to get the help I needed, when I needed it, in an appropriate manner.
2. From Katie Simpson: “Am I Better Yet?”
The longer I am in therapy the more the sick versus healthy paradigm falls apart. Being in therapy has helped me solve my issues, to continue to build resilience. If I wasn’t taking meds, wasn’t learning self-care techniques, wasn’t returning to therapy weekly, I could have experienced another depressive episode. I certainly wouldn’t be as healthy as I am now.
My mental health isn’t like the majority of America. Dysthymia is a condition that makes me more prone to depression and lowers my moods more than most people. I work on it continually. Therapy and medication help me stay healthy.
But I think I’m learning lessons we all need to know.
3. From Suzanne Yada: “How a spreadsheet helped me tackle my depression”:
I was feeling horrible one day and decided to reach out to my Facebook friends. I needed a nudge out of my mental state, so I asked, “What are some everyday things that give you joy?”
The lists poured in: “coffee,” “my cat,” “sunrises,” “flowers,” “books.” Some answers were standard; some were surprising and very specific.
Then I started making a list of my own: Morning light. Forests. The ending of Amelie. Old, abandoned warehouses.
My list kept growing. And growing. And before I knew it, I had more than 700 items.
One of those items was spreadsheets, so naturally I made a spreadsheet out of the list. My spreadsheet came complete with categories I can sort, such as “does this thing cost me money” and “can I access this now or later”