NYAPRS Note: This blog post comes from Duncan, a community member in NY who has found blogging and writing as a way to enhance his recovery. If you’d like to read more of his experiences or subscribe to his free blog feed, visit Duncan here; he invites you to join him in creating a community of empowerment by sharing reflections and insights that assist in taking action toward healing.
Healing Informed Community: Let Go of Fear and Hit Publish
My name's Duncan Bethel and I've spent most of my 49 years living with chronic depression combined with recurrent episodes of clinical depression. There's a trauma/ PTSD history mixed in there as well. I've also worked with and/or on behalf of youth and families involved with children's mental health, special education, juvenile justice and child welfare for about 25 years now.
The chronic depression dates back at least 35 years-possibly longer. It's been part of my life for so long that I fell into the trap of just accepting this as "my normal". The recurrent episodes of clinical depression date back at least 32 years. Some of these I remember vividly, while others are just blurred memories.
The old adage that "If you keep doing the same thing- you'll keep getting the same result ( or worse) " is definitely true. I take the liberty of adding "or worse" to complete the statement. That addition lends a more accurate description of my behavior and experiences regarding the impact of mental health challenges left unattended for decades.
During the last 4 months of 2012 I found myself trapped in a cycle of "double depression" (or chronic + clinical depression). This turned out to be one of the most intense and dangerous depressive episodes I've ever experienced. Days became weeks, weeks became months , fall became winter and intrusive thoughts death became a detailed plan for of suicide.
I was trusting myself less and less during the latter part of 2012, and eventually, it all came down to one cold night in December.
The duration of this event had been brutal. I was totally exhausted and feeling like I was dancing on the edge of insanity. For much of this night I was using that fascinating yet dangerous ability that we all possess. You know... the one that allows us to see any situation however we need to in order to justify (anything). So using that ability, I let myself see suicide as a practical option.
It was one of the longest nights that I can remember. Fortunately, I was able to make it through the night without acting on my plan. At the same time, it came much too close. The only other time it came this close was over 25 years ago.
I just sat there, numb, trying to wrap my head around how I let it get so out of hand this time. Don't get me wrong, I was still exhausted and caught up in a depressive episode - none of that had changed. Casting away the suicide plan did not signal the end of the episode and a simple return to "my normal". Instead, it was a call to find a way to change the dynamics of my relationship with depression.
In the past I would have blamed my depression, other people or some life event for "triggering and fueling" this near fatal episode- but no more. We give away too much power when we shift responsibility for how we think and behave outside of ourselves.
I need to heal. Real action versus procrastination and half-ass effort. I finally understand that the excuses really must end. It's not complicated, yet it can be so damn hard to implement and maintain. Have to let the patterns of yesterday go and start building healthier ones from scratch.
So, at 49 years of age, here I am- trying to figure out who I really am and what I want to accomplish with my life.
With each new action I'm learning and taking power away from depression, outside influences and the negative feedback loop. I'm finally trusting myself enough to step into the unknown as I try to find a new path. I'm slowly learning to detach from the need to control the outcome; while getting better at embracing the uncertainty of it all. I'm figuring it out as I go.
As one example, this is my first attempt at doing anything even remotely connected to technology or the internet, so there has been much uncertainty attached with starting this site. Trust me- I'm the last guy to call if you need help with technology. In addition, exposing personal parts of life this way obviously has its risks -you tend to find out exactly who is who and what is what in every aspect of your life when you self-disclose certain things.
Instead of worry about judgments or the final outcome , I'm just going to let go of fear, "hit publish" and let the universe work it out.
During August of 2013 I attended a Journey Into Healing event at the Chopra Center in Carlsbad, California- it was transformative and I'll tell you more about the experience in future posts.
Two takeaways from Journey Into Healing that I'll mention now are:
1) Action is required- that reminder was drilled home and gave me the push I needed to follow through with this site, upon my return home. I had been procrastinating for about 4 months.
2 ) I was also reminded that the most effective strategies to heal ourselves include reaching out with sincerity to offer help to another. Karma is neither good nor bad-it just is- and what we put out to the universe always comes back.
If this site helps just one person in even the smallest of ways, then it will help me also. Of course I'm hoping for more.
My hope is that we can create a community of advocacy, empowerment and support. A learning and self-help community where participants, who choose, can help inform by sharing insights and reflections related to taking action towards healing. At the same time, one need not share anything in order to be a valued member this community. As we move forward - the members of this community will have opportunities to help shape and contribute to the ongoing development of this site.
Healing journeys are not only for those impacted by the turbulent mind. These journeys may be born of any life experience that causes harm to the mind, body and our balance with the universe. The shared commonality is the quest to find a healthy, sustainable path.
I've come to really understand that each single moment of life is a very precious gift, and we only get so many.