I attended Depressed Anonymous (DA) for almost a year, and I went every Monday with few absences. The group was incredibly supportive. After the first week, everyone knew my name and it was wonderful to be greeted with welcoming smiles. There was such a feeling of relief to walk into the conference room and know that everyone “got it,” had been on a similar journey through depression. I didn’t have to pretend everything was fine. I was in sympathetic company.
I wrote notes earlier in the day of things I might share when it came to me in the Round Robin – helped keep me focused and succinct. I never wanted to be a person who droned on and on or talked in circles, so I kept to my notes. Since everyone at DA understood depression, I didn’t have to work hard to explain myself – I would just share about my week, and my feelings, and the whole room empathized. There was always lots of head nodding and affirming words. It was so nice to be accepted and understood.
We used Codependents’ Guide to the 12 Steps by Melody Beattie, and it was a good format to discuss the 12 Steps as they applied to Depression. Still, I kept wondering if I was co-dependent. Turns out, probably not, at least not in an unhealthy way.
The group was on Step 4 when I joined (“4. Made a searching and fearless inventory of ourselves.”) so I tried to go back and work Steps 1-3 on my own. I put notes in my DA notebook, but wasn’t sure who to share them with. Unlike other 12 Step programs, this one did not have an emphasis on having a sponsor, so I felt a little like I was on my own other than on Mondays. However, I became friends with Leader Lady, and she provided me with answers and lots of DA information to help me as I worked the Steps. Contrary to the recommendations of the 12 Step system, I didn’t share much of my work on the Steps with anyone else. I wonder if I should go back and do that part over, if the Steps would keep me more grounded in accountability.
In the DA group, I was able to watch others move in and out of depressive episodes. I hate to say that it was encouraging, but since my diagnosis was Major Depressive Disorder – recurrent, moderate to severe, it was helpful to see how folks managed the ins and outs – the ups and downs – of recurrent depression.
While I attended, I actually got better twice. It was amazing to look back to my mood state when I started attending, and my improved mood by the time I stopped, with a little sidetrack in the middle. The other members of the group are a huge reason that my depression went into remission. And they were there to encourage me when I had a bad week, and when I felt myself slipping back into depression. They helped me to tell the difference. They walked with me through that second depressive episode, and I had some tools of experience to take with me when I finally left the group.
I didn’t want to leave. But my experiences with depression, and those from the DA Support Group, lent themselves to the next chapter of my walk in the depression journey. I was invited to help start a Depression Support Group at my church.