How I Defeated Depression

With a gratitude list. It was that simple. In the mornings I would make a mental note of the good and positive things in my life: 1. I am sober. 2. I am alive. 3. I am in college. 4. I have my future. 5. I am single. 6. I have a place to live. 7. I have food on the table, etc. If I didn’t make this list, I couldn’t get out of bed.

This was what my psychologist recommended and it worked like a charm. The list automatically gave me encouragement, willingness and hope. After this mind exercise in the morning, my depression ceased and I could get on with my day.

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I was 24 years old when I became seriously depressed. I was going through a difficult break up and I found myself alone for the first time after I had quit drinking 8 months before. I think I didn’t know how to deal with my emotions being sober. I also know I felt hopeless many times when I drank heavily.

My main depression symptom was that I found it very hard to do anything at all. All tasks were overwhelming and I could find no willingness inside of me. It was almost as if the limbs in my body had become too heavy and any kind of movement was too burdensome.

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I was not eating, not showering and not taking care of myself properly. I also had lost my ability to concentrate or focus. I was in college at the time and during lectures, whatever the teachers said didn’t register in my mind. When I tried to read the class textbooks, the words made no sense. I would read the same paragraphs several times, not knowing what I was reading.

What was saving me before I learnt about the gratitude list were the AA meetings, and I was going to as many as three every day. Sometimes on my way to the AA clubhouse my head was in such turmoil and unrest that all I could think about was the movements of my legs: Right step, now a left step, another right step. I had to focus and watch my legs or I felt I wouldn’t get there. The clubhouse became my safehouse, my shelter and my mental hospital. At the meetings I spoke to whoever was willing to listen. One night amidst my depression, I had a dream in which my AA friends were carrying me in their arms.

My brother also came to visit and stay with me that summer of 1992 when I was going through all this. He was taking a graduate class at the same university where I studied. His companionship and being able to talk to someone were of tremendous help. I’ve heard people say at AA meetings that “just talking about it” solves 50% of the problem.

Besides the depression, many of the very difficult feelings I was having were due to the break up. The emotions played in my head incessantly like a merry-go-round. And then when it was all over and my girl friend had completely left me, the pure depression truly set in.

I continue to do the gratitude list some mornings when I’m not feeling too emotionally well. It still works like a charm.

Every cloud has a silver lining my father would say. If one door closes, another one opens. Life is full of opportunity. The Higher Power gave us life to live and experience it.

Copyright © 2023 Jorge Luis Carbajosa

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