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Thursday, September 4, 2014

Freedom from Depression

In light of the Robin Williams tragedy, and having experienced severe chronic depression and suicidal contemplation throughout much of my adult life after my time in the military, I feel compelled to tell you a bit of my story during the darkest times with my battle with depression, PTSD, and trauma.  It is my hope and intention that what I share will be healing for those who might be battling their own personal demons and feel there is no way out.  Some of the things I will share in the next few blogs are very dark, and are not suitable for children.  I am exposing my demons to you, and thus I ask that you please read this first before any young children read it.  By sharing my battle with my inner demons, I hope it will serve to stop someone who might be thinking of ending their life, and get some help.  Getting help was the best decision I've ever made.  It helped me to find the joy for my life once again.


Depression

One of the most common consequences of someone who has experienced Post-Traumatic Soul Distress or trauma in their lives is the experience of depression.  Depression is something we all have experienced at least once in our lives.  It's very common.  It can be traced back to ancient biblical times.  Depression is as common as man has been on this earth.  In the energy field of depression, we view ourselves and the world as sad and hopeless; a place of sin and immeasurable, unending suffering; and our view of God or Source is someone who doesn't love us, who ignores us; who has no feelings for us, is uncaring, and who we feel separated from and abandoned by.  Essentially, at its core, we feel separated from life.  The most common feelings associated with depression are self-blame, self-loathing, guilt, shame, and worthlessness.  In addition, a sufferer of depression feels powerless to do anything about his condition or effect positive changes in the world he lives in that might change his perspective.  He feels total hopelessness and despair that his life, and life in general, has no meaning and no purpose.  There are many regrets about the past.  There are paralyzing fears about the future. Attached to both of these are the feelings of guilt and anger.  Depression can be described as anger turned inward.

What happens is we project what gives us value and what gives us meaning as outside of ourselves.  We place value and significance on other people, on our families, on our jobs or careers, on our possessions, and things which are transitory in nature.  We give away our power to these "outside things" because we believe they will give us the love, recognition, validation, and identity we need, and thus imbue our lives with meaning and purpose.  This, we believe, will give us the connection we want.  A depressed person is not able to make this connection.  When the outside sources of their happiness has failed them or been lost to the regrettable past, whether it's a person, place, or thing, the internal emptiness one feels can be so overwhelming it's crippling.  The sufferer can become so incredibly despondent where he is barely able to function, all is dark, his life force completely drained, and he has no will to live.  The future is gone, and what he lost, can never be replaced or replicated, it's gone forever.  This perceived lack and total separation from life can be so detrimental to the point where the person feels the only way to extricate himself from this excruciating pain is to commit suicide.  To feel separated from that which we want is to unconsciously feel separated from God as our Source.  We are totally separated from the source of our happiness.

For most of my life, I was sad and depressed.  As a child, I was quiet, shy, gentle, and sad.  That doesn't mean I didn't have good times; I did, I have many, many beautiful memories from my childhood and adolescence, my battle with depression doesn't negate or take away from any of those times, they were the times I lived for.  However, as I grew older, I began increasingly feeling more sad, lonely and depressed, never quite measuring up in my mind to the people around me, always seeing others outside of myself as being happier, more content, having a better life.

It's not like I wanted to be depressed.  Depressed people know they're depressed, and they know no one wants to be around someone who is depressed all the time.  It's depressing.  When family or others take notice something is wrong, you try to pretend nothing is wrong, because you don't want to burden them with your feelings about your life or your relationship to the world.  You put on a mask to the world that everything is fine, but inside you're in the dark.  You feel everyone's pain around you, and take it on as your own, which depresses you even more.  Something inside of you knows something is not right, something is terribly wrong with the way the world operates, and how you operate, and you feel helpless to do anything about it.

By the time I was an officer in the Air Force, I was suffering from chronic depression, it was plaguing my life, and nothing I was doing offered any escape from the sense of hopelessness and despair I felt.  And then, I experienced my trauma by working on the GPS/NDS program.  I was in charge of the operational readiness and capability of these mobile ground units that would only be used for Integrated Tactical Warning/Attack Assessment and Nuclear Force Management.  End-to-end nuclear war.  Under my leadership, my team and I executed all mission essential testing which resulted in full operational acceptance and turnover of a new system - a first for the NDS survivable ground mission.  You can find all this stuff on my Officer Performance Reports, so nothing I am telling you is classified.

I remember the moment my soul was wounded by the work I was engaged in.  I was sitting in one of these units doing some testing with one of our contractors, and as I was sitting there, I looked around, and imagined what would be happening if this machine was actually being used.  There would be all out nuclear war.  Life on earth, as we know it, would be over.  And I had contributed my life in service to our nation to ultimately see to its destruction.  I saw images of nuclear bombs going off; I saw the people using this machine that I and my team had made operational and ready to conduct the war, and it made me sick.  I remember a big knot in my stomach as these and other thoughts consumed my mind, and I said to myself, 'This is not what I signed up for.  I wanted to preserve, protect, and defend our nation.  Not participate in the planning for the destruction and annihilation of mankind.'  I received a deep, moral, spiritual wound in that moment.  We all want to contribute something to this world.  That what I did served a higher purpose, it added to the continuity of life, and made life better.  No matter how I looked at it, I couldn't see how what I was doing served any higher purpose.  To me, it was premeditated mass murder.  And there was nothing I could do to change what I believed at the time was the inevitable outcome of the work I contributed my life and talents to.  My soul revolted.  And my depression about the future of humanity reached new depths never before experienced.  I sought to 'numb out', and, as I will explain later in another blog, that is exactly what I did.

Depressed people literally have depressed cells.  Happy people have happy ones.  And the reason why we are depressed is because we have placed the source of our happiness as being outside of ourselves.  There is an internal emptiness inside so deep and pervasive, nothing seems to satisfy this perceived lack - you can see the beauty on the outside, but not inside.  There is this intolerable feeling that we have built up a veil of morality on a amoral reality.  Nothing is as it should be; violence, death, and destruction rule this realm, and all we can do is stand up to it as best we can.  For some of us, this is too much to bear, and we medicate ourselves or consider suicide as the only option to free ourselves from the suffering.  I'm sharing with you my personal experience with PTSD and depression; others may have a different experience with it, but the essence is the same.

Beneath these disturbing thoughts and feelings I was having about my life and the world I lived in was all the pain, the loneliness, the hopelessness, and despair of my life that I carried with me from the genetic and historical transmission of trauma passed down to me through my father and mother.  Traumas get passed down through the generations.  It's not anybody's fault.  We are all innocent at birth, and the world we are brought into gives us the experiences we have.  Whatever is not consciously contained by one generation gets passed down which then necessarily and largely unconsciously plays itself out through the next generation.

I was completely unconscious of what was going on with me on the inside, in my inner world.  I didn't know why I was always depressed.  I didn't know why I felt the way I did, I didn't know why I couldn't seem to fit in, I didn't know why I felt so disconnected to all of life and the people around me, I didn't know where this pain came from or why it came to me.  Of course, I didn't show it, or let anyone know I was so severely depressed because I didn't want to seem weak or unmanly.  As a matter of fact, I put on the opposite face, the happy party guy, to cover up what was really going on.  But by putting on a face and burying the pain I felt on the inside only made things exponentially worse.  I didn't have the tools or resources at that time to face my depression and everything else that was in me that needed to be faced and healed.  Instead, I coped with my depression and my traumas, by 'drowning out my sorrows' through alcohol and later drugs.

I want to conclude this by suggesting depression might be our friend.  If looked at in the right way, perhaps this is nature's way, or our own psychology's way, or God's way of pointing out to us that something is not right in the way we see our life.  And, it's my belief now, after years of battling with depression, it is our psychological, biological, and spiritual way of putting on the brakes and addressing that within us that needs to be re-examined.  It's as if our own soul is saying to us, "Please look at this.  Please understand me out of your compassion.  Just love me.  Heal me, heal all of it."  When we address the fear underlying the depression, we give ourselves a chance to finally be free of it.  Having the courage to look at what is depressing us with the eyes of compassion and non-judgment, having the intention to at least look at the subject as promising and hopeful, changes our relationship to depression.  We are no longer at the mercy of it.  We know it is trying to teach us something.  It wants us to come back to ourselves and be the source of our own happiness regardless of the circumstances on the outside.  And, if we can look at it and discover that "there is a benefit in here for me, not only for this particular situation, but for the rest of my life.  When I solve it, I solve it for all time within myself."  With this in mind, you empower yourself.   You lift your energy up, you give yourself a chance to find the gold in the dark.  And when you finally do find it, like a bird set free from its cage, you will miraculously be free to be yourself again.
  

What to do to break free from Depression without having to resort to alcohol, drugs, or pharmaceuticals:

  • Be the source of your own happiness
  • Fill yourself up with love by doing things you love that are not dependent on anyone else
  • Look at the 'worst case scenarios' and face your fears
  • Learn to be content with being by yourself; you're going to be with you your whole life, might as well be your best and most loving friend
  • Surround yourself with people who will inspire and motivate you; join groups that get you out of yourself and into life
  • Stay active; exercise regularly
  • Spend time in nature
  • Meditate
  • Treat yourself the way you deserve to be treated, it makes you feel good
  • Laugh a lot; smile.  That alone can lift up your energy and pick your spirits up
  • Have a life coach, therapist, or trusted friend whom you can talk to whenever you feel down.  These are people who have earned the right to hear your story.  They can be your greatest resource for empathy, connection, and can help put things in perspective and offer solutions
  • Enroll in a Tai-chi, karate, or movement meditation class.  You want to move the negative energy lodged in the body caused by the depression or trauma and release it through active movement
  • Start a yoga practice
  • Get plenty of sleep to re-charge your body and mind
  • Cultivate gratitude in your life.  Have a gratitude journal that you write in everyday 5 things for which you are grateful for, and 3 things for which you are grateful for not
  • Find a way to be of service
  • Always learn something new.  You want to be growing all the time
  • Treat your body like a temple.  Feed it only good things
  • Remember: your life is a gift!    

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Charlie Pacello is a PTSD and Healing Trauma Recovery Expert and Life Coach, a former US Air Force Lieutenant, and creator of the program, 'Lt. Pacello's Life Training Program.'  He can be reached by visiting his website at www.charliepacello.com