When Depression Ends

Today I’d like to share a positive post with you. I recently pulled out of my latest depressive episode. I have been feeling gradually better for the past month or so. I’m happy to say that the cloud has left for now. Depression always feels inescapable, it is a relief to be reminded that depression isn’t permanent. I have had many depressive episodes in my life and I know myself well enough to know that my depression will be back. Nonetheless, I’m enjoying this moment of respite.

A lot of changes occur when depression ends. In celebration of this return to myself, here are some of the positive changes I have noticed over the last few weeks.

The Big Changes

I’m optimistic about my future

When I’m depressed, I don’t always see recovery as an option. A future that looks any better seems impossible. I feel there are few things worth working towards, because life is what it is: depressing. When the depression lifts I’m reminded of all the things I have to live for and the things that keep me going. I’m able to acknowledge that there is a chance I can make lasting progress. I know that my depression is cyclical and it will come back, but I know that relief from the depression will too.

I feel better about myself

I’m very proud of myself and the progress I have made. I can see how much I have learned in my last couple of years in therapy. I can identify myself as strong and a fighter. I know that I’m a good person and am just doing my best. Conversely, when I’m depressed I feel like a burden. I feel like the worst person in the world and that my existence makes everyone else suffer. Suffice it to say, a break from this horrible self-concept is a gift. As a direct result of this, my self-talk is also much more positive and adaptive when I’m not depressed.

My anxiety is a bit easier to cope with

Since my depression ended I have been trying to leave the house and go for walks more often. I’m even slowly starting to see other people. My anxiety remains painful and debilitating, but I’m determined to try to cope with it when I can. Depression exacerbates my anxiety disorders by impacting my motivation, energy and desire to do things. My anxiety is all the more gruelling when depression robs me of any benefit that facing anxiety might otherwise yield. I’m less resigned to my anxiety when I’m not depressed.

I can feel fully happy

When I’m not depressed I can feel and sustain genuine happiness. When I’m depressed and good things are happening in my life, I can feel a fleeting sense of happiness about it, but rarely does that last. Anything happy is often quickly destroyed by my general sadness or lack of emotion. Or the happiness gets picked apart by unhealthy thoughts like, “I don’t deserve to feel this happiness” or “if I’m happy now it just means something terrible will happen soon.” Those thoughts occur infrequently when I’m not depressed, allowing me to more fully enjoy moments of joy.

I recognize the good things in my life

When I’m depressed, being reminded of the positive things in my life can actually make me feel worse. When my mood is incongruent with the things I “should” be happy about I tend to beat myself up about it. The guilt I feel over being sick is raised because I have so much to make me happy and live for. When I’m not depressed I’m able to appreciate my life and all the good that comes with it. I’m blessed in a lot of ways, chief amongst which is my loving and supportive network of family and friends.

The Smaller Changes

  • My internal alarm comes back. I wake up easily.
  • I sleep more regularly.
  • I make healthier food choices.
  • I want to spend time on my feet.
  • I’m able to play more board games. (When in a low it’s hard for me to focus and cope with unexpected changes so board games become hard to handle)
  • I use positive coping tools as a default.
  • My head doesn’t constantly hurt.
  • I dance and sing throughout the day.
  • I remember everything I have learned in therapy.
  • I drink water.
  • I play with my dog because I want to.
  • My body aches less.
  • I can make simple decisions more easily.
  • I’m able to read more comfortably (no repeating over lines, etc.).
  • I care more about my personal hygiene and self-care.
  • I’m not as easily tired.
  • I can contribute more by doing chores and volunteering.

All of these changes provide much needed light after months of darkness. They also highlight just how much my life is changed by depressive episodes. Depression can be a thief of joy, purpose, energy and self. Depression can make it seem like life isn’t worth living, but even a few short weeks out of depression can be enough to make months of struggling feel worthwhile. I hope that I’ll get a long break before my next low. I hope everyone who is experiencing depression right now will get some relief soon. I hope we all come to know more wellness and joy.

Take care,

Fiona

Photo by Marko Blažević on Unsplash

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Ch-ch-changes

As I write this, my miniature poodle, Midnight, is barking up a storm. He is staring out the window in to the backyard where my husband recently placed a large tarp in preparation for putting it over the broken roof of our shed. Midnight has never seen a large tarp in his back yard before – it is a change. It’s harmless, but how could he know that? It is completely new to him.

Changes are hard for all of us. As children, we were all hyper-sensitive to change; a change in schedule, for example, can throw children way off balance. Adults too are sensitive to change, I know many people who feel uncomfortable after Daylight Savings Time starts or ends. But depending on our biology and our life experiences, we may be very sensitive or less sensitive to the changes in our everyday life. I belong in the former camp.

Given that change affects me deeply, it isn’t all too surprising that I haven’t been my normal self for the past month or so. Just over a month ago I got married, then went on our honeymoon, now there is a whole lot of, “what next?”. One of the big changes in my life right now is just figuring out what my next focus will be and what my goals are now that the wedding is over. In addition to that, I am starting all sorts of new efforts to improve my mental health.

One such big change came yesterday in the form of a new group therapy course. It is a dialectical behaviour therapy (DBT) based course aimed at helping people with borderline personality disorder or those who have similar difficulties regulating their emotions. It will take place every Tuesday afternoon for the next three months. Now, rationally, it can be argued that this is a really positive change for me. Taking a course which can help me learn to have better control over my emotions sounds like a good thing, right? But to someone like me, with disordered anxiety, this is very scary.

I can’t speak for everyone with anxiety disorders, but I know that many of us get stuck in the “what ifs”. What if the other patients in this group are judging me? What if this doesn’t help and is just a huge waste of my time and energy? What if it even makes things worse? What if I have a panic attack in front of all these people? What if I take courses like this for the rest of my life and never find the right solution for me? What if bringing up these emotions triggers me to self-harm? What if…? These questions can cycle on and on for an eternity.

I’ve been taught that anxiety itself is a good thing. A common way of explaining this is that if a bear is chasing after you, you will be thankful for anxiety kicking in to tell you to run or hide. When anxiety is disordered, however, we perceive a threat where none exists – or we exaggerate a threat to make it seem more threatening than it really is. There is no good reason for me to think I am in imminent danger in this new group therapy course, but I do.

With all these changes occurring at once right now, I am feeling quite unsafe. Everything new feels like a possible threat. Change is making even the things that I have become comfortable with through exposure therapy seem foreign again. I am feeling unsteady in situations that I have come to usually feel confident in. I am just a tiny little poodle whose backyard has a giant tarp in it and I have no clue how to manage that.

Take care,

Fiona