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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Somehow, I can be both happy and depressed

The strange thing is, I am happy.

Three weeks ago, I married the love of my life. We just got back from our honeymoon. I have an adorable puppy who brings me joy. I love my family and friends. Yet, as I am writing this, I am in a low. I haven’t been sleeping well for weeks, I feel drained, I feel lonely, I feel hopeless, I feel like curling up in a ball in a dark room and waiting for this unwarranted feeling of dread to pass.

If you take mental illness out of the picture, things are going exceedingly well for me. That’s the thing that people so often don’t understand, it is possible to be happy with the things going on in your life and to still be suffering. I think that more often than not in my experience, I’m not able to pinpoint why I am in a depressive period or why my anxiety is through the roof.

Earlier this year I was hospitalized a couple of times when I was feeling particularly hopeless, empty and anxious. During those hospital stays everyone from well-meaning family members to friends and even mental health professionals were drilling me with questions:

“Why are you depressed? You have an amazing fiancé, aren’t you excited to get married?”

“Why are you so anxious? There’s nothing to be scared of!”

“How could you be suicidal when you move in to your new house in a couple of weeks!?”

“What do you mean you feel alone and empty? You have had so many visitors here every day!”

I don’t know. I wish I did. I wish I had an answer to satisfy not only the questions of my family, friends and doctors, but my own questions of the same nature. The best I can say is that my mental illness doesn’t discriminate based on my current life experiences. It doesn’t only rear its ugly head when I am expecting it. It shows up when it wants to, it stays for however long it chooses to.

I often beat myself up over experiencing symptoms of depression, anxiety and panic when things are otherwise going so well in my life. Few things are more demoralizing to me than knowing how fortunate and privileged I am and yet experiencing emotional hell at the same time. I often think to myself, “You have it so good! Stop being such a baby! Grow up and get over this!” I compare myself to people in worse situations, people who are facing so much and stay so strong. It’s a comparison I would be better off ignoring for the shred of sanity I have left.

Don’t get me wrong, I experience bouts of depression and heightened anxiety during the rough times in my life. That’s a given. But those aren’t the only times when I am affected by my depression and anxiety. I don’t get to decide when they pop up. They are unwanted visitors at any time. They are akin to distant family members that you don’t really like who announce that they are coming for a quick visit and show up with giant suitcases and take over your house. I hate them, I resent them, I want them out of here.

When you are happy but depressed or anxious, it doesn’t feel like normal happiness. Depression is literally the opposite of happiness, so it’s very confusing. All I can say is that it is totally possible to be so excited to move in to your new house, so thankful to be marrying your best friend, so giddy to play with your puppy, but have all of those feelings of joy and happiness feel blurry and distant. You experience them, but only through the thick fog of depression. They are blurred, they are abstract. But they are nonetheless there.

This strange co-existence of happiness and depression, joy and anxiety is something I have had to come to terms with. It still nags at me, but accepting it makes it a lot easier to handle. I will never fully comprehend why I have had the worst depressive periods and highest anxiety of my life while I was engaged to my best friend, the love of my life. I will always resent my depression and anxiety for robbing me of the joy and celebration of this time in my life. But I can’t fixate on that, I have to focus on recovery.

To all my fellow sufferers out there. Whether things are going well in your life or not, I feel you. I cannot pretend to own your experience; we are all different. But I am with you. You are not alone.

Take care,

Fiona