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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Exciting news! (Mental health progress)

I have some exciting news to share – after two long years, the depression has finally lifted!
At first I hesitated to say anything, I thought perhaps I was just having a good hour, day, weekend, week, month… I didn’t want to jinx it by celebrating it. But heck, it’s been a long couple of years and I am going to enjoy this break from depression, no matter how short or long it ends up being.
For about a month now I have felt much more like myself. I have felt motivated, energetic and have enjoyed things again. Perhaps most excitingly, I have LAUGHED. Like real belly-busting, think-you’re-going-to-pee-yourself laughter. I have seen friends because I wanted to, I have smiled authentically. It has been such a relief after a very dark two years.
The best thing about my depression lifting is that it makes my anxiety easier to tolerate. If I am entering an anxiety provoking situation when I am depressed I am unlikely to be motivated to work through the anxiety, social phobia and agoraphobia because I won’t feel a benefit from it because I am mostly unable to enjoy things. When I’m not depressed, I feel compelled to stick out the anxiety provoking situation because I might enjoy myself. Likewise, not being depressed makes me more hopeful that I can make progress with my anxiety. Also, I have a much more optimistic view of the progress I have accomplished so far. The scale has tipped towards being more proud of how hard I have worked instead of feeling ashamed of how much ground I still have to cover.

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Enjoying dinner out at my favourite restaurant.

Because of this newfound happiness, motivation and energy I have been able to tackle a few major milestones. I went on a weekend trip with my husband Tom and we went out to several stores and restaurants within just a few days. Most excitingly, this past week I went to a gathering at a friend’s house, stayed the entire time and had a lot of fun (real honest to goodness fun!) in spite of how anxious I was for being outside of the house and in a group of people. My increased energy has also been great because I can do my fair share of households tasks and am able to do more than just sit on the couch all day.
I have lived with recurring episodes of major depression for many years, but usually it comes in waves of a month to a few months at a time. I think prior to this depressive period which spanned from about April 2016 to March 2018, my longest episode of depression was probably about 6 months long. I have become accustomed to the ebb and flow of my depression, and never before had I been so certain it wouldn’t eventually lift. I have been seeing a psychiatrist and a psychologist, participating in group therapy, completing workbooks at home, doing more intensive work during hospitalizations, practicing mindfulness and self care, etc. I felt that I was doing everything I could to no avail, which led to worse depression, self-harm and suicidal ideation. And yet, all of the sudden that all slid away.
So, what has brought on this change? It is hard to say anything for sure. But all roads lead to it being tied in to reducing the dose of my anti-depressant. I have already come off of several medications in the last few months to check whether or not they were effective but none of those medication changes had the slightest effect on my mood. So far I have done two phases of reducing my dose of Pristiq (desvenlafaxine), first from 150mg to 100mg per day, then to 100mg to 50mg per day. While I have been dealing with some dreadful symptoms of medication changes, my mood has been a lot better. I’ll just clarify quickly here though that the efficacy medications, particularly psychiatric medications, varies greatly from person to person – I’m just sharing my own personal experience.
There is no guarantee that this sudden change in mood will last but I have decided to embrace it while it is here rather than worry about loosing what I have gained. I am not under any illusions, I don’t think that I am cured of depression. I think that the medication I have been taking for about a year now was contributing to my depression and lack of energy. While I’m not looking forward to my next low, when I do feel it coming I am going to be a lot more certain that it won’t last for years on end. And that will make it infinitely easier to bear.
Take care,
Fiona