I recently talked to a friend about their depression. Having been through it myself, I felt I was in a position to advise and suggest how he could take small steps towards recovery. As I was writing out my own experience for him to read (via email), I was struck with a sense of sadness at what my past-self had been through. Of course I am proud that I have come out of a truly spirit-crushing situation, but recounting the thoughts I had had during my lowest moments were not pleasant.
I remembered crying endlessly for about a month because that’s all I felt I could do. The time I spent crying was when I felt most true to myself (which is heart-wrenchingly sad in itself). I felt desperate for relief, I felt helpless. I didn’t know when I was ever going to stop feeling alone and empty. I couldn’t remember what it was like to truly enjoy something or look forward to something other than being sleep. I despised waking up because it meant I had to think and face my thoughts which were never anything but cripplingly sad. I didn’t want to think or talk about my feelings but it was the only thing that I could actually think or talk about.
Now, after 4 months of feeling like myself again, I can’t quite believe how low I felt back then. Of course I remember and therefore I am very careful to monitor my thought trains… I know how unexpectedly and quickly they can take a depressing turn if I let them. Over the past few months, I’ve been practicing how to worry less, how to be less neurotic, how to let go of what I might perceive as failures and how to be easier on myself. However, sometimes I fear that if I don’t nip it in the bud, a small concern could spiral downwards into a bigger, more threatening problem.
Right now, I wouldn’t say that I fear relapse per say, but I would argue that anyone who has suffered with depression (and definitely in my case), does worry about future events triggering the illness again. An important thing that one can do to maintain recovery is to pinpoint triggers (if there are any noticeable ones) and avoid or tackle them. For example, I know that I can become disproportionately upset if I think I have not acted appropriately/been too loud/become flustered in social situations. It gets stuck in my mind for ages and then I start questioning my relationships with people when in fact everyone else forgot about my overexcited chattering hours ago. As long as I recognise these worry-inducing thoughts patterns, I can talk myself out of feeling down. I tell myself that it’s ok to not be the best version of myself all the time and that I am learning every single time I am not completely happy with my behaviour. It’s about being kind to myself as well as knowing that it’s ok to have room to improve.
Relapse is always a possibility, but as long as we face our issues head on and take the time to learn how to look after our sensitive spots, it need not be a reality.