Will it ever go away? Why does my depression keep coming back just when I think it's all better?
I hate to say it but it’s probably more common than not for people to experience a second, third, fourth bout of depression.
The difference is that when it comes back, you are able to remind yourself that it will go away again. You can at least remember that the fog lifted before - and just as it did so before, then it will do again. It will. I know it’s difficult to keep that in mind if you’re really down, but it’s the truth. Even when you’re at your darkest you need to remember that it does shift. This is a key strategy in managing depression. Next time your mood is good, write a message to yourself to read if your mood drops again. Remind low-mood you that good-mood you wrote this, and that is proof positive that you can feel good again.
OK. Pep-talk over. That’s the last thing you want to hear right now. You ask “Why does my depression keep coming back just when I think it’s all better?” Well, it may come back because, as soon as you feel better, you start to forget (with very good reason) how grim you have been feeling. You also forget (again, with good reason) the strategies that you used to get yourself out of your despondency. But to a degree you need to keep using at least some of those strategies even when you’re well. So those reminders that you’re OK? That tuning in to your emotional state? The mindfulness? The yoga (if you do it) or pilates? Watching what you eat and drink a bit? Keeping an eye on your blood-sugar levels? Getting some exercise? Looking up at the sky? Going to see a counsellor?
Any of the strategies that worked for you when you were sick will probably continue to work when you’re in recovery. They don’t guarantee a depression-free future but they give you a framework - a set of strategies to employ when you wobble.
Funnily enough I had a very wobbly moment about half an hour ago. The world turned dreadful on me; I turned in on myself; and I could feel the undertow. I employed one of my strategies - believe it or not, a bit of housework. And suddenly I’m OK again. Not brilliant - I’m going through a strange time at the moment and my anxiety levels are high - but good enough to remember that this is surmountable. I can overcome it. And I can also give myself permission to feel down and blue and melancholy, safe in the knowledge that my mood will lift. I just need to wait and be patient.
Depression is a cruel illness and you have to acknowledge its presence in your life. We get into the habit of pretending we’re OK when we’re not - and while that can be a decent coping strategy, it’s also incredibly fatiguing. So once in a while, it doesn’t do any harm to acknowledge the undertow, make a cup of tea and stop pretending for half an hour. At which point you will feel easier (I hope) and less like beating yourself up. It’s all too easy to get cross with yourself when you feel low. Don’t do this. (This is a classic depression trick that the mind plays; and it really helps if you can subvert it by refusing - as far as possible - to believe its untruth.) You are not a bad person. You have a mood problem which isn’t of your own making. You will feel better, and until you do, it’s perfectly OK to acknowledge that you’re not feeling great. Allow yourself the space. Curse the illness all you like, but don’t curse yourself. You’re not to blame.
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