I have reached a stage in my life where I no longer think I suffer from depression and I am no longer depressed. All in all I am happy with my lot in life. What I am considering is how to move on from the concept of being a person who has been depressed and more importantly, (for me anyway) is how to stay ahead of it happening again.
For a period of time after finishing therapy I feel I have been treading water. Now I want to be able to swim forward with big powerful strokes. I must say that this is very unlike my actual swimming which consists of an enthusiastic doggy paddle at best. I do acknowledge that being able to find some semblance of normality and balance in life is a gift and I am very grateful for it.
I believe it is the time of simply being normal that has helped me see what is actually in my life. For the most part, I am seeing the good things that do exist as opposed to the perceived or imagined problems that do not. I am not saying there are not any problems in my life, but I know that I tend to panic spiral about situations and make myself see them as worse than they actually are.
I have learnt recently that there is a new approach to tackling depression which is the idea of prevention being better than cure. I will use myself as an example and say that the theory is that if I take better care of myself mentally and physically then I am less likely to suffer from depression again, or if I do, then to suffer the effects less severely. Now, I know that depression is a vast and complex issue and I am not saying this is a cure all that will work for everyone. However, I think this idea can work for me, and so far it has seemed to.
First off, I feel empowered to even think about being prepared to deal with problems. I feel more prepared to face problems and find ways to deal with them as opposed to dreading even the tiniest problem as I saw it as already being insurmountable. In my mind I see it as being like a ninja in fighting stance ready to take on any unseen assailants.
Another thing I heard of, and this has really stuck with me, is that a lot of what people think are mental events rather than reality. As I have mentioned, in the past I have tended to imagine the worst and think things are much more severe than they are. What I have found useful when a thought like that occurs is stop and ask myself; is this real? Has it happened? Is it likely to happen? The answer to these questions is invariably no. What this has helped me do is to be a hell of a lot calmer. I spend less time stressed over non-events or I am able to put them into perspective and they are not as bad as they first appeared.
I am of the opinion that certain aspects of depression can stay with a person even after they no longer feel depressed. Habits form in every aspect of our lives and I see no reason why this is any different. I formed the habit of worrying too much. By trying to stop this and think in a different way I am attempting to form a new habit. Time will tell, but so far so good.
One of the contradictions, as I see it, of having been depressed, but no longer being so, is that I am overly aware and scared of being sad; let alone actually depressed. I think I have seen sadness as a potential backslide into depression and to be avoided at all costs. Obviously I now see this as putting a ridiculous amount of pressure on myself. Perhaps I thought I should be more like a robot?
Two weeks ago I was the most down I have been in ages. I was angry and upset at what was happening in my life and I lost control for a night. The next day I told myself to stop being so damn harsh. Being angry, hurt, upset or whatever at things in life is fine. In fact, it is more than fine; it is being a human being. The trick for me is to not let it go on for any longer than needed. If I am down I get back up and try and figure it out.
My conclusion, if I have one, is that it is fine to have moments that feel like a backslide, or to have an actual backslide as long as I get the momentum going forward again and to use whatever tools work to keep it going that way.
Take care buddies,