Coming Out (of Depression)

As I become a more active advocate for the mental health community, and more specifically in regards to suicide awareness, I get asked many questions again and again. One of the main questions almost anyone asks is, “so how did you get out of your depression?” I find this question interesting, and I wish I had a good answer, especially when I’m being asked by people who are currently depressed. However, I don’t have an answer, because an answer doesn’t exist.

Here’s the real deal: I’m not out of my depression. I didn’t come out of it, and I don’t know if I ever will. Yes, I am no longer suicidal and my moods are stable for the most part and I am able to live a relatively “normal” and healthy life. That doesn’t mean that I somehow magically came out of my depression. I still have depression, and it isn’t going to go away. It may not show, and I may be doing very well in my life, but it’s still a consistent struggle. Granted, the struggle is much easier now than it was a year ago, but there are still times when my depression is quite apparent. I came out of a very bad slump in my depression, but I didn’t come out of depression. It’s an important distinction to make, because I often reference coming through it or discuss my recovery. I made it through a particularly rough time, but it’s imperative to recognize that making it through rough patches does not constitute being cured.

I’m trying to emphasize this point for a number of reasons. Many people see recovery as black and white; you’re not well, you get help, you’re better. Depression doesn’t work that way; it isn’t a linear process, but a cycle that can go in any direction. Some days are better than others and some days are worse than others. I can go through difficult days and slumps where I feel really depressed and don’t want to move or do anything, or I can feel completely fine. At times, people forget that depression is still a struggle I face because the worst of it seems like it was so long ago and I’m doing so much better now, but that isn’t always the case. I feel confident in myself and my abilities to reach out that I will never end up as bad as I was then because I’ve learned a lot about hope and trust that things will improve. So while it may not be a reason for alarms to be set off when I’m in a bit of a slump, it still serves as a reminder that depression is a consistent illness that gets much, much better, but may not necessarily entirely disappear. For some people their depression can be triggered by stress, bad life situations, or nothing at all. I’m not sure which one triggers it for me – maybe all three at times, but at least I know that now. I can now catch myself before I fall, but stumbling is inevitable. I like to hope that someday I won’t need anti-depressants, and I’ll be okay all the time. It may not be possible, but it is still a goal I don’t think I will ever give up on. After all, hope is the only way we can ever believe in anything.

Keep Surviving by Living.

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One comment

  1. I can’t say if this is true for everyone but to me a large part of depression is a cognitive process. The constant dwelling on the negatives. You mentioned this in another post where you would berate yourself for mistakes or devalue yourself. I lived for about 10 years feeling suicidal on an almost daily basis but was primarily held in check by concern for family. Until I reached what I consider a tipping point. I had a vision of myself just plunging into a deep, dark abyss. I could not keep living, with the way I thought. And I wasn’t really living, I just wasn’t dying. So I had to change what I thought. Spend less time thinking about the health conditions in my life I couldn’t change. I had to accept the state of my life.

    As you wrote, it didn’t bring me out of depression, but it alleviated it, made it significantly more manageable. I actually enjoy things in life now like hanging out with friends. So boiling it all down, what helped me was knowing that I had to change; accepting things in my life, and constantly working to dwell less on the negative. One of my frequent mantras now is you can’t change what you can’t change.

    Not a great answer and perhaps it’s just unique to me, but I think some answer is a better choice to the question of how one came out of the depths of depression. Your answer may just be more complex, resulting from several steps, but it could possibly be boiled down to something that you could give to others.

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