When I was diagnosed with depression, I assumed that it would be something that, with treatment, would get better. A one-off tough period in my life.
That’s what an illness is, isn’t it?! Something you can recover from completely.
I understood it might take time to recover but I was aiming for that upward line on the graph. It was a shock that it didn’t quite happen that way.
Around six months down the line, when I thought I was on the road to recovery, I started to go down hill again.
It came out of nowhere, literally overnight. I pleaded with myself; please don’t let this be happening again.
I couldn’t understand it.
I had been working so hard – going to counselling, hypnotherapy and also taking anti-depressants.
So why was I feeling that I was on the downward slide again?
My GP explained to me, that sometimes depression doesn’t go away completely. It becomes something we learn to manage.
I was so disappointed in myself – I was working so hard to be better. To recover.
All those feelings I had leading up to being diagnosed came flooding back. I wondered how on earth could I battle this for the rest of my life?
I had started to care little about my appearance. I was sleeping during the day, every day and I couldn’t see past the fog that clouded every thought. I had feelings of guilt towards my family and friends; they would also have to cope with me being like this. I had to find a way of managing this, not just for me but also for them.
Taking it back to basics
I am incredibly lucky to have a solid support base around me. I didn’t realise at the time, but they are also aware of the signs when I am going down hill.
Depression is an ‘invisible’ illness.
My husband suggested that we come up with a kind of coping plan – a plan that we could follow when I was feeling unwell. A way of reminding me that these thoughts will pass. A way to go back to basics with the things which have helped me in the past.
Part of my plan is to make regular appointments with my GP, to keep an eye on my progress and to review medication. Those appointments are reassuring. They also give me something to aim for, something to shower for!
When I can feel depression sneaking back in, I tell my family “I’m going down hill again”. It’s not easy to say, it’s a big deal for me – to admit that aloud. I try not to see it as failure.
It’s hard to admit to others, but it’s a step towards acceptance and it means that you keep everyone in the loop. I also practice a little more self care during these times – these all sound obvious but they work for me:
- Have a bubble bath
- Listen to uplifting music
- Listen to inspiring podcasts
- Treat yourself to your favourite meal
- Watch your favourite TV show. Friends always makes me laugh. It’s also a bit of escapism which really helps even for a short while. It’s nice to have a break from your thoughts, a distraction.
The turning point for me was putting together a coping plan. Being prepared for these ‘oh no, not again’ moments. I make sure I talk to those closest to me. Even if I don’t want to. Even if it starts and ends with tears. It helps to tell someone I am struggling all over again.
Depression can creep up on you. You don’t always realise what’s happening. That’s why it’s good to talk to others. Allow them the honesty to say if you don’t seem yourself. It feels hard to hear it and can be difficult talk about it.
And at other times, depression can inexplicably descend on you overnight. Either way, I have to hold on to hope. To believe that the reverse is also true, that it can go, and it will go. It won’t beat me.