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What To Expect While Recovering From Depression

February 24, 2014

Once you've begun the recovery process, there are some things to expect when recovering from depression:

1)  Not all days will be good.

As much as we'd like it to be, recovery isn't a straight line of incremental improvement over each day.  Some days will be easier than others.  Sometimes you won't even be able to tell what you're feeling.  Sometimes it may be difficult to get out of bed, and sometimes everything may still feel hopeless.

This is okay.

It's okay to have bad or even terrible days.  It's okay to feel tired and unmotivated and irritated and sad.  These days and these feelings are not a reflection on your self-worth, or on how well your recovery is going.  They're a natural part of struggling with depression.  Sometimes the knee-jerk reaction to bad days is to believe that you're not strong and that recovery is an impossibility.

These are both untrue, and are the depression speaking rather than you.  You don't have to summon the might of all the Greek gods on a daily basis in order to be a strong person.  And recovery is always possible.

2)  Certain circumstances will exacerbate depression.

Anyone who's struggled with depression will know that different situations can make the negative thoughts exponentially worse.  Unfortunately, this doesn't stop.  Triggers can be found in the strangest of places - sometimes even a poorly written television commercial is enough.  Other triggers are more obvious: that argument you had with your significant other, that reprimand you got at work, that hurtful joke, that person you wanted to see today but couldn't... the list goes on and on.

This is okay too.

It's easy to identify these feelings as being irrational, but stopping them is a different story.  Because of that, it can also be easy to beat yourself up.  "I know I shouldn't be this upset.  It doesn't make sense to be this upset.  Why am I this upset?  I'm a mess, I'm a broken person."  And from there the depression just deepens.  It's a vicious cycle.

To break this cycle, you have to be willing to examine the underlying cause of these feelings.  Rather than immediately thinking of yourself as not being strong, understand why you're experiencing these emotions.  "I know these feelings are not rational.  They're caused by my depression.  These feelings are not my fault.  I'm not sure how to work through them right now, but I'll try.  It's okay for me to feel these things.  I'm doing my best."

Accepting your own thoughts and emotions is a key part of moving forward.  It's okay to still hurt.  It's not your fault.

3) The negative thoughts may seem louder than the positive.

This is the worst part of depression and can be the hardest to work through.  Negative thoughts will creep in without your permission, and sometimes it's hard to drown them out.  Redirecting thoughts to seem more positive is a skill that can take a long time to fully develop, but it's a very effective tool in battling depression.

It's okay to have trouble redirecting these thoughts, but you should also still try.  For example, if you're feeling down about your appearance, examine yourself in the mirror and find one feature (no matter how tiny) that you like.  If you're feeling upset about an unreached goal, remind yourself that you still have a lot of life left and a lot of goals to meet.  If you're feeling upset about past regrets, remind yourself that the future isn't yet written and you have the potential to pave over those bad memories with good ones.

It can be hard, especially if you're feeling hopeless.  In fact, it may not feel effective at all at first.  But learning to have positive thoughts (no matter how forced they initially seem) will slowly help you turn your outlook around.

4)  Changes may be so gradual that you don't notice them.

This is another reason to have a support network.  These people will notice the changes that you might not.  For example, when I myself was recovering from depression, I didn't even realize how much progress I'd made until a close friend said to me, "You smile so much more now!  It's nice."

One thing that might help is keeping a journal.  Journaling is an excellent coping mechanism because it allows you to get all of your thoughts and feelings down on paper.  It also allows you to chronicle your state of mind day-by-day.  Sometimes rereading old journal entries can show just how far you've come in your recovery.

5)  You will eventually start to feel better.

Recovering from depression doesn't mean you'll be happy one hundred percent of the time.  It doesn't mean you won't have days when you're angry and sad, and it doesn't mean you won't experience hardships in life.

But you will regain the ability to experience true happiness, which is the greatest gift in the world.

Depression limits your ability to feel a full scope of emotions, especially positive ones.  It's a heaviness that you just can't seem to shake off.  There can be better days than others, and there can be times when you're truly happy and positive.  But rather than your "default setting" being neutrality, you'll revert to sadness and hopelessness.

Recovery allows you to overcome this.  It keeps you from the dread of crashing.  It keeps you from the frustration and the sadness.  The good days will increase, happiness will be easier to achieve, and you'll be able to live the life you deserve.

It's a difficult process, but the results are so, so worth it.


Recovery is incredibly difficult.  It can be an imperfect and messy process, just as depression is a messy illness.  But you will be able to make it through.  You will be able to help yourself, and to lean on others to help you.  And you will be able to lead a happier and healthier life.  You just need to find the strength to take the first step.

By, Katie MacEachern

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