One of the biggest challenges of depression is frequently around the inability to see hope for things to change. As a therapist, one thing I offer is holding hope for clients when they aren’t able to see it for themselves. However, sometimes the words of experience are much easier to hold. A friend of mine recently shared her observations on recovering from depression on social media, and graciously offered permission for me to share. Depression may feel endless, but it doesn’t have to be; perhaps these words can offer some hope.
“I just returned from my three month check-up with my psychiatrist.
I’m doing great.
It’s been slowly hitting me the last few weeks, I’m happy again. Like, legit content. Can I tell you how incredible this feels?
It’s like sunshine in your chest, warming you softly.
It’s like that moment you catch yourself smiling for no reason.
It’s like that belly full of laughter at a friend’s joke that made you want to hug them forever.
I’ve been going to therapy religiously, bullet journaling like a mad-woman and also keeping a journal of my moods, when I work out, what I eat, how much I smoke, a habit-tracker, wishes and things I am grateful for. These tools have been invaluable for providing structure and stability which I’ve found are key in coming out of a major depressive episode.
After everything I have been through the past three years, extreme highs and extreme lows, there are a few things I have learned that I want to share with you.
1. Your mind and body are connected. The health of your brain meats are influenced by the health of your body meats. Care for all the meats.
2. Know who your friends are…. and trust your instincts. I’m not talking about that little voice in your head that tells you no one likes you. I’ talking about that place right below your belly that whispers things to you. I have a core group of girlfriends in my life (and good guy friends) for the first time in ages and they absolutely SAVED. MY. ASS. these past six months. It’s the friends who put up with you un-showered, in your pajamas, crying for the third day in a row on their couch that are the true ones. Keep them close and give back to them however you are able. It’s amazing how many people kind of fall away on the periphery when you are not glowingly happy and “on”.
3. “I’ll feel better after”: This is a mantra for all depressed people. Force yourself to do little things, even if they seem insurmountable. Floss. Make coffee. Take a walk. Call a friend. Reminding yourself, convincing yourself, that you will feel better after you do something is the only way to get out of the rut that turns into a vortex, that leads to a black hole.
4. No matter what anyone else says about you… you know yourself. I had to find my way back to the things in music and in life that made me happy. I may never be as successful as I once dreamed of being because I won’t compromise parts of myself anymore for that success. That was part of the issue. I would compromise a little bit, like a chip off my soul, then another, then another until I didn’t remember who I was before the success started happening. I may never accomplish those visions I have been carrying around in my head since childhood, but that’s ok. They are just visions. Life is here. Life is now. It’s the little pleasures and your experiences with friends and loved ones that makes it all worth it. For the first time I can see that clearly and appreciate that who I am as a performer is not who I am as a person, and both deserve equal respect. Taking care of my career is not taking care of ME. That’s what I mean about knowing yourself. I know who I am, and what I love and what makes life good… and no one can take that away from me.
5. Don’t assume the worst all the time. Seeing the whole picture is just as much about seeing the good as you do the bad. Life is gray, and if you concentrate on the black parts only, constantly, you are not getting to the truth. You are only sabotaging yourself. Sometimes your emotions are so powerful — especially if they are related to trauma — that you don’t see what is actually happening. You see what you fear is happening. Take a step back, breath, meditate (oh yeah I do that every day now like a damn hippie) and don’t react until you are calm if you can help it. This has been a hard journey and I am still learning, but what progress I have made has made my life incalculably better.
Not to be too cheesy, but I saw the latest Star Wars and one quote resonated a lot with me, “Hope is like the sun. If you only believe in it when you can see it, you will never make it through the night.”
This is what it feels like recovering from a major depressive episode. There is always hope, there is always sun, even if you can’t see it.