Depression survivors feel they have conquered that toughest part of life. If they can overcome depression, what more in life can torment them? Little do we know that the evil witch that depression is tends to meet some along the road several times in a lifetime!
Statistics have it that nearly 50% of all the people who once recover from depression suffer from depression relapses. On an average, most people with depression are likely to have 4 to 5 incidences of it across their lifetime.
I’ve often said that depression is like wearing tinted glasses. Everywhere you look, things look dark. Bleak. Black. Hopeless. Helpless. The waiting room for depression says, “Abandon hope, all ye who enter here.
Of course, it is just statistics and not necessarily the final call of judgment, it would be wise to know what a depression relapse is like, and what one could do about it.
Recovery from depression is anything but a cake-walk. While we might think we’ve recovered completely, certain traps like frequent emotional instability and mismanaged responses to new incidences based on old behavior patterns is not something one leaves behind easily. Do lies that could be forgiven rather easily make you feel betrayed on totally another level? Do little failures in life make you feel like a loser altogether? Do you tend to have trust issues with even the most trustworthy people around? Depression has left you; it has readjusted your system and made it challenging to find happiness in little things. You are not depressed anymore, but you still struggle with your emotional rawness at the face of everything. Despite, you wear your victory against Depression like a batch.
One fateful day, the victor wakes up to feel empty in the stomach again – with hands shaking, lips trembling and tears dropping like water would in heavy unforgiving monsoon. The victor looks at the batch of honor for some comfort, and it is very much there, but the whole system tells the victor otherwise. The unwelcome dark knight has come back.
It generally is that in the first incidences of depression, people tend to not picture it quick. It slowly hovers over like a dark cloud and takes firm roots and one identifies it only when so much has changed. Depression relapses, however, are little like that. One has identified that state-of-being well enough already. So when the darkness begins to creep in, the entire being of a person gets alarmed. I know you! We have met before.
What to do about depression relapses and how to get hold of an emotionally stable life? Here are certain things that might help:
- Managing your emotions
An essential part of living an emotionally healthy life is to manage the key emotions. It is important that an individual is able to identify them separately.
Practice: Throughout the day, make an attempt to identify and name the emotions you feel. Say it out loud. For instance, when you wake up in the morning, say what you feel. I feel full of energy today! It seems like I could take over the world! Or, I don’t feel all that recharged today. I am going to try to make it, and do all the essential things I need to get done today. Whatever you feel like, ACKNOWLEDGE it. Always respond to “How are you feeling today?” with things smarter and truer than a simple “Fine!”
- Do the next thing
The thing with depression relapse is it puts brakes on our functioning. When depression makes you put yourself on hold, you have to break through it and do the next thing. Do not let it take root. Just do the next damn thing and take pride in it. I don’t feel like getting down the bed today and move an inch, but if I conquer this day, I’m going to be very proud of myself!
Practice: Make a list of things you like and set them as rewards in front of yourself. Treat yourself for making it through and getting things done for the day. Or keep a candy box! If I make it through today and get these six things on my list done, I’m going to get me a candy from this box in the evening. If I meet this deadline in three days from now, I’m going to get me a coffee treat at the barista!
- Talk it out
It will be EXTREMELY HELPFUL to have a bunch of people know how you’re feeling throughout the day and on little incidences. Tell them what it looks like. Go out with them. Pray with them. True friends need to tell you the truth of the situation. On the face of your insecurities, when all you can see are your shortcomings, they need to remind you that you are loved. And not just say it, but DEMONSTRATE it. A friend circle must, in fact, be a STRENGTH circle. True friends need to separate the fact from the emotion for you. They need to hear out and work on you.
Practice: Keep your friends informed even on good days. Tell them about your hopes and expectations and plans even when you don’t even have a pla… Tell them about the random thoughts that come to your mind – the good and the bad. Make communicating a habit, not just drinking at the bar on Saturday evenings. Friendships hold more meaning than that. I have had a good day today. I’m afraid the breakfast bothered me; I felt uneasy in my stomach for some time. I saw a zebra in the sanctuary and it reminded me of you. Don’t be offended; zebras are cool. Your voice is not cheerful. Anything bothering you?
- Do a new thing!
When familiar situations come up, before reacting quickly, sit back and recall how you reacted to it the last time and how that ended. Was it good? And healthy? If not, react to it in a new way! Think your reactions through; there’s no hurry.
Practice: The last time he lied to me, I became angry and shouted for long hours, even broke the tea set he bought for me because hell did it mean anything. After recovering from the incident, I regretted attacking the tea-set. It wasn’t even a lie; just a narrative with little less unnecessary details.
The next time you are angry, count up to 100, breath slower, and maybe go on a long walk until you cool down. Later, have a peaceful confrontation about what bothered you. And whatever it comes to, spare the tea-set.
- The basics!
On your toughest days, accomplish the basics – BATHE, EAT, And EXERCISE. This is a deadly combination to defeat any difficult day. It is the basics that make us fall prey. So promise this to yourself – even when you grieve for the toughest of things – even on the day your pet dies – you will BATHE, EAT, and EXERCISE. You owe this to yourself.
The cognitive approach can defeat the mightiest of our emotional troubles. We must know how we feel and what to do. Under no circumstances must one make light of emotional and psychological health. It is unwise of one who knows their weakness to not work and plot against them. One must always, always beware of the tinted glasses!
All images from this lovely facebook page: Labyrinths