Anyone who’s had depression even once has to be aware of it creeping into their lives once more. Will it hit like a ton of bricks? Will it slide in from the back door? Everyone’s experiences are probably different, and particular to their patterns and diagnosis. One thing’s for sure. It’s still out there.
This isn’t meant to scare you, making you fearful of the slightest bad mood or sad feeling. To have feelings is to be human, though it can seem sometimes like feelings are the enemy. Being aware of what is healthy and what crosses the line to depression can help you live a full life.
How close do you get to the edge of the cliff? People with a history of depression need to remember that there is a deep canyon of pain and confusion on the map. No, this is nothing to dwell on, you just need to keep track of your whereabouts.
If you pay little attention to where your emotions take you, you might find that your footing becomes unsteady. Instead of walking on solid ground, you’ve wandered into some wild parts. And if you always keep your back to the canyon (depression), you might very suddenly find that you are at the edge of the cliff, staring straight into the deep canyon before you.
It’s one thing to know the canyon is there, keeping you mindful of your tracks. It’s entirely different to be unsure how you got so close to that steep cliff in the first place. Can you find your way back to safer ground? Will you fall over the edge and become lost again like the last time you had depression?
Again, this comes down to awareness. When you have those same old negative self-deprecating or blaming thoughts, what do you do? Do you go do something you know will lift your spirits, or do you resist and try to justify your intense feelings? Are you holding on to an old unrealistic belief that could send you toward depression? Can you let go and back off, finding some other way to manage your emotions?
Here’s a quick example. Your birthday comes and goes without much fanfare from your spouse. You believe strongly that they should have done something. It’s especially difficult because your spouse has had their own difficulties with job stress, health problems, and isolating to cope with these problems.
Do you hang on to the thought that they still *should* have done something great for your birthday? Either they think you are worthless or they are still being a big jerk and your marriage is tanking. Or do you consider the bigger picture and realize that many of their problems have improved recently and they are much happier now (although still forgetful)? Maybe suggesting a date will satisfy your wish for something special, even though you had to initiate it.
You can either let go of the unrealistic depression-inducing belief and find another solution, or you can hang on tight to the thought that wants to take you to the bottom of the canyon. When you keep yourself healthy much of the time, recognizing this choice can help you get back on track. And if you have already slipped down the steep slope before you could help yourself much, there is still hope. Call out for help, reach out a hand to someone you trust.
Depression is treatable, even if you’ve been through it more than once. And relapse, however painful, is an opportunity for learning more about yourself. It may feel like a hit to your pride, like you should have always been in total control. But in the end, where do you think your pride would take you – back to solid ground or to the bottom of the canyon?