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How Do You Know When You’re Recovered?

Now, as I notice early warning signs I alleviate them with a variety of simple, safe, inexpensive or free, effective self help techniques including stress reduction and relaxation techniques, talking to a supporter, peer counseling, doing activities that I enjoy and that I know make me feel better, exercise, improving my diet, and simplifying my life.

I have discovered my diet really affects the way I feel. If I overload on junk food, sugar and caffeine, I soon find myself feeling lousy. If I focus my diet on high complex carbohydrates (six servings of grains and five servings of veggies a day) I feel great. I have gotten in the habit of keeping a variety of easy to fix healthy foods on hand so I won’t succumb to the junk food trap when I don’t feel like cooking.

I try to get outside for a walk every day. This gives me two things-exercise which always makes me feel better, and light through the eyes which I have found also helps. Light has been a big issue for me. As the days get shorter and darker in the fall, my winter depression begins to set in. I have virtually eliminated these winter depressions by getting outside for at least half and hour a day, and by supplementing my light for two hours in the morning with a light box.

I got rid of my electric blanket and substituted a warm comforter after discovering the hazardous effects of being wrapped up in an electromagnetic field all night. I noticed another positive upswing in my overall wellness after making this change.

I finally realized that I create my thoughts and I can change them. I have worked hard at changing old negative thought patterns that increase depression to new, positive ones. I think I will always be doing this work. For example, when my mother was depressed, she would often repeat, over and over, thousands of times a day, “I want to die”. When I got depressed, I started doing the same thing. The more I said “I want to die”, the more suicidal I became. I finally realized that if I said instead, “I choose to live” I felt much better and the suicidal ideation decreased.

Another thought that plagued me was “I have never accomplished anything”. I decided to take a different approach. I decided I had accomplished a great deal. For a while I became quite fanatical about making long lists of things I had accomplished. Everything from getting up in the morning and completing kindergarten to two masters degrees and raising five kids was on the lists. After a while I realized I didn’t have to make these lists anymore, that this negative thought was s no longer a factor in my life.

When negative thoughts become obsessive, I wear a rubber band on my wrist. Every time I start thinking negative thoughts, I snap the rubber band. It reminds me to defocus on more positive aspects of my life. A rubber band on my wrist is a cue to family and friends that I am working on obsessive thoughts.

Using cognitive therapy techniques to reinforce positive self talk, by treating myself better and better, and by spending time with family members and friends who affirm me, I have raised my self esteem out of the depths. When I notice I am starting to feel badly about myself (an early warning sign of depression) I repeat over and over my own personal statement of my worth. It is “I am a wonderful, special, unique person and I deserve all the very best that life has to offer”.

Working with several exceptional counselors, alternative health care practitioners, and using a variety of self help resources, I have learned a variety of stress reduction and relaxation exercises. I use these techniques daily to increase my feelings of well-being, reduce anxiety and help me sleep. When I notice that I am having early warning signs of depression or mania, I increase the number of times a day I do these simple deep breathing, progressive relaxation exercises.

I have learned that I need to have a structured support system that I can call on when the going gets tough, as well as to share the good times. I have a list of five people (I keep it by my phone) with whom I have a mutual support agreement. I keep regular contact with these people. We often get together for lunch, a walk, a movie or some other activity we both enjoy. When things are getting difficult, I call on them to listen, give me advice and help me make decisions. And I do the same for them. This has been a tremendous boon to my wellness.

I met some of my supporters through regular attendance at support groups for women and for people with mood disorders. Others are family members or old friends with whom I now have a mutual support agreement.

I find that people are more willing to be my supporters now that I work hard at taking responsibility for my own wellness. They like the mutual support arrangement-it has to go both ways. When I realize a supporter is not asking as much of me as I am asking of them, I treat them to lunch or a movie, buy them a small gift or help them a chore.

My supporters like to know that they are not the only person I am depending on. They know that if they are having a hard time and can’t be any help to me, there is always someone else I can call.

My counselors have helped me let go of some poor social skills that have also made it easier for me to have a strong support system.

My supporters include an excellent team of health care professionals that include a top rate woman counselor, an endocrinologist ( a physician who specializes in diseases of the endocrine gland system), several body workers and alternative care consultants. I keep reminding myself, I am in charge. If someone suggests a possible treatment, I study it thoughtfully before making a decision to proceed.

How Do You Know When You’re Recovered?

Mary Ellen Copeland, Ph.D.

APA Reference
Copeland, M. (2018). How Do You Know When You’re Recovered?. Psych Central. Retrieved on July 10, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 Oct 2018 (Originally: 17 May 2016)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 Oct 2018
Published on Psych All rights reserved.