It is hard for me to get out of a depressive episode. There are times when I know I have it, but other times I can’t tell whether I have it. Over the years, I have become familiar with it pretty well since I have been diagnosed for over 13 years.
Each person experiences depression differently. The feeling of depression for me is one of deep and heavy sadness. The fog rolls in slowly and engulfs everything about me. I am unable to get out of a depressive episode, and it makes it impossible for me to even consider a positive future or to handle my current situation.
I have spent years working to comprehend how I feel when depression comes back, and I have mastered the art of taking good care of myself when I am feeling sick.
1. Don’t freak out
I have had a devastating experience with depression. Whenever I feel something coming on, I freak out.
Whenever I feel that first hint of sadness, or feel more tired than usual, alarm bells start ringing in my head: “NOOOOOOOOO, NOT DEPRESSIONNNNNN!!!!!!”
Depression has been the most devastating experience in my life. As soon as I feel it coming on, I freak out. It is absolutely terrifying to imagine relapsing, especially if I have had a really good, upbeat streak. Suddenly, my thoughts push me toward the nightmare scenario, and I feel panic rising in my chest.
For me, this is a critical time. This is an opportunity for me to choose. Taking a deep breath is the only way to calm me down. Afterward, 10 more. Talking to myself, sometimes aloud, helps me tap into my own experience and strength. It’s okay to be afraid of getting depressed again. Anxiety is a natural emotion. Surviving is part of who you are. Keep in mind how much you have learned. No matter what happens next, you will be able to handle it.
2. Be aware of red flags
My personal philosophy is to pause and reflect when I see these warning signs.
I must understand what my thoughts and behaviors are like when I start to spiral downward. I use this to stop myself from falling. Those who don’t understand me are my first red flag. It is easier for everyone else than for me. I can’t move on. Honestly, who cares? I can’t get it to work no matter what I do. There is no way I can measure up.
I notice that my depression has flared up whenever I think or say things like this. I also find it hard to perform basic daily tasks, such as cleaning, taking a shower, or cooking dinner, if my energy level has been low for several days.
I need to pause when I notice these warning signs so I can reflect on what may be causing them. When I’m feeling overwhelmed, I talk to someone.
Red flags might be tempting to ignore, but I’ve learned that they’re really crucial to be aware of and examine. Trying to avoid or deny them will only make my depression worse in the long run.
3. It is important to remember that depression is a medical condition
“I am less afraid of my symptoms now that I have shifted my perspective. Depression makes more sense when taken into account as a legitimate medical condition.”
Because I was unaware of depression, the symptoms of depression seemed more overwhelming to me. My experiences or feelings were not regarded as symptoms of an illness. It was a sad, lonely place, and my panicked reaction exacerbated the feelings of sadness and guilt.
My understanding of depression has changed as a result of reading and discussions with others. For me, it is an illness that needs to be treated with medication and psychotherapy. I react with less fear when my symptoms present themselves when I understand depression as a real, medical condition.
While I still feel sad, scared and lonely, these feelings have been recognized as part of my illness and symptoms to which I can respond with self-care.
4. Realize that these feelings won’t last
My suffering has been alleviated in part by allowing my depression to be felt and accepted.”
Depression is one of the hardest things to deal with because it makes you think it will never end and you never get out of a depressive episode. That’s why its onset is so frightening. One of the most challenging aspects of my therapy has been accepting I have mental illness and dealing with it when it flares up.
Depression won’t go away on its own, no matter how much I wish it would. I can at least acknowledge the depression and allow myself to accept its presence, as counterintuitive as it might seem.
I don’t suffer from these symptoms for too long. My past experience with depression has given me the confidence to do it again, despite how challenging it was. Feelings of sadness, anger, or frustration are okay.
5. Practice self-care
The skills I use to deal with stress are practiced every day, not only when I am unwell. It’s because of this that I can take them more effectively when I am depressed.”
Despite my symptoms, I ignored them and denied them for a long time. My response to exhaustion was to push myself harder, and my response to inadequacy was to assume even more responsibility. A lot of my coping skills were negative, such as drinking, smoking, shopping, and working too much. After that, I crashed. Then it burned.
My recovery took two years. I value self-care more today than anything else, which is why I put it first. My life had to be rebuilt from the bottom up in a healthy authentic manner.
Self-care for me means being honest with my diagnosis. My depression is no longer a secret to me. My life and my identity are important to me.
When I feel overburdened, I should say no to others. Relaxing, exercising, creating, and interacting with others is essential to maintaining balance. My self-care involves calming and recharging my body, mind, and spirit by using all my senses.
Not only when my life is at its worst, but also every day I practice coping skills. I practice them every day, which is why they are more effective when I have episodes of depression.
6. Ask for help when you need it
“I recognize that I need help in treating my depression, and I believe that I cannot do it alone.”
Depression is a serious condition. Depression can be fatal for some people, like my dad. Depression is often accompanied by suicidal thoughts. When and if I do have them, I know they cannot be ignored. It is a serious red flag if I think that I would be better off dead. I immediately seek professional assistance from someone I trust.
It is my belief that I deserve treatment for my depression, and I recognize that I cannot do it on my own. When I felt the thoughts of suicide coming on, I had a personal safety plan that outlined specific actions to take. I found this tool to be very helpful. Among other indications that I need professional assistance are:
- Crying frequently
- Withdrawal from family and friends
- Having no desire to work
So I always have someone to call whenever I need them, I keep the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline phone number (800-273-8255) programmed into my cellphone.
Although suicidal thoughts do not always result in suicide, it is crucial to act whenever they arise.
7. You are not your depression
“I must remember I deserve to feel better and I will.”
The diagnosis or mental illness that I have does not define me. It’s not that I’m depressed, it’s just that I have depression. It is something I tell myself every day when I am feeling especially blue.
When we are depressed, we have difficulty appreciating the whole picture of who we are. When I realize I am not depressed, some power is returned to me. My depression reminds me that I have far greater strength, ability, and compassion than I realize.
My symptoms are beyond my control and experiencing depression is difficult, but I must remember that I deserve to, and will, feel better. It is my own experience that has made me a specialist. I have learned to cope with depression through awareness, acceptance, self-care, and support.
I’ve survived all of my worst days, to paraphrase one of my favorite memes on the internet. I’m doing well so far.” That’s how you can get out of a depressive episode.