If you’re like me, depression may make you feel like you’re drowning, stuck in a hole, or spiraling downwards. In fact, many of the metaphors and expressions that we use to describe depression relate back to the idea of “being down.” All of these feelings sparked visuals in my mind that reminded me of the need to climb back out.
If you’ve faced issues related to depression, you may know that symptoms and negative feelings often don’t simply go away — even if you’ve started to feel better overall. Depending on your situation, recovery from depression can be a temporary or recurring process.
I learned that once I came out on top again, there was a new challenge waiting for me.
Building your self-awareness
It’s important to note that while there are many shared struggles that many of us face while living with depression, what I write is based on my own experience. If you want to try my approach, you’ll need to test it for yourself. It’s a good idea to discuss any changes that might impact your treatment plan with your doctor or other healthcare provider.
I believe a big part of managing and recovering from depression comes down to self-awareness. When you’re in the thick of depression, you may not be living in alignment with your true self or dealing with important conversations that need to happen. Too many times I’ve come to notice this pattern for myself.
When you’re in the process of trying to find what tools or services work for you, it’s important to know yourself, how you work, and your own personal preferences. Self-knowledge may help you discover the right path for your recovery.
Are you highly visual? Do you have trouble with words? You may benefit from working with an art therapist.
Do you love taking photos? Consider learning about photography and joining an online community like The One Project.
There are so many options beyond these two approaches. It may take a lot of time and effort to find what works for you.
When you find yourself back on top, out of the metaphorical pit, I think you’ll find that taking the time to figure out what works best for you is all worth it.
Once I’d figured out an approach that seemed to work — for me, a big part of it was photography — I was introduced to something I hadn’t felt before. It was really the first time that I’d felt that I was “better” and back up again. But then I learned what “the slip” feels like.
Learning to sense the slip
The slip is what happens when small signs of your regular depression symptoms come back. It’s a mental process that, to me, feels like something close to quicksand. When you’re slipping, it may feel harder to get out with each moment. Like quicksand, it may pull you down faster than you’d think, and it’s hard to recognize at first.
After years of working through my own approach to get ahead of depression and anxiety, and into a proactive state of wellness, I noticed this important part of the process. If recovery were an arena, this part is like the thin red line that cuts right across the middle.
Compared to the initial struggle to get on the path to feeling better, it’s easy to overlook “the slip.” After all, you’re starting to feel well again. When it’s your first time encountering it or if it’s been a long time since you first experienced depression, you may not even know what to look for. For me, a slip is often one or more of the following:
- a pull or desire towards bad habits, or a greater struggle to maintain healthy habits
- growing quiet and starting to communicate or express myself less
- becoming less social and not responding to messages as quickly, or at all
- less interest in hobbies or activities I’m normally passionate about
- feeling less energized or excited
This list may seem straightforward with a simple scan. But in reality, it’s hard to navigate the very early signs and start of these symptoms.
By the time it’s obvious, you may be deep in depression once again.
What are the signs for you?
The takeaway: What to do once you notice a slip
It’s simple in principle and hard in practice — take action the moment you sense a slip, or whatever version of that sensation you experience.
The moment you sense the beginnings of a slip, you need to use the tools that you know work for you. Start right away to work against a slip and keep focused on staying well. If you work with a therapist or a mental health professional, it’s important to keep them in the loop or reach out to your doctor if it continues further.
I believe that the better you become at sensing a slip, and the faster you take action, the less you’ll fall.
What matters most is that you get back up again every time.
For more information on how to manage depression, reach out to your doctor or healthcare team.
DEPR-US-NP-00045 DECEMBER 2018