Recovery from depression is an uphill struggle.
I was diagnosed in 2012 and I still to this day class myself as depressed, because relapse is always just around the corner. I know I’m a total downer, right? Well believe it or not, I don’t go around introducing myself as such. “Hi I’m Fiona, and I’m depressed!” isn’t a good conversation starter.
When I’m not writing I spend my days working part-time in a customer service job where I smile constantly at strangers, although I’m mostly faking a cheerful misdemeanour because it’s kind of expected. That’s what recovery is for me – a string of events where I pretend to be one way when I really feel another.
I’ve had various conversations over the years with people who’ve told me to “think positive” and although I believe depression requires very serious medical attention, I do think there is a degree of mind-trickery involved. I’ve spent a lot time in front of the mirror telling myself to get a grip to avoid relapse.
This isn’t what people with depression need to hear by the way, so don’t go saying that to anyone who suffers from a mental illness. But I think I’m allowed to say it to myself now and again, because during recovery there was a large stretch of time where I felt obliged to take control of my life.
It’s a very grey area. It’s a type of limbo where I felt like I was floating aimlessly with my head just above the waves, waiting to be either washed ashore to safety or yanked to the bottom of the seabed at any minute.
On the good days, I make it to the shore and I’m climbing up that hill at a mile a minute. My motivation is unstoppable and I honestly question if I was ever really depressed at all (oh, hi there imposter syndrome).
I climb and climb, trying not to look back and if I do it’s because I’m being reflective and learning from my mistakes. I get to a small peak and take a rest, enjoy the view and shout to others, “Come up, the view is beautiful from up here!”
But sometimes when I’ve been climbing for weeks, maybe even months, I look up and realise that I’m in exactly the same spot as before. I haven’t moved an inch but somehow I’m exhausted from going through the motions. The motions of merely looking like I’m going somewhere.
I’m following my own advice; exercising regularly, eating right, talking to people when I don’t feel like it and pushing through awkward situations for the greater good. I’m taking on extra shifts at work to pay the bills and blogging for free into the night because it might turn into a paid job one day.
It’s in these moments that I look back down into the valley and I see comfort. The thought of just sliding down that hill into a deep, dark depression is so tempting. Relapse is familiar. It’s a warm, soft blanket which envelops me and promises to silence the noise of the outside world. It gives me permission to say “I’m done”, and let someone else bear the load of my lifeless corpse for a while. It lets me give up on this fight which seems to always end with me face-down on the ground, bleeding out and gasping for air.
So when I say a relapse feels painfully good, know that I am not lying. I am not saying it for attention. I’ve been trying to form this feeling into a blog post for over a year and only just felt confident enough to write it, because I know that there’s a truth to what I’m experiencing that others need to hear.
You’re not alone.
For more honest thoughts on depression and recovery read my post on the Metro website (which you can read here)