A Candid Look at Depression, Anxiety, and Recovery

December 19, 2013 § 1 Comment

Here is the battle.

When I first sought therapy and was diagnosed with PTSD, I was relieved. I had spent years running until I collapsed in exhaustion, and then someone how lifted me up again and gave me the tools to continue on my way. It’s okay, they said. It’s fixable, they said. It’ll be alright.

I really did feel reborn, in the sense that I felt like Life was a thing that maybe I could actually do, that maybe was manageable, even full of possibilities. Before, there had always been a quiet (and sometimes very loud) voice at the back of my mind: Life Is Possible For Everyone Else, But Not You. You Have No Choice. Eventually You’ll Have To Pull The Plug, You Know. Enough With The Charade.

But with therapy and CBT strategies, I was armed with knowledge. I called out Anxiety for what it was and it slinked away. My Depression ebbed. For the first time, truly, in my entire life, I felt in control of myself and my happiness. There is no way to describe that feeling, especially when you had believed to the core of your being that no such feeling was possible.

Gradually, I came to learn a painful truth, however: I couldn’t just emerge from the battle, shaken but unscathed, wipe my hands off the thing, and re-join the throng. I’ve kept a “mental health journal” since my journey started a few years ago, and while it often helps to realize just how far I’ve come, within it I can also trace a series of highs and lows. Getting help, feeling better, knowing my illness and treating it did not mean I was free of my demons. I just recognized them for what they were now; I managed them, didn’t banish them. I still have Depression. I still have Anxiety. And every once in a while when a bad day swings around, it’s like a slap in the face. I’m Still Here, it says. Did You Really Think You’d Gotten Rid Of Me?

There’ve been good periods and bad periods, and for me, that can mean a good day followed by a bad couple months. I try to look at it the same: the good will come again, no matter when or how long it ends up staying; it will come again.

I think it is taken for granted in our society that once you’re brave enough to seek help, that’s the end of the road. You go to therapy and take some meds and your family looks the other way and then breathe when it’s all over. They say implicitly to you as they pass the rolls at Thanksgiving, Don’t Worry, We Won’t Bring Up That Incident, One Time Thing, We Get It, It’s In the Past.

Perhaps not for all, but for many, Depression is a lifelong game, and so is Recovery. True bravery and courage comes from recognizing this; Depression is by no means all of myself, but it is a part, and it is something I will cope with now and when I’m 55. I was so afraid of falling again after that first tumble. When I finally got back on my feet, I made a tenuous promise to myself: Let’s Get This All Cleared Up So Whatever The Hell THAT Was Never Happens Again.

But it’s a promise begging to be broken. I have fallen many time since that first fall. The beauty is that every time I stand up, no matter what Depression told me while I was down, I marvel at myself standing on my feet.

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