Depression is a trickster and not in a good way. Trying to navigate the “trips and traps” of depression demands constant energy and effort. Today I’m sharing some unbelievably common painful mistakes I’ve made trying to deal with depression.
Before we begin, the process of opening to these mistakes was both triggering and encouraging. But ultimately, being able to identify these mistakes put me in touch with a deep sense of resilience.
Please try not to think of these mistakes in terms of success or failure. If you can relate with any of these common mistakes, open to the opportunity to reflect and grow in courage. My hope is in opening a dialogue, we can learn from each other and explore new ways to move through depression.
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Depression is a complex illness and treatment is understandably nuanced. Although each of us experiences and deals with depression differently, I’ve identified some common pitfalls to watch out for. Facing the five most painful mistakes I’ve made to date has lifted some of the overwhelm, so I can focus on championing myself through the ache.
mistake #1 thinking my recovery would be linear
Bouncing back from depression doesn’t come with a healing timeline, because to date there is no known cure.
One of the most painful mistakes that still trips me up is day-dreaming into a future-based image of myself as living life “post-depression”. I think if I just do “x”, I will recover my life back. Which painfully links to a past version of myself, before depression changed everything. Following a linear roadmap not only wastes time and valuable energy, but it results in the habit of postponing and avoiding things.
The truth is living with depression is extremely taxing. When my mind wanders into thinking in linear terms, I remind myself healing is not linear.
Accepting the reality of depression is allowing a sense of creativity and perspective into your daily experience. Practice embracing the uncertainty of not knowing if, or when things will change, by bringing yourself into the moment. Meet the overwhelm by learning to champion yourself through the intensity of emotion.
MISTAKE #2 DELAYING MY PLANS AND PUTTING MY LIFE ON HOLD
Following on from dealing with depression in a linear way, I made the mistake of habitually putting my plans on hold. Again, I had this picture in my mind of a future-self who would be better able to handle things.
I rigidly adhered to my treatment plan in the desperate hope it would fix my depression. Why? Because I believed at some point in the future, I would emerge from the nebulous fog victorious.
Don’t get me wrong, adhering to a treatment plan is the best way forward, by be aware of what comes up around treatment. Keep a journal and encourage yourself to keep going, because healing is not linear, it is a natural, in-the-moment process. Take care to notice when the mind starts to fixate on delaying tactics, or putting things on hold until you feel better.
Depression tricks the mind into a habitual cycle of avoidance. Couple this with the yearning for a future free of depression and the cycle is painfully reinforced.
Taking small, daily, micro-actions doing those things you previously delayed, you begin to experience tiny moments of relief. Gradually you are able to experience what it feels like to function well with depression.
MISTAKE #3 WITHDRAWING FROM LIFE (SELF-ISOLATING)
Ruminating thoughts are a symptom of depression causing feelings of intense overwhelm. Sometimes the constant noise in my head literally jams my nervous system. A palpable “zap” surges through my whole body. When this happens it can be frightening, but mostly I feel it draining precious energy.
Withdrawal is a completely natural human response to stress and it’s completely okay to retreat. However, in my case, the extent of my self-imposed isolation can be problematic. It’s difficult for me to find the balance. Most days it is a major effort to get off my house-boat. I remember my psychiatrist warning me to make sure I get outside every day, even though boat life offers surround-sound nature scapes. And while boat life has been tremendously positive for my mental health, I still struggle with the urge to completely withdraw from everyone and everything.
When self-isolation is taken to extremes it can be incredibly painful and lonely. I decided to make a habit of checking in with myself each day to ensure I get off the boat, so I can allow myself to experience being in the outside world.
MISTAKE #4 Making Unreasonable Demands On Myself And Those I Care About
While this post is about the common mistakes we fall into, here I’m referring to the demanding aspects of my personality — and how depression exacerbates things.
Here’s the thing: I make my depression worse when I wrongly believe I am to blame for the challenges in my relationships, including my relationship with myself.
Relationships are hard work and trying to get through the minefield that depression sets up within the relationship takes immense effort.
No one teaches us how to navigate a relationship when depression is part of the equation. Most of us aren’t naturally equipped to deal with the emotional intensity, grief — and those moments of desperate silence.
The negative cycle of shame and blame set up by depression nearly destroyed my marriage. And it took a nearly broken marriage for things to change. Depression pushes us both to our breaking point at times and understanding this is key.
Seeking help was the breakthrough that helped us both approach depression together. But again, it took many months of shouldering the burden of guilt, blame, and misunderstanding to eventually muster the resolve to seek help.
Truly, the only way out is through. Depression will make all kinds of demands on your relationship. When depression is wrecking havoc in your relationship, be kind to yourself and try to open a dialogue about how you are both feeling. And it’s important you both know, asking for help isn’t a sign of weakness, it’s a vital part of recovery.
MISTAKE #5 Stopping My Medication When My Mood Improved
Making peace with my diagnosis of depression continues to challenge me to the core. The worst mistake I have made trying to cope with this illness is actually stopping my medication when my mood improved.
There is so much stigma in the wellness movement about anti-depressants. This stigma trivialized and negates the deadly nature of depression. I believed in the hype and false promises around getting rid of my depression for good. The messaging in the wellness movement is very seductive and misleading and I bought into the pill-shaming aspect of it. I genuinely believed with my background in fitness, I could fix my depression naturally, with nearly disastrous consequences.
My experiences within the wellness movement fed into my impulsive all-or-nothing tendencies. And I completely glossed over the fact medication directly correlated with my improved mood. Now I take my medicine guilt-free because I know depression is a glitch in my brain-chemistry, not my character.
Depression does not define you, but the symptoms and stigma of depression have to potential to severely hurt and harm you. I’m not a medical or mental health professional and the information I share must never be substituted for medical advice and care. Please take your symptoms seriously. I’ve put together a list of support lines for you, but please seek immediate medical help if you are feeling distressed.
Depression does not define you. You are stronger than you think you are and every step you take in this journey reflects your true strength. Healing is not linear and just because you are struggling, it doesn’t mean you’re failing. Keep the faith, you’ve got this!.
Thank you for reading, I hope there is something here that might be helpful. If you liked this article, be sure to share it across your social networks, You never know it might help someone who is struggling with similar issues.
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And now it’s over to you dear reader, can you identify with any of the mistakes I’ve mentioned? What would like to add to the conversation?