This is the newest in a long line of concerns about living with depression.
In meetings this week, that topic came up more than once. The concern among those who attended was that feeling good has consequences. It is clear after listening to many people talk over many weeks, that relapses do not just occur because of negative feelings.
Often, relapses occur just when it feels like life couldn’t get any better.
It begins innocently enough when an automatic thought pops into your head. “Hey, I’m doing great, I bet I could have a social drink and handle it.” Or “you re talents are being wasted here, you need to find someplace where they appreciate you.”
My challenge is unhelpful thinking because of Major Depressive Disorder.
I can understand and empathize with those who struggle with substance abuse. The challenges are so similar and are often combined with Depression. Those who choose to face it are real heroes in my book. I see the focus and commitment in their faces, and it is inspiring.
And to a person, each one of us knows what the bottom looks like. What our disease is capable of and where it can send us. That dark, lonely, destructive state where everyone is the enemy. For me, it includes impulsive behaviors that are destructive to me and those I love.
So, my question is, will I recognize a relapse?
I am excited to say that I think I will. By reading, talking, and taking medication, I have started a new life, a new focus on wellness. I am understanding and embracing the benefits of facing my depression, not sweeping it under the rug. I can see how the tools I am learning are helpful in alerting me to even the little things depression can sneak into my thinking.
I now have a written Wellness Recovery Action Plan (WRAP).
WRAP Will Help You:
- Discover your own simple, safe wellness tools
- Develop a list of things to do every day to stay as well as possible
- Identify upsetting events, early warning signs, and signs that things have gotten much worse and, using wellness tools, develop action plans for responding at these times
- Create a crisis plan
- Create a post-crisis plan
WRAP is for anyone, any time. It will support you in being the way you want to be and doing the things you want to do.
In my plan, I have listed the activities I enjoy as self-care. Things I can do to relax and de-stress. These Wellness Tools are becoming a big part of my life. I am finding time for me and scheduling it without the guilt and second-guessing depression would throw at me if I spent 20 minutes reading John Steinbeck’s “Travels with Charley.”
In my toolbox, I have a list of what I look like when I am well.
This has been an eye-opener. Remembering how I feel when things are going well it is easier to see when things are starting to go off the rails. I have developed a list of warning signs and have written them out for all to see. Not only am I aware of them, but I am sharing them with my support group.
Having others know what they are is helping me be accountable to myself, and not to depression. This is one of the big changes in my outlook. I am optimistic by nature, but depression has used that against me. By only letting me see one aspect of the decision, the most positive aspect, it clouds, and in the end, hides other aspects of the decision from me that may have negative consequences.
Suddenly, I am back to all or nothing, minimizing the bad, and maximizing the positive.
In the past, this was the set-up depression would use to lead me to the dark side. But now I have assembled a toolbox that includes the simple action of asking better questions. I can challenge the automatic thoughts depression is lobbing in my direction and toss them back over the net. Having successfully used this technique a few times recently, I am a believer.
If things go south fast, I do have a crisis plan. I have people I can talk to, 24/7. People I could and would call and talk to. That is amazing to me and a 100% turn around from the secretive world depression would send me down in the past. Just knowing I can and will call if I need too gives me the confidence that I will recognize a relapse before it tosses me into the abyss.
I see now it is not if, but when will I start to relapse?
When I first got out of the hospital, this thought would have been frightening. After all, in the past, I would just be damn glad when it was over and assume that it was never going to happen again. Then when I would have another depressive episode, I was surprised. Now that really is crazy.
So, I am facing the future, with anticipation of the best possible life armed with my WRAP Toolbox.
After all, I have depression, it does not have me.
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