I have realized lately that my little depression chronicles (read part 1 and part 2) felt unfinished. I wrote about my experience with depression pre treatment and during treatment, but I have yet to write a single word about my experience with the after. It is just an important part of the story after all, and seeing as this is now my third “after” it sure is about time that I write about it.
I published part 2 on the 27th of April 2013. I was then three months into treatment and was doing very well. In fact, my entire treatment (except for the first rough month) was me doing very well. However, by the end of summer I was feeling a bit more worn around the edges. I had recently ended a decade-long friendship, and I had been struggling with asthma and allergies since the beginning of spring. I was feeling run-down, tired and sad, and decided to ask my doctor if I could perhaps stay on my anti-depressants for a little while longer. This might not sound like a good thing, but this was a pretty big deal for me because it meant I had realized that I needed to feel better before I could tackle the ordeal of weening myself off the medication. By the end of September I felt a lot better, and at the end of October I waved anti-depressants goodbye. However, this time around I realized that the work wasn’t over yet. No longer taking any medication only meant that I was no longer taking medication – I recognized that I still needed to take steps to make sure I would stay in a good place.
I tracked my mood
First of all I kept active track of my mood. There are several apps that can help you do this, and my personal favorite is called “My Mood Tracker” (iPhone). It is very straightforward: You choose a mood that best describes you each day, along with a number from 1-10. You will then be able to see a chart that shows you the fluctuations of your mood over time. A bad day here and there is normal, but when days turn to weeks it is time to consider that you might be in trouble. It happens, trust me – I’ve done this three times now. Equally, if I were having a bad day I would often be terrified that it was the return of my depression, but a quick look at my chart would remind me that I was fine just a few days ago and that there was no reason to worry just yet.
I guarded my time
Secondly, I took a long hard look at how I spent my time. I tend to feel overwhelmed and stressed if my schedule is too full, so I went over my daily activities and made a note of how they differed from how I would like to spend my time. I felt like I was sleeping away my weekends, so I started getting up earlier on Saturdays and Sundays. I didn’t like how much time I spent in front of computers, so I started to limit the time I spent online at home. I know that being outside makes me feel better if I’m in a funk, so I made a conscious effort to take more walks.
I set more limits
Thirdly, I started setting more limits. I’m one of those people who have a bit of a hard time saying “no”, and I would often agree to do things even though I didn’t want to or have the energy for it. I’m still working on this one, but it has been tremendously beneficial so far. Fear of disappointing other people should never be a reason to put your health in jeopardy.
I took care of my physical health
Speaking of health, I have made a big effort to take care of my physical health. I have taken more walks, done my best to visit the gym 3-4 times a week, improved my diet, had moles checked and pestered my doctor for better allergy relief. This also includes allowing myself the occasional afternoon nap and junk food feast, because you know, those things are nice too. Everything in moderation.
It helped tremendously
There is of course no single right way to do post-depression life, but this is what worked for me. If you have done therapy then you have probably already done some hardcore cleaning of the mental closet already, and I think it is good to check in with yourself every now and then to see if you are living your day-to-day life in a way that is good for you. There are often little adjustments that can be made and minor bumps in the road that you need to sort out, but being aware of them is half the battle. Ideally I would like to keep a daily journal, as doing so tends to be hugely beneficial, but I’m not quite there yet. Besides all this I think it is important to just live your life day by day. Don’t expect a relapse, but don’t get too disheartened if it happens either. I would never dare to claim that I will never suffer from depression again, but I do know that I will be much better prepared to handle it if it should return.
Fingers crossed it won’t though. Shit’s a drag and people keep asking me if I’m pregnant when I don’t drink.