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On depression: one year later

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.

 

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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22 Comments

  1. Thanks for sharing this follow-up post! I have never suffered from severe depression before, even if I’ve had some rough moments, but my sister had a depression big time, and I feel it’s a way to understand her better too, even if each situation is specific.

    It’s interesting to see how your path of recovery is about taking better care of yourself, your health and mood. Did it lift you up a lot to reconsider the way you spend your time? It sounds like some sort of healthy virtuous circle :)

    PS: and re: alcohol and pregnancy, I actually got that at a business trip this year! I avoid being drunk on business trips, even during evenings when I’m not working, so I tend to order virgin mojitos and the like. And people automatically started wondering if I was pregnant. Apparently young woman drinking virgin mojitos = baby in the making.

    PPS: no, I’m not.

    • Giiiiirl, if I was pregnant every time someone thought I was I would be the proud mother of about 20 kids by now. Society needs to loosen up on the obsession with babies. There’s an unhealthy focus on the contents of my uterus and I am not comfortable with it!

      Considering how I spend my time has been hugely beneficial, both as a way to eliminate stress and that it gave a sense of achievement – hey, look at that, I don’t HAVE to spend three hours on the internet every evening! Now I putter around and stretch, tidy up or take my dog for walks instead. So much more pleasant :)

  2. Rigtig godt indlæg! Jeg har også været hele turen igennem 3 gange, dog kun første gang på antidepressiver (fordi jeg havde mange bivirkninger), men med lægehenvisning til terapi. Jeg stoppede mit sidste terapiforløb for et par måneder siden og kan mærke, de negative tanker og mønstre vender tilbage. Der er sket mange ting i mit liv i år (bl.a. svær sygdom i min allernærmeste familie), og det skubber mig desværre i den forkerte retning… jeg har dog også bemærket, at nogle ting hjælper mig. Jeg er for eksempel begyndt at fordybe mig i bøger igen, og det beroliger mig og hjælper mig til at fokusere, Jeg motionerer også men har svært ved at finde glæden ved det; imidlertid kan jeg godt mærke, at det kan hjælpe at “komme ned i kroppen”. Jeg vil prøve din metode med mindre online-tid. Det kan sikkert også hjælpe til at skabe fred i hovedet. Og så arbejder jeg på at få mig en lille hund, selv om det ikke er tilladt, hvor jeg bor nu. Dyr glæder og beroliger mig – du er heldig med den altid skønne Kanutten! :)

    Jeg håber, du fortsat vil have det godt. Tak for en både pæn, velskrevet og sympatisk blog.

    • Så morsomt at du nevner bøker Stine, for jeg har også begynt å lese mye mer enn tidligere. Det er godt å fokusere på noe annet enn sin egen virkelighet innimellom. Jeg likte virkelig ikke å trene i begynnelsen, men etter en stund ble det en vane, og nå liker jeg det, ihvertfall for det meste. Noen ganger vil jeg selvsagt mye heller gå rett hjem og se en film, men jeg har innsett at jeg ikke gjør så mye interessant de dagene jeg ikke trener uansett, så jeg kan like gjerne stå en time på en crosstrainer og få det unnagjort.

      Jeg anbefaler varmt å anskaffe hund, det er faktisk mye koseligere enn jeg trodde det skulle være :)

  3. Så fint med livstegn fra bloggen din. Godt å høre at du går aktivt til verks med større og mindre tiltak. Herregud for en pragmatiker du er! Respect. Varme tanker og en god klem fra meg.

    • Tusen takk for koselig kommentar Espen! Jeg sliter fortsatt med senebetennelsen min så noe hyppig blogging blir det nok ikke fremover, men jeg vil prøve å få publisert noe innimellom. Det er jo veldig gøy, tross alt! Og haha, jeg er nok en skikkelig pragmatiker ja. Praktisk når man skal få noe gjort, men smått upraktisk på andre områder – jeg er for eksempel pinlig lite romatisk!

  4. thank you for sharing this, and you’re so disciplined. i think i could benefit from using a mood tracker – it’s scary how we can lose ourselves in a dark cloud for long periods of time without realising it’s a problem.

  5. So happy to read this post! Sounds like you are in a really good place, very solid and balanced and self-aware. And like you said, it may happen again, but you are now armed with tricks and tools to better deal with it. Depression is a nasty beast that leaves you more than just sad, and I think it’s often that apathy and lack of motivation or caring that is hardest to combat. I’m super curious about the mood tracker, I just heard about it somewhere else too and those sorts of coincidences always make me feel like I should be taking a deeper look. I will also say that I recently started meditating as a way to get through some difficult times, I downloaded this app called Headspace, and it is amazing. Really, truly, I cannot recommend it enough.

    And yes, sure does feel good to get off the internet, huh? Too bad our blogs are so neglected, but better to feed our souls I think!

    • You do Headspace too?! I’m on day 8 of Take 20 and have somewhere around 7 hours under my belt so far. I absolutely love it and I am so happy I decided to splurge and buy a whole year’s subscription. Started out with the free trial version and was hooked – the guy’s voice is so soothing and there’s no Enya-esque music in sight! Perfection! I’m not disciplined enough to do it every day yet, but I do at least every other day, which is still a vast improvement considering I’ve never really done regular meditation before.

      Getting off the Internet has been a life changer for sure. I sometimes catch myself thinking that this is how I usually only live my life when I’m on holiday, you know? Less beeps and notifications? Love it.

      • Yes! Headspace is amazing! I did the trial and got hooked immediately as well. I’ve tried other guided meditation but they’ve all been so horribly cheesy it’s been hard to get into it. This guy is perfect, so soothing, but also very no-nonsense, you know? So I did the same and splurged on the year subscription and am SO happy I did! I don’t do it every day either, though I’m working my way up to that. I definitely notice if I go 3 or 4 days without doing it, my anxiety level starts to just creep up and then it takes a few days of meditation to get it back down again. I’m in day 26 of the Discovery series. And it’s just so good!

        • Yes! I’ve noticed the same thing – I had my sister over last weekend so I couldn’t get away to meditate, and I was noticeably more frazzled by Sunday evening than I had been in a long time (sis, if you’re reading this – it was lovely to have you over and this was not because of you ;). I hadn’t noticed the actual physical and mental benefits of it until then! I can tell I’m going to have to write a blog post about it eventually, I just need to do it for a while longer first. Oh, and I have to get over the cringe-worthiness of admitting that I meditate. It’s still slightly embarrassing!

  6. Jeg tenkte faktisk nettopp på det for min egen del, at jeg savner det litt. Selvfølgelig gjør jeg jo ikke det sånn égentlig, men å være deprimert er ganske lett å forholde seg til. Det er det samme, om igjen og om igjen.

    Det som hjalp meg var privatpraktiserende psykolog over en periode på underkant av et år (etter mange år med ubrukelige psykologer som ikke hjalp, og en innleggelse som bare var brannslukking), og det funket kjempefort. Jeg så resultater og nå er jeg faktisk glad for at jeg lever – og jeg har det bra.

    Neste plan på listen er mer trening og bedre kosthold, men ettersom matstyr og selvhat fortsatt henger litt igjen sliter jeg med de to tingene. Kanskje det kommer etter hvert.

    Glad for å høre at du har det bedre, du har vært veldig flink. Det er viktig å være klar over at å ha det bra ikke kommer av seg selv når man er deprimert, man må jobbe aktivt i lang tid for å endre på sin egen situasjon. Klapp på skuldra til deg.

    • Jeg tenker ofte på hvor utrolig heldig jeg var da jeg først oppsøkte hjelp – legen tok meg 100% på alvor fra første stund, og de sjekket (og utelukket) alle mulige fysiske sykdommer før jeg begynte på antidepressiva. At jeg skulle til psykolog var selvsagt, og jeg tror ikke det tok mer enn 3 uker før jeg fikk time hos en som jeg hadde veldig god kjemi med. “Gullhår i rompa” er vel det beste uttrykket man kan bruke for å beskrive opplevelsen min. De fleste jeg kjenner som har hatt de samme problemene har møtt kjipe leger og psykologer hele veien, om de har fått komme til psykolog i det hele tatt, og det er bare helt tragisk å tenke på. At det ofte bare er flaks som avgjør hvilken behandling man får er rett og slett til å grine av.

      Matproblemer er en helt egen can of worms, siden det er så utrolig altoppslukende. Jeg synes du er råflink, jeg. Det kommer. Ting tar tid, og ut fra det jeg har fått med meg så høres det ut som du er godt på vei :)

  7. I very sincerely appreciate this post. Struggling with depression is something I have had to do for most of my life and it’s never-ending but there are things you can do, ways to cope, realizing it’s not the end-all/be-all of life. There are better times ahead always. *hugs* Thank you for sharing about how it is you’re managing. I wasn’t aware of your other two posts but I’m going to give them a read now.

    Thank you. ♥

    • I’m so happy to hear that you liked the post Brigitte :) I honestly don’t know when my depression started but I would guess somewhere in my early teens. It has been a long and bumpy road. Like you said, there are better times ahead <3

  8. (det føltes veldig teit å skrive det her på dialekt men det føltes muligens enda teitere å skrive det på bokmål, vanskelig med blogg)

    Du e så sterk og flink som så tydelig klare å se ka problemet e og kordan du kan bedre det. Det kreve en god del sjølinnsikt og vilje å legge om livsstilen på den måten du har gjort, og å vite ka som e best for en sjøl, hvertfall når det kanskje e det siste man har lyst å gjøre når man e deprimert. Koste me kjempemasse sammens me dokker i helga, veldig stolt av og glad i deg <3

  9. Takk for nok en flott post! Jeg har ikke vært deprimert før, men jeg har hatt perioder der jeg har vært langt nede uten helt å skjønne hvorfor. For å komme meg ut av det, har jeg brukt mye tid på å kartlegge hva jeg faktisk bruker tiden min på, og da har det virkelig gått opp et lys. Transporttid tar på, tankeløs surfing er slitsomt i lengden, det er så mange småting som det er lett å overse. Takk for viktige påminnelser!

    Høres ut som du har det bra nå, og jeg håper det fortsetter slik! : )

    • Takk for kommentaren Gitte! Jeg har det definitivt bra nå, og så lenge jeg greier å holde hvilepulsen nede og fokuset på de riktige tingene tror jeg absolutt det kommer til å holde seg slik :)

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  • App review: Headspace | Maja Huse August 30, 2014

    […] time – I didn’t give you the whole and complete truth back when I wrote On Depression: One Year Later. You see, there is one more thing I have done to slow things down and create some extra space in my […]