The Most Important Thing I’d Tell Someone Who Just Got Out of a Depressive Episode
This is the part of depression that isn’t normally talked about — the part that comes after the depressive episodes. The part where, after months or years, that lingering dark cloud has gone and you’re left on your own for the first time in a long time. It can be incredibly confusing, and if you’re not careful, it could lead back into another depressive episode.
One symptom of depression is anhedonia — the inability to experience pleasure from activities usually found enjoyable. During my depression, one of the first things I lost interest in was music. I didn’t enjoy listening to it, playing it or basically anything to do with it. I missed it all the time, but I no longer found joy in it.
After my depressive episode, everywhere I looked was filled with painful reminders of the person I used to be. After a while, I decided I should just start fresh. I would abandon the things I once loved to do and just find new things to love. But nothing was working. No matter what I would try, I just came right back to what I knew. So finally, I picked up a book. It took forever to read, but I pushed myself to finish and eventually I did. Then I picked up another, and with each book I read, I slowly began to fall in love with reading again. After that, I had more courage to pick other things back up, like my guitar. My fingers began to remember the chords to songs I used to play, and with each strum, little pieces of me started to come back. I stopped being afraid of the piano and started playing again. Before I knew it, I was playing the organ for my church and performing almost weekly for various functions. And suddenly, I no longer had room for fear in my head.
I knew right away I would never be the person I used to be, and I soon started to see that was not a bad thing. In fact, it was the greatest blessing I could have ever asked for. I fell in love with things I never even imagined loving, like politics. I started to relearn German. And I started spending more time in the mountains. I discovered a totally different person waiting to break free inside of me, and let me tell you, that person is way better than anyone I ever was before my depression.
The most important thing I’d tell anyone who is struggling to love themselves after experiencing a depressive episode, or to anyone struggling to love themselves regardless of reasons, is to give yourself a chance. I truly believe that the only way to survive falling into the bottomless pits of life is not by finding the rope, but by climbing out yourself. And if you’re lucky, somewhere along the way, you’ll find people reaching down to help pull you out — hold tightly to their reach.
Beau Taplin said, “Happiness is not a checklist. A dream job, fast car, good home, even love, mean nothing if you have not yet found a way to feel full and content in your own mind and heart.” I realized in the midst of my experiences that my whole life I’d been making excuses, telling myself life could only be good, that I could only be happy, if this or that happened first. Somewhere during the chase for the unattainable, I lost awareness of myself and what I really needed. I realized I’ll never be happy until I decide it’s OK to be happy, even when nothing seems to go right.
This time last year, I didn’t think there would ever be a life after depression. I thought depression was just my life from that point forward. But now, I know there is a life after depression. I also know life will never be the same. But I can look back at my life and recognize the patterns of depression I’ve had, and now I know what to look for in the future. And I know how important it is to check in with myself, and that it’s OK to put myself first.
I’ve learned a lot these last few years, and although I can’t say I’d do it all over again, I can say life is better now. It’s not all sunshine and rainbows, but life is more about fighting for what you want than it is about living in a comfort zone.
Follow this journey on Becoming Megan.
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Thinkstock photo via efetova