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When a Low Mood Makes You Frightened Depression Is Returning

I am well into recovery from a severe episode of depression. I’m thankful I’m able to write that. I’m doing well in terms of medication, getting more exercise and looking after myself better. However, there’s always the fear every time a mental slump occurs that depression is rearing its ugly head once more.

There are days, even weeks, of feeling mentally stable, and I almost convince myself I’m in a great place and will remain there for the foreseeable future. Unfortunately, my mind likes to mess around with me every now and again and drag me down into the pit.

This is a place that scares and confuses me. I know even the most mentally robust of people have a bad day and just aren’t feeling it. I want to be one of those people who says “bad days happen” and gets over it.

The problem is that when you’ve been so low that you’ve tried to die by suicide, sometimes even the slightest twinge of melancholy can be frightening.

I am writing this on a day when low mood came crashing in from the moment I opened my eyes. Rather than normal waking, it was more like a heavy shutter crashed down on me, with a sign upon it stating, “closed for business.”

These days are thankfully few and far between now, but they still make me question where I am with my mental health. The problem is that a low mood day is similar to depression. I don’t want to talk to anyone, I feel angry with the world, I’m irritable, sad, out of sorts and generally just long to stay in bed all day.

The only hope I hold on these low mood days is that maybe tomorrow I will wake up and it will have passed. This is where my mind can be cruel. I’ve had low mood days plural, even as long as a week. I panic and grow concerned that I’m relapsing. I try to keep going and do all the good things that help me both mentally and physically. I battle with whether it’s worth it if I’m just going to go hurtling back down the rabbit hole of depression. I monitor myself so hard that it makes my head hurt.

This is the curse of being someone prone to depression and who has had episodes of varying severity over the past 20 years. I can never rest easy. I know that sounds pessimistic. Don’t get me wrong — I do not live life waiting to slip into depression.

Once I’m in recovery, I try my best to not only pick up the pieces but seize the new days to come. It’s just that when you’ve spent a large part of your life having at least two severe episodes a year, you cannot help but brace yourself for it to hit when you’re having a low mood day or week.

Low mood days are hurtful reminders of an illness that takes over my life. Low mood days are unwelcome signifiers of how it was and how I never, ever want it to be again.

When a low mood day comes, all I can do is hold on tight, use all the coping strategies I know and dip out of life for a while. I know self-care. I’m getting better at it.

If the housework doesn’t get done because my brain is whirring negative thoughts at the speed of light, so what? The world will not end.

If I cannot work on my novel today due to the inability to stay awake and focused, I will try to be kind to myself and not buy into the feelings of failure. I’ve come too far to quit.

Today is a low mood day.

Today I am giving myself a break and care for me. After all, I am the most important person right now. That’s not selfish. That’s survival.

If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources page.

If you need support right now, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255, the Trevor Project at 1-866-488-7386 or text “START” to 741-741. Head here for a list of crisis centers around the world.

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Thinkstock photo via spukkato