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The Scariest Part of Recovering From a Depressive Episode

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I walked just now to our local shop to buy milk. Yesterday, it rained all day. The sky was dark, and the clouds loomed low. Yet today, the sun is shining. It’s cold and crisp, but it feels as if a little bit of spring is in the air.

A little bit of spring is in my soul, too. After months spent in the grasp of the darkest depressive episode I’ve ever lived through, the clouds have begun to part to let the sun’s rays shine through. Yet, I’m still afraid.

For me, the scariest part of recovering from a period of depression is the knowledge that it might come back. It has before, and it can overwhelm me with terrifying speed.

The fear of relapse casts its shadow over every day. Each morning, I wake up and mentally test the water. “Am I feeling OK today?” If the answer is no, then it’s hard not to panic. I’m so scared of being pulled back under again. I’m so scared I might not survive another episode.

Living with recurrent depressive disorder means every bad day fills me with dread. I try to put my finger on what’s making me feel down, depressed or out of sorts. Is my period due? Is it because work is stressful or because I forgot to take one of my meds a few days ago?

If that doesn’t lead me to a rational explanation, then I try to justify it to myself. “Everyone has bad days,” I tell myself. “No one is happy all the time.” I know the truth of that, and I know in depression recovery, bad days are to be expected.

Yet, I’m still scared. So I start to analyze my own thoughts. Do I feel tempted to self-harm? Am I having suicidal thoughts?

The answer is no, but still, I’m afraid. My brain, always so hasty to dwell on the negatives, starts to disobey me. My anxiety levels inch up and up. I feel on the verge of tears.

I can’t tell anyone how I feel. I don’t want to do this to them again: my beloved husband, my children or my wonderful, loyal friends. I don’t want to let them down. I don’t want to be a burden.

So I hide myself away. “I’m just tired,” I say to my friend when I cancel our coffee date. “I’m just tired,” I say to my husband as I head upstairs to bed at 8.30 p.m. It’s true. I am tired. I’m tired of living with this illness that clouds every single day of my life. I’m tired of never having confidence in my emotions. I’m tired of spending even the good days dreading the bad.

Today is a bad day. It’s probably just a one-off, a blip or a hormonal wobble. Yet, what if it’s the start of another mental health crisis? Today is a bad day, and I’m frightened. I wish I could live my life without fear.

Originally published: January 17, 2017
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