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4 Things That Might Happen When You Come Out of Depression

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I was surprised to find I knew more about what depression would be like than what coming out of depression would be like. Going through depression, there were hundreds of online articles to read about other people’s experiences that made me feel less alone, plus ample resources that helped me understand what I was going through. What I struggled to find, however, were stories about the healing process.

Everyone’s experience is different, but I’m hoping that sharing mine will be helpful. These are my thoughts on what happens when you come out of depression and why we don’t talk about them enough.

1. The feelings come back. And they come back strong.

I remember the first time I saw Pixar’s “Inside Out.” When Riley’s emotional control panel goes dark, she has a hard time feeling any emotions until Joy and Sadness touch the panel together. In that climactic scene, Riley sighs as her emotions return and I couldn’t help but wonder if someone on the Pixar animation team knew what coming out of depression was like.

It’s an exhale after what feels like a lifetime of holding your breath.

I found myself feeling genuine happiness again, which is the part of the healing process people like to celebrate. But I also felt genuine frustration. Anger. Sadness. All the emotions I had lost to the numbness of depression. I didn’t know how to handle being angry about things that had happened months ago, things I never took the time to get angry about. When a teacher from my high school passed away, the deep sadness that followed had a level of unfamiliarity I had to work through. I didn’t quite know how to bring this up to people because when we talk about healing, we expect it to be hopeful and uplifting. While healing is worth it, it isn’t a happy process 100 percent of the time.

2. Feelings can be exhausting.

I am beyond excited to feel fully, joy and pain alike, but it can be really tiring at first. In the same way that eating meat after a long time without it can make your stomach sick, dealing with emotions at a higher intensity than you’re used to can feel, well, strange at first. This is where self-care becomes extremely important. If you’re coming out of depression, don’t push yourself to feel everything at once without taking time to breathe.

3. The way you interact with people, even your closest friends, can change.

When I was depressed, it was easier for me to accept uncomfortable situations, even ones that hurt me. I didn’t particularly care how people treated me. Now I find myself speaking up more and more each day. I’ve had to evaluate the way losing depression will affect the relationships in my life and make peace with the changes that come. It’s great to have one less obstacle in the way of making and maintaining friendships, but friendships where my debilitating mental health was centered will change.

And change, even when good, can be scary.

4. You might actually miss it.

This is probably the hardest part to talk about. No one wants to admit they miss something worse than what they have, but the truth is, there are times when we crave familiarity. Even though depression was a battle I fought with the hopes of it ending, I got used to it. It became part of my daily routine. It defined how I interacted with the world. Learning to live without it has been everything from joyful and relaxing to frustrating and disheartening. In some challenging moments, I have found myself longing for the numbness and unhealthy coping mechanisms that were once significant parts of my existence.

This has been the most painful part of the process for me, but I hold onto the hope that the sting of new emotions will fade as time goes on.

Coming out of depression will look different for everyone, but the important thing to remember is that it won’t be happy and exciting the whole time, and that’s OK. Struggling with new emotions is nothing to be ashamed of. Sometimes, all you can do is trust in your journey.

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Thinkstock photo via Mandryna

Originally published: August 22, 2017
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