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Living in the Space Between Depressive Episodes

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You know what I hate?

Living and not knowing when my next depressive episode is going to occur. For a stretch of time—it could be days or a week or two—I do OK. I feel more “normal,” more like myself. My mood is neither terribly bad nor excessively good, but it’s at least neutral. I feel emotionally stable. I smile more and I laugh more. I act more like my usual, goofy self and take pleasure in small things. I have a better attitude when I go to work. I’m more focused and overall happier. I might even experience tastes of joy again.

But then something happens. Something inevitably sets me off or stresses me out or pushes a wrong button or sends a negative thought into my head and suddenly the color that’s filled my life begins to drain out.

I turn inward. I feel insecure. I get angry at myself for where I am in my life. I feel overwhelmed by external circumstances. I start to feel pessimistic. I feel stuck. It’s like my head is a tub and the plug has been pulled and I start to panic as I see everything good getting sucked away. I panic because I don’t want to be empty. To be empty is the worst feeling in the world. That emptiness is the return of depression.

For the past year, depression has been a close companion. I think it started out as situational depression or so my counselor at college thought. My last semester of college was by far the worst. I didn’t realize it at the time, but slowly my mental health was being chipped away at. What started as situational depression turned into recurring episodes of major depression.

There has never been another point in my life where I’ve felt like I have a dark presence looming over my shoulder. In between depressive episodes my life feels mostly “normal,” except I feel like now I always see a dark shadow in the corner of my eye. That dark shadow lurking is depression and I can’t help but be a bit distracted wondering when it will come back and take away all sense of normalcy I’ve regained since its last visit.

While I want to be fully present in the now, I cannot help asking, when is it going to come back? While I want to enjoy the happiness to be found in today, I find myself thinking, whatever happiness you feel now will be taken away when it returns. While I want to continue taking small steps into adulthood, I worry I’ll be in the middle of taking a courageous step and it will come back, rendering me insecure and sapping me of all motivation. I’ll worry about who I will let down and who I will disappoint when it comes back and it takes away everything from me again.

I have to learn to fight it. I have to believe somehow I am capable of beating depression back when it comes again to drain away my life’s meaning and vibrancy. A few days ago on one of my neutral days, I had a moment where depression threw a fleeting, menacing thought into my head. “Absolutely not,” I said aloud. “Not today.”

Although depression tugged at the plug in my head, I smacked it back down and did not allow myself to be affected by it that day. Having fought off depression in this one small instance gives me hope I can do it again. And I hope when depression’s stronger threats come, I can chase them away because I will be stronger, too.

I want to beat this. I want to be able to move forward and live my life without fear of when the next depressive episode will come. I know it is possible to get there. I just have to take it one day and one thought at a time.

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Thinkstock photo via KimsCreativeHub.

Originally published: February 16, 2017
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