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What It Feels Like to Be in 'Partial' Depression Recovery

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In the middle of a depressive episode, all I want is to find medication that helps (without unbearable side effects). As long as I’m in that black hole, there is no point in therapy, because I’m too depressed to even be aware of what is being said. I don’t care, and I don’t want to care. Forget diet, exercise, yoga or meditation. Those things aren’t going to do me any good without the solid foundation of the right medications. And as long as I’m severely depressed, that will be all I am thinking about, and hoping for. Relief. Just a tiny bit of relief.

But the battle doesn’t end with the right medications for me — it begins there. The relief can seem short-lived as the reality sets in — there is so much work left to be done. Self-care doesn’t come in a pill, it requires you to work for it, and never give up. Medication doesn’t eliminate bad days, it just gives you back the potential for good ones. And ultimately, I’m never fully recovered. I’m always in the process of recovery, because that is what it is — a process.

On a good day with depression, I feel productive and alive. But that’s not most days. Most days are a mix of feeling “better” but not “well.” Being tired, anxious and still depressed. But better. Yet somehow I feel just as broken. Not alive enough, not good enough, just not enough. I’m grateful, for that part of me that seems less broken. But I’m angry and sad for the part of me that still hurts. I’m frustrated that I can’t just “be normal.” Completely normal. The kind of normal everyone else seems to be.

Partial recovery gives me just enough breathing room to try all of those self-care tips that show up — but it doesn’t mean they will work. I still feel broken. I still feel like I’m not enough, and I never will be. And I feel alone, because surely no one else feels this way. I must be the only one. The only one who can’t get themselves together and just “get over it.”

Partial recovery can be a dangerous thing. It can leave you feeling more hopeless. “Is this as good as it gets?” Feeling “better” can leave you feeling lost and confused. Shouldn’t I just be grateful to have any relief? I was desperate for anything, and now I have it. Shouldn’t I be grateful? Why am I still so broken?

In truth, there is no good answer. There is no quick fix. Depression requires trial and error, effort, sacrifice and strength that almost always seems in short supply. It requires time and dedication. And sometimes, it means living with that sense of brokenness and knowing that one day it can get better. But how? How do we learn to live in the grey area of not-as-bad but still not-good-enough. This is the danger zone so rarely talked about in the mental health community. What happens when you’re better, but still not OK?

It’s an uneasy feeling which can last days, weeks or in some cases, years. For some of us, it seems it will never change. We will surely be stuck in the grey zone of partial recovery forever. We get mad at ourselves for being ungrateful, and not working harder to be even better. We tell ourselves that it is all our fault. We don’t know what to do. What do we do?

We keep going, keep fighting — even when it feels impossible. We remember that we are no alone, we are never alone. We are in pain and afraid, but we are not broken. We are strong — stronger than we know. So we keep going. Because partial recovery is something. And something, is a start.

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 or text “START” to 741-741.

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Thinkstock photo via Grandfailure

Originally published: November 16, 2017
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