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7 Little Things That Tell Me I'm in Recovery From My Depression

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Depression can be all-consuming. When you’re in the depths of an episode, it’s often the first thing I think of when I wake in the morning and the last on my mind at night. It can wrap its tentacles around you so that no matter what you’re doing, you can’t ignore its insidious presence. It can seem to leech the color from your world and destroy the very essence of who you are.

Recovery is rarely instant; instead, I’ve found it creeps in by degrees. And when the illness has you in its grip, it can be hard to notice the small signs that suggest that maybe, just maybe, it’s loosening its grasp.

The past few months have been some of the bleakest I’ve ever lived through. But now, when I stop to think about it, I can see the signs that the fog is lifting. They’re small, and there’s a long way to go, but these little changes give me hope that sunny days will come again.

1. I’m listening to music.

When I’m severely depressed, I try to live in silence. Noise shreds my nerves and is almost physically painful. But the other day, I turned my car stereo on for the first time in months. More than that, I turned the volume right up and sang at the top of my voice to one of my favorite albums.

2. I’m reading.

I’ve always been a reader; I taught myself to read at the age of 3, studied English literature at university, and I have made words my career. But when I’m in the darkness of depression, I can’t read. It feels like a huge part of my identity has been stripped away. So when I pick up a book and get engrossed, staying up too late to find out what happens next, I know I’m getting myself back.

3. I’m posting on Facebook.

When I’m unwell, I want to stop existing. One of the ways that shows is in my lack of Facebook activity. I start to believe my existence isn’t worth posting about, isn’t worth other people’s “likes” and comments. And I don’t want to interact with anyone else, either. But in the past few weeks, I’ve changed my profile picture, uploaded photos, engaged with with my friends. It’s as if I’m saying, “Hello, I’m back!”

4. I’m baking.

I love to bake, but during depressive episodes, it takes more energy than I have to spare. Even cooking a pan of plain pasta for my kids feels too much. Right now, though, I have a cake in the oven, and it smells amazing.

5. I’m talking to people.

In my lowest periods, I withdraw from everyone and everything. I’m certain I’m a “burden” to people and that they only talk to me out of a sense of duty. I keep my head down and avoid eye contact when I’m out. Small talk is simply impossible. I know I’m doing better when I can sit in the park after school while the kids play and not panic when someone comes to sit next to me, but rather engage in conversation about the weather, or what homework our children have to do, or our holiday plans.

6. I’m taking care of my appearance.

Even at my worst, I’ve (almost) always managed to keep up with the basics of self-care: showering, brushing my hair, wearing clean clothes. But anything over and above that, such as putting on makeup, seems pointless and exhausting to me. Now, I’m putting in my contact lenses rather than wearing my glasses, and taking the time to put on jewelry in the morning. I even curled my hair for an evening out yesterday.

7. I’m making my children laugh.

It’s not something I’m proud of, but my parenting is reduced to the bare minimum when my illness is at its worst. I make sure my kids are fed and bathed, but anything more than that can feel too much. When I can sit with my daughter while she reads her school books, watch a nature documentary with my animal-loving son, and tickle them until they can barely catch their breath, I know I’m beginning to reclaim myself from depression’s grips, and it feels so good.

Image via Thinkstock.

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Originally published: December 28, 2016
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