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The Unusual Warning Sign My Depression Is Getting Bad Again

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Editor's Note

If you struggle with self-harm or experience suicidal thoughts, the following post could be potentially triggering. You can contact the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741741. For a list of ways to cope with self-harm urges, visit this resource.

I’m someone who seems to enjoy bottling everything up inside in the hope it’ll all get better.

Well, OK. Maybe not enjoy as such, but with the amount I do it, one could probably be excused for thinking I get a kick out of it.

I have this innate ability to bottle things up and appear as fine to the world. I can still function “normally” and kid anyone that I’m not struggling at all. Hence why I so often get the “you don’t look depressed!” cr*p.

But sometimes, things start to fall apart at the seams and it’s very clear I’m not OK. The warning signs start off small, but eventually grow to huge breakdowns and sometimes even hurting myself if nothing is done to help me. The worst part is, sometimes I don’t even realize I’m not OK and have been bottling things up until it’s too late.

Over the four or five years I’ve really struggled with my mental health, I’ve learned a lot about me and due to my lack of help from mental health service providers, it’s become my job to know when I’m struggling and stop any destructive thoughts or actions in their tracks. I’ve learned to recognize when I’m not alright and in turn had to learn how to distract myself to avoid trips to the emergency department to speak to the mental health crisis team.

For most people, I guess you can probably say that most of the signs are the same: Dissociation from others, decreased personal care, more reckless activities, and so on. All those warning signs on medical websites — signs someone may be contemplating suicide or is struggling with their mental health. I tick all those boxes and a couple more that could well be unique to me.

I definitely dissociate and isolate myself from others. Apart from work, I barely leave the house. I don’t spend any time with family. I barely post on social media. I tuck myself into a little box (not literally, of course) and don’t reappear much, if at all.

I stop caring about taking my medication. Finding the motivation to shower or do my hair is difficult and I just end up neglecting myself. I don’t eat. I sleep constantly, wearing my body down to the point where my physical health is so bad, my mental health suffers further.

But I also start to study more. And I think this is something that’s very uniquely me and a really good way to tell I’m not doing OK.

I’ll start to study and research things without any reason to. So aside from my plans to do my long distance degree. I’ll just sit for hours and hours researching things and doing online courses for free. I’ll use reference books more. It’s an interesting one, though, because my concentration levels with my attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) aren’t great. Yet, for some reason, this is my body’s natural way of responding to low mood. I’ve never been able to explain it and perhaps I need to ask my psychiatrist about it next time I talk to him but that’s probably the easiest way to pick up I’m not OK: Spontaneous study.

Sometimes, I don’t immediately realize I’m doing it. It may first manifest as me asking loads of questions at work or reading all the documents at work to learn more. Which seems “normal,” right? I’m not talking about the odd question though. It becomes me questioning everything, trying to sponge all the knowledge I can. Then comes the part where I sit at home and fall down internet rabbit holes of researching god only knows what.

I mean, I can’t say having all this surplus trivia and knowledge hasn’t come in handy or made me a popular choice for quizzes…

It is important to know the signs you’re struggling and it’s good to also let others know so they can help you out or be mindful if they catch on to it. I’ve found it really helpful to notice these little things, to alert myself to the fact things are going downhill and then make steps to ensure I don’t end up too unwell. It’s damage control and for me, vital to keeping myself afloat.

And sometimes, you could have a subtle way of letting people know things aren’t OK without making a big deal of it. Maybe have a hair band round your wrist — black means you’re doing OK, a colored one means you’re struggling. Maybe have a code phrase. So you’re not making a huge issue but the people around you know you’re not great and can keep an eye out or support you where they can.

Everybody is different though, and you will probably know the warning signs that are specific to you. Or not. There’s nothing wrong with not knowing at all the signs that you’re getting bad again. Maybe for you, there’s no signs at all and it just happens. Sometimes, we may miss these symptoms. Any of those options don’t make you a failure or prove you’re coping better though and that is important to remember. Just because I can notice my warning signs and act to avoid breaking completely doesn’t mean I’m coping better than someone who feels they don’t ever know when they’re going to go downhill. Some days, I can’t stop myself from falling.

If you can find these warning signs, find patterns and find ways to divert your mood. Maybe it’s a sign you need to open up to someone. Maybe it’s a sign you need to be on medication or in therapy again.

If you are getting bad again, there is always someone you can talk to. Charities, family, friends, doctors… There is somebody there and there is nothing healthy about bottling things up until it all spills out. You could even write what you’d want to say down on paper to let it out. In the same way that we all have ways of knowing we’re slipping, we all have coping mechanisms.

Recently, I didn’t know how bad I was. I missed all my warning signs and now I’m back to square one for recovery. I’m really struggling, but I will get better. This is just a blip in recovery.

And that’s something I urge you to remember. Just because you get low or relapse again, it doesn’t mean you aren’t recovering. Setbacks are part of recovery. You haven’t failed. You’re doing OK.

I promise.

Photo by Kyle Gregory Devaras on Unsplash

Originally published: November 29, 2018
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