by Bonnie Hunter, Director of Talent & Innovation at North York Community House
I used to write a blog about depression; I did this for a few years and then I stopped. The reason I stopped was because I started to feel better, and I didn’t know how to write about that or even if I should. It’s taken me a long time to admit this to myself, but feeling better isn’t always easy.
I should say from the start, I am not – NOT – complaining about feeling better. I cannot tell you how good it is to not feel bad, especially after a long haul of bad. It’s just that, for most people with mental health issues, ‘feeling better’ is not a linear, permanent state. My intent here is just to highlight the complexities around ‘recovery’ for people who love, live and/or work with someone with depression, because if it’s confusing for us, I’m guessing it is for you too.
When I’ve been in a relapse or dark period and start to come out of it, I’ve learned the hard way to not celebrate too much too fast, or give in to the temptation to believe that I’m cured. It’s like taking the first tentative steps on a frozen lake – slowly, gently moving forward, one eye glancing behind in case the ice starts to crack. Feeling a mixture of fear and exhilaration and hope, it takes a while to trust that it will hold and not disappear beneath my feet. Sometimes it does and sometimes it doesn’t, which is maddening in its unpredictability. And sometimes the uncertainty is accompanied by irrational guilt, because while I’m feeling better I know others who aren’t, and I don’t want my better to make their bad worse.
On the other hand, I don’t want to live in a constant state of anticipating the next round of bad. When I start to feel more energetic and stable and happy, I want to do everything, go everywhere, see everyone, without focusing on the fact that I might not feel this way tomorrow. So it’s a bit of a balancing act – for me, it’s really about being grateful, ‘living in the moment’ to use an Oprah-esque but fitting cliché, and being realistic about (and preparing for) the future as best I can.
A few years ago, a friend of mine mentioned in conversation that this was probably a chronic condition that I’d have to manage for the rest of my life. To be honest, it hadn’t occurred to me at that point, so even though it wasn’t meant to be hurtful, her comment hit me hard. But once I got past the shock and accepted that truth, it helped to start seeing this as a marathon instead of a sprint. I can now recognize patterns and know that, even though the good days might not last forever, neither will the bad ones.
So forgive me, and please be patient if I tell you in a hushed and somewhat hesitant voice that I’m starting to feel better. It’s not that I don’t want to enjoy those moments fully and freely, I just need to feel like the ice will hold before I start skating.
If you or someone you know is in distress right now, call 911, or contact Toronto’s 24-hour crisis support line at 416 408-4357.
For more information on mental illness and available support services, visit:
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