When I have a cold, it’s obvious I’m sick. And when it goes away, it’s obvious it’s gone.
When I have depression, it’s not obvious to anyone – even me. And when it goes away, how am I going to know?
It was clear as a summer’s day when my depression hit rock bottom. I was fatigued, despondent, without hope, alienated, withdrawn, fragile, anxious, starving myself, self-harming and lacking self-care. I am not in that place any more, something for which I am eternally grateful.
But it is a long road from rock bottom to fully recovered. I don’t know what fully recovered looks like and I actually have no idea how far I’ve travelled down the road.
Some days I still feel fatigue – not as much as I used to, but still more than I should.
I have occasional days of feeling despondent and hopeless, but it is no longer relentless and perpetual.
I don’t feel alienated and withdrawn. I reached out and continue to do so. I am writing, talking and sharing as much as I can. Even when I can’t bear to do it.
I still feel incredibly fragile and anxious. The slightest error or conflict and I’m panicking, teary and wanting to run away, hide under a rock and never emerge. I don’t like being so precious – I want to feel more resilient and emotionally stronger.
I have stopped starving myself – everyone else seems very happy about this. I am now binging and purging instead. I don’t think anyone is happy about that – myself included.
My self-harm is very rare and my self-care is pretty jolly good.
So at what point can I say I’m no longer depressed? When am I recovered from depression? Is it when I stop medication and feel no different? Is it when I no longer experience anxiety? When I feel stronger? If I overcome my eating disorder? How do I tell?
Perpetual happiness is as unnatural as perpetual sadness. Relentless energy is as unnatural as relentless fatigue. Yet somewhere there is a middle ground of healthy and balanced. And it is that midway point I would like to find.
Recovery – as everyone keeps mentioning – is not linear. It’s a shame. But it’s true.