After I went through my depression and got to “the other side” (after about nine months, in my case) I began hearing folks say that once you’ve experienced deep depression you should be aware that it will continue to visit you periodically the rest of your life.
I don’t know if all mental health clinicians would agree with that, but I have found it to be true.
I suppose all it might really mean is that since you already have a tendency to melancholy you retain that tendency and henceforward combine with it the past experience, and FEAR, of another deep depression.
In any event . . . that has been my experience. Perhaps it is yours, too.
And so, my suggestion is simply this: be on the lookout for depression to raise its ugly head from time to time.
I think if I had been Ebenezer Scrooge (in the Dickens classic, A Christmas Carol), and I had been “visited” by three spirits – I would thereafter have been wary each night as I went to bed; never sure whether or not this night might be the night I get “visited” again.
Depression can be like that. But . . . it doesn’t have to be.
When I was a young boy I used to dream a great deal; mostly nightmares. Sometimes I dreamed there were ghosts at the foot of my bed. I would call out for my mother while I hid my eyes beneath my covers. She would come in to check on me, and then everything would be all right. Until the next time, that is.
I became so accustomed to mother coming in to comfort me that one night I saw her image walking up to the side of my bed, and then . . . two seconds later my mother really did walk up to the side of my bed, following the same steps as the image I had seen, and then the two became one image. Yikes!
One night, I vividly recall I had had it with all these ghosts and terrors. I decided when I went to bed that night that if I was awakened and frightened by another ghost I would not call mother; rather, I would close my eyes (you have to take some precautions, after all), raise up to a sitting position in my bed, and wave my hands furiously in the area where the visiting specter stood.
It happened that very night. And although fearful, I did exactly as I had planned.
I never had any more visits from ghosts.
Now, I am not saying that depression is an easy target, or that its eradication is a piece of cake. By no means.
But what I am suggesting is this:
(1) Have a plan of action in case it returns to “visit” you.
(2) Follow that plan explicitly even if you are fearful or unsure of yourself.
(3) Expect it to return.
What might that plan entail?
Well, I’m sure it’s different for each person, but I find it helpful to use some of the same tools that “delivered” me from its grasp the first time around:
(1) Journal about my feelings, and the situation I am currently in (this is a hard one for me every time).
(2) Read literature that refreshes my mind, and gives me hope and clarity.
(3) Spend some alone time in a quiet and beautiful place I love.
(4) Spend some time with a trusted friend.
Depression is definitely The Bogeyman. But it is not all-powerful.
And if I expect it to visit me from time to time, and have a plan when that visit occurs, it can be a time of refocusing and rejuvenation rather than a portent of doom.
Maybe, like Scrooge, I can emerge from each “visit” with a joyful spirit, and expectation of greater things to come.