One thing that I have struggled with both historically, and currently is that recovery in mental health is not linear. We don’t get sick and then gradually recover until all is well again. If only it were that straightforward.
With the onset of an episode of depression we may find our mood gets lower and lower as time goes on, or it may be a sudden plummet to the depths of despair. Either way, the recovery is unlikely to be instantaneous, while the low can manifest within days or weeks, recovery will take months or years.
When I first saw my GP about my post-cancer depression, I remember she talked about baby steps. About how small gains in mood were ok and how just making that tiny bit of effort to do things to help myself was good. Each week she would see me and each week the message was the same, just keep taking baby steps, things will improve. Of course, as you will know if you’ve ever experienced true depression, it is incredibly hard to believe that. Each day seems the same, a relentless sea of thick fog with no glimmer of light. How can things get better? Nothing is changing. All I do is just going through the motions without enjoyment, without passion, without caring.
However, things do improve, little by little, until suddenly you realise that actually you do feel a bit better, a bit brighter, more motivated, more positive. And then it becomes easier to make the effort to keep on taking those baby steps, and in time the baby steps grow until you are once again walking through life in relative normality.
But then, something happens and your mood drops, maybe a little, maybe a lot and before you know it you are back at the start, once again working those baby steps, making small changes, getting through each day. This time with the knowledge that it won’t be forever, that things will get better. And each time you plummet, you build yourself back up. And each time the belief in recovery becomes more concrete.