Learning to Embrace Bad Days in Depression Recovery
I have been lying. I have spent the last six months writing this blog about the importance of letting go of shame and talking openly about the realities of living with depression, yet recently in my private life, I have forgotten to practice what I preach. I have become too invested in the idea of myself as someone who has "recovered" and stopped acknowledging my bad days. This is both insincere and unhealthy. Bad days will happen, and learning how to deal with them is a vital part of depression recovery.
Failing to Acknowledge Bad Days Can Make Depression Worse
Last week was difficult. The reality of daily life with a newborn and a toddler amid a global pandemic really started to weigh on me, and I could feel my mood dipping. And yet, when asked how I was doing, I said I was fine. I was so scared that people would assume I had relapsed into depression and couldn't cope with two children that I refused to acknowledge the red flags: the short temper, the feelings of failure, the exhaustion, and the cloudy thinking.
Fortunately, after a week of lying to myself about how I was feeling, I realized what I was doing. I forced myself to remember that there is a huge expanse between a "bad day" and a full relapse and that a bad day can actually play a very important role in recovery by allowing you to take stock of things and consider why you are having a bad day, what needs to change, or what you need to work on.
My experience with mental illness is not a story with a beginning, middle and end. I did not slay the beast of depression, then head off into the sunset to live happily ever after. And pretending that I did does a disservice to anyone who reads this blog and believes that recovery is linear. I need to stop talking about my battle with depression in the past tense because while I may never again sink to the depths I did during my breakdown, the legacy of those days will follow me for the rest of my life, and there will be days where just getting out of bed is a struggle.
Acknowledging Bad Days Can Help Your Recovery
Whenever I am struggling to accept an element of my mental illness, I try to frame it in terms of physical health. In this case, I realized that I need to stop thinking of my depression like chickenpox — something you get once and then become immune to — and more like the cold sore virus — something that lies dormant beneath the surface and rears its ugly head once in a while when we are feeling run down or exhausted.
This might sound like nihilism, but it is actually a very helpful way of thinking about it. I have suffered from cold sores my whole life. As a child, I would scratch and burst the blisters, causing a huge outbreak that would spread all over my face and take weeks to fade. At 30, I am so familiar with that ominous tingle on the lip that I can whip out the tea tree oil and Zovirax and be blemish-free by the next day. It's the same with depression: the more you learn to acknowledge and embrace the bad days, the more equipped you will be to tackle them effectively before they cause an outbreak of depression.
So, my challenge to you (and myself) is this: the next time you feel your mood slipping, don't hide behind the fiction of recovery. Acknowledge it and talk about it. You do not have to be a paragon of wellness all the time. Bad days will happen. They are supposed to happen. What matters is how you deal with them.
Lear, J. (2021, March 18). Learning to Embrace Bad Days in Depression Recovery, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2021, July 24 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/copingwithdepression/2021/3/learning-to-embrace-bad-days-in-depression-recovery