When we have depression, especially when we’ve had depression for a long time, it can be hard to trust any improvements in our mood. Over a period of long term depression, happiness can essentially become unfamiliar to us, which leads to it feeling scary and unpredictable. We might not know how to cope with it, which is ironic because we long for it so much. I’ve put together some of the reasons that happiness can be hard to trust and some ideas for managing these feelings.
1) There is Comfort in the Familiar
As awful as depression can be, it can be comforting in some ways, because it’s familiar. Depression is a known and can feel almost predictable at times. As odd as it sounds, beginning to feel a sense happiness or lessening of the heaviness of depression can be unsettling, unfamiliar and overwhelming. It’s absolutely okay to feel scared and want to retreat back into depression… change is scary.
2) It Can Feel Like a Balancing Act
Feeling happiness can feel like balancing on a tightrope. When we have depression, we might become hypersensitive to any change in our mood, just waiting for things to go wrong again. This can lead to a self fulfilling prophecy occurring (when our own expectations lead to changes in behavior, bringing about the expectation). Recovery isn’t a linear process and we will have good and bad days. We might find that our bad days can feel a little more tricky than those of people without depression and fear can set in quickly when we experience an all too familiar state of mind.
It’s important to remember that it is okay if we’ve been getting better for a while and suddenly our recovery halts, or we begin to feel worse again. Keeping a sound foundation of self-care strategies and applying skills through both ups and downs is key to finding stability. Tracking moods can be helpful and there are many free phone apps that make this easier to do. It can be effective in allowing us to recognize when our mood is actually improving and may help in being able to trust the improved mood.
3) We Might Not Know Who We Are Without the Depression
Depression can creep into every part of our lives and it can begin to feel like it is almost part of our identity. Emerging from depression and beginning to feel happiness again can be confusing as we almost have to rediscover ourselves again.
4) We Want to Do Everything All at Once
We are tempted into doing lots of things the minute we begin to feel better because of the increase in energy or hopefulness. We doubt it will stay, so we may try to make the most of the improved mood while we have it. If we run head first into everything too quickly, it could become overwhelming and we could run out of steam very quickly, cueing a change in mood based on the belief that depression is ‘back’ when physical lethargy may be what we are experiencing. It can be healthier to spread the activities out and plan in some important down time.
5) It Can Be Hard to Plan
Once we feel a little better and can begin look towards the future again with hope, we are often unable to trust our mood enough plan things in the future. We might want to move forward with our career or relationships, but we don’t know whether our mood will dip again. Out of fear, we may choose to ‘wait and see’ leaving us consistently in a holding pattern, which can lead to depressed mood returning. It can be helpful to take some time to consider the things we’d like to achieve and the steps involved in getting us there, bringing in the support of those in our support system to plan contingencies if depressed mood returns.
6) The Support We Have Might Change
When we are depressed for a long period of time, we may get support from a variety of people. We might worry that once we begin to recover and feel happiness again, we could lose some our support. It can sometimes feel as though others see our mood improve before we do, and remove the support too quickly. At other times, we might be okay, but worry that if we begin to feel worse again the support we need might not be there any more.
7) We Might Not Feel We Deserve Happiness
Depression can rob us of our self-worth. It tells us that we don’t deserve to good things including happiness. Depression is lying to us...we absolutely deserve to feel the whole range of emotions. It’s our experiences in life and the ways we interpret them that lead to the belief that we are different from everyone else, but it can be important to remember we are simply fallible human beings deserving of all that life has to offer to us.
If you are struggling with depression (or you know someone that is and can benefit from the help of a professional), feel free to contact me at (717) 288-5064 / firstname.lastname@example.org and schedule an appointment today.