Mental Health Recovery Is Never a Straight Line


When things go wrong with our physical health, we feel fairly certain that we know what to do and how to do it (rest, ice, medication, surgery, etc.), and fairly often this process is straight forward. Unfortunately, mental health isn’t so straightforward, and even more frustrating, recovery is hardly ever linear either and we don’t experience feeling better in a nice, neat, straight line. What are some of the reasons for this inexact progress?

Life Events Can be Unpredictable.

Life is mostly inconsistent and so many different factors add to the chaotic nature of our daily lives. No matter how much we try to convince ourselves otherwise, there’s only so much that we can control. Our mental health can take a hit from the things that occur internally for us (thoughts, feelings, physical sensations), but also the things that happen externally in our outer experience. Often, our outer experience brings up certain negative thoughts and emotions, while our thoughts and emotions lead to a change in perspective about what events are happening in our lives.

Recovery Can Be Frustrating.

When we are struggling with mental health issues, lows can feel extraordinarily painful and crushing. We work so hard to move toward the life we want to live, towards good health and piece of mind, and those setbacks can really impact our hope and confidence negatively. We might find ourselves in a cycle of thought such as ‘I’ve tried so hard and things are still going backwards so everything is hopeless and I’ll never get better so there’s no point in trying any more’. It can be very easy to get into this cycle and very hard to get out of it again. Hitting a rough patch of events doesn’t mean that everything is hopeless and it certainly doesn’t mean that all of our hard work is for nothing, but we can be fooled into believing it when this is a persistent thought.

Mental Health Is Continually Changing.

We’re predisposed to measuring how depressed or anxious we are, and how this compares to some date in the past or how it compares to where we would like to be. This comparison and measuring is a very natural behavior, but if it isn’t done constructively, as in keeping a log or journal, it can lead to longing for rapid change when change is generally step-wise when it comes to mental health.

Not Understanding Our Stressors.

It often seems like there’s no logical reason for our mental health deteriorating, but there’s likely something, however small that has affected how we feel or triggered a reflexive thought (habits, boundaries being broken, lack of support, etc). Therapy can help with identifying what our triggers are and learn how to make sense of them, then how to handle them differently. The more knowledgeable we are about our stressors, the more prepared we are to make decisions which benefit us and are workable into the life we want to live.

Discounting Or Ignoring Our Progress and Changes.

We tend to get caught on a rollercoaster of ups and downs as we go through days and weeks and become hopeful and dejected based on the state of our mental health. We often lose sight of the fact that, despite the ups and downs, over the course of time, we are continuing to improve. Think of it in the way that looking at the stock market for a day, there are continuous ups and downs, but when you pull back and see the market over a longer period of time, the general direction is growth.

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Blaming Ourselves For Regression.

Sometimes we use our mental health as a way to beat ourselves up, which only leads to more difficulty in staying the course with skills and new behaviors. We didn’t choose to have depression in the same way that we don’t choose to have a stomach flu. When we punish ourselves for how we feel, it makes us feel worse and starts yet another cycle and a likely spiral downward in mood.

Difficulty Accepting Emotion and Discomfort.

Not being okay can be hard to cope with, and so desperately want to be okay, but it is okay to have discomfort and still do the things in life that are important to us. We often avoid discomfort through easy and quick distractions or escape activities, which leads us to never truly know how resilient we are and how well we can actually live with discomfort until it naturally leaves us. We don’t believe that it is possible to live a full and vital life in the presence of sadness and anxiety, so we wait to begin living until they go away. The problem is that they don’t go away because emotions of all kinds are a part of the human experience. Focusing on them and attempting to resist them leads to them staying around and turning into depression and chronic anxiety.

If you would like assistance in your journey through mental health recovery, consider contacting me at (717) 288-5064 / and schedule an appointment today.

Depression: Why We Struggle to Trust Moments Of Happiness


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 / and schedule an appointment today.