Recovering from depression can be a long and tiresome journey. If symptoms have been severe, the risk of it recurring is high. The fear and anticipation of relapse is something we might learn to live with but, when it hits, it can feel more disappointing and devastating than the original episode.
The risk of recurrent depression is extraordinary high. Figures I came across suggest that one episode can carry a 50% risk of relapse. Two episodes jumps to a 70% risk and three becomes a staggering 90% risk of recurrence.
We all know that one of the worst things to do is isolate ourselves. It is never conducive to ruminate. This is incredibly difficult if you strive for that isolation. My own preference for isolation has culminated in debilitating Agoraphobia.
Having a prevention plan is important, which should include a treatment of meds, therapy and on-going support. I count my blessings for having a good Psychiatrist and Care Coordinator. I’m also due to start a 6 weeks Mindfulness course in 2 weeks’ time and my two year Mentalization Based Therapy is due to start in the autumn. After 8-10 years of complete isolation, this is an enormous change. However, the prospect of such big changes does feel terrifying.
I am on mood stabilisers (400mg Quetiapine). They have been the best medication for assisting me out the deepest recesses of depression and maintaining my mood on a reasonable level (until now) However, I reduced my antidepressants several months ago to the lowest dose, ever. Maybe not such a good idea.
Then we come to the possible triggers of a relapse – “Be aware of our triggers”. These can vary for each individual, but it is imperative to recognise exactly what situations acts as a trigger to our depression. We might not be able to avoid every situation, but we could learn to limit the devastating effect they can have on our mental wellbeing.
Personally, I don’t mind triggers. Coming across a post with a “trigger warning” would never stop me from reading. I find blogging an incredibly triggering experience, but I would not consider it as being a negative influence. Often, another person’s experiences can trigger, but they will also enlighten and contribute to our ultimate healing.
Lately, I have been delving into areas of childhood that have been too traumatising to explore in the past. This is probably the most triggering of them all, but I feel it is necessary if I am to heal. Those childhood experiences were humiliating, degrading and demoralising. Unfortunately, the memories carry the same painful emotions today. They hammer defences and make me more vulnerable to depression.
Sometimes, as hard as we try, we will be unable to avoid a relapse of depression (or any other MH disorder). The early signs and symptoms are full of frustration, even dismay. If we are lucky, the episode is mild and we manage to work through it. At other times, it becomes major and debilitating. Our perception of life suddenly changes and nothing seems to go right. Whatever the ultimate level of our depression, the impending dread and fear can feel overwhelming.
I’ve searched the web for some encouraging words to end this post. The fact is, there are many but none of them brings me any comfort as I grapple with my own fear of relapse. In the past, I would have given up and allowed it to engulf my senses. Today, I might not be able to focus on a future, but my direction is pointing forwards.