Depression is one of the most common mental illnesses. In fact, depression affects approximately 16 million American adults each year. There are common symptoms that accompany depression such as loss of pleasure in activities, difficulty concentrating, persistent sadness/ low mood, sleeping too much or too little, changes in appetite, irritability/ restlessness, loss of energy, feeling guilty, hopelessness, or worthlessness, or recurrent thoughts of death or suicide. These symptoms can lead to a change in your daily life and your environment. For example, because of having low energy, doing dishes may seem not only overwhelming but physically exhausting to you. Or getting up to shower may feel like another chore that is difficult. When I was dealing with depression, answering the phone for my loved ones felt like a chore that was daunting. These experiences are 1) valid 2) forms of surviving and doing the minimum to get through the depression symptoms. The aftermath of these depression symptoms may be easily overlooked or under-discussed. This blog post aims to discuss the aftermath of a depressive episode.
I’ve had a depressive episode: Now what?
During a depressive episode, it can feel like you are in a storm. You are in the midst of feeling disconnected, down, and unmotivated. Once the symptoms begin to subside, you can start to feel yourself again. The best way I can describe what it feels like to be out of a depressive episode is like walking through a cloud of fog to the other side of clarity. Suddenly you realize just how much your symptoms impacted you, your surroundings, and your loved ones. This can produce an overwhelming feeling. What can you do to help reduce that feeling?
Self-Care in Small Steps
First, remember to give yourself compassion and grace. Your mind and body just went through distressing symptoms. It is okay to take your time with recovering from a depressive episode. I have found myself thinking, “I need to get my life back together.” While there are good intentions, this statement adds a lot of pressure and expectations for a speedy recovery. Instead, allowing yourself to engage in self-care in small steps may be more effective. This can look like eating a healthy meal or going to bed early to get enough rest. Self-care does not always have to be “glamorous” or be face masks, etc.
Reach Out to Loved Ones
If you have found yourself feeling disconnected from your friends, family, and loved ones, then reaching out in small steps may be restorative for you. If this is overwhelming or daunting, then you can limit yourself to talking to a certain amount of people per day. This amount can vary from person to person. For example, if you usually find joy in conversations and from people, you may find that talking to 3-4 people may be restorative. However, for more introverted people, talking to 1-2 people may be just enough. Keep your personality preferences in mind as you consider what your unique limits are and hold yourself to those boundaries.
If your environment was impacted by your depressive episode, then you may also feel overwhelmed with where to begin. Start with small, attainable goals for yourself. It may be helpful to start with one room in your home instead of focusing on multiple areas simultaneously. When focusing on one area, you can then focus on a sub-area of that location (i.e., your closet, your bed, etc.) While cleaning, try to do something else that you enjoy. Perhaps listening to your favorite music on blast may be therapeutic. Or call a friend and catch up. Maybe watching your favorite Netflix show in the background could be helpful too. Or treating yourself to chocolate after finishing a task may be an incentive for you. By doing these steps, you can start to recover from your depressive episode without feeling overwhelmed.
Recovering from the depression symptoms that you experience may feel extremely overwhelming. First off, you are not alone in this. There is nothing wrong with giving yourself compassion and meeting your body and your mind where you are at. When it feels overwhelming, reach out to your support systems. Try to take small steps towards your recovery and try to not overwhelm yourself. Remember, you are not alone.