I often wonder if my efforts to keep myself mentally healthy are doing any good. I have long-term depression, and trying to recover from a depressive episode can sometimes feel hopeless.
Progress is painstakingly slow; almost imperceptible. Every day feels almost the same. Most of the time there is no huge awakening or dramatic feeling of being “better.”
I wake up every day and try. I do what I am “supposed” to do. I take my depression meds, I go to therapy, and I try to incorporate self-care. It feels like I am just going through the motions.
I want to see immediate results, but through experience, I’ve learned my mental health usually improves one tiny bit at a time.
There is no shortcut with depression.
I keep putting one foot in front of the other, and I allow time for my treatment methods to work. I don’t see the strength that is slowly developing underneath the surface.
Then one day I notice it. I feel just a twinge more confident. I have a tad more energy. And in tiny flashes here and there, I am beginning to feel hope and joy. I am beginning to rise.
The colors feel a little bit brighter. The sounds feel more calming. The scents are sweeter. The tastes are a bit brighter. The world seems like it is waking up to me again.
I can do a little more today. I can think a little more clearly. And I feel more purpose in my soul.
I can see a light at the end of the tunnel rather than just nothingness.
I’m getting a little bit stronger.
I am starting to believe that things can get better, rather than just having a faint hope that they might.
I know I am stronger, but I’m still afraid.
I’m afraid of the damage that this disease can cause year after year in cycles. I know that this won’t be my last depressive episode. I simultaneously savor every moment I’m experiencing right now and dread when the other shoe may drop.
That’s not me being pessimistic about the future, just realistic. I know myself and how my body and brain react over time.
But I know that I am stronger despite the fact that I keep getting knocked down again and again by depression.
Just like the trees that face extreme winds on the plains, the roots grow deep. You may not see much on the surface of these trees, but they grow stronger with every wind that presses against their bark and tries to break them.
The fact that I’m still standing is evidence of that strength. During a crisis, we are often forced to slow down and focus on only the essential tasks of surviving each day. That may look weak to someone on the outside looking in, but to me, it is the ultimate example of strength: knowing when to sacrifice the extras to protect yourself.
So the next time you are struggling and feeling like things can never get better, look around and acknowledge all that you have endured.
Be inspired by your own resiliency.
Because you are still standing, just like those trees with deep roots on the plains.