Now I am the other side of my depression, I have perspective and can see that it was much better for me to push through and try and reach happiness.
However, at the time depression was definitely much easier than recovery. Depression was like a damaging friend that I knew well, and that I could handle. I could allow myself to stay in bed all day, crying or sleeping. I could allow myself to take a few days off placement and just accept that my mental health wasn't good. I knew the feeling of depression and how my body naturally responded to it. Recovery seemed like an unknown stranger that I was frightened to get to know. I had to make myself get out of bed. I had to make myself get dressed and go into placement. I really just had to try, and that was hard. Sometimes, staying depressed seemed like the easiest way - especially when I felt like I would never come out the other side anyway. What was the point in trying to recover if I could never be happy? Sometimes I just wanted to give up and give in to the darkness.
Thankfully, I did push through. But there were times during my recovery when I wished I wasn't even bothering. There were times that I would feel the smallest spark of happiness, and then feel guilty for it because I thought I deserved to be depressed. I believed that I didn't deserve happiness. And that would make it really easy to let the negative thoughts to take over, and for me to become low in mood once again. My mood would constantly fluctuate up and down, because every time I felt happy I would instantly try and shut it down.
I think that's possibly why recovery from a mental illness takes so long, and is so difficult. The sufferer has to accept that it is okay for them to feel happy again; a good thing, even. I didn't believe that I was deserving of happiness for such a long time, so that's one of the reasons that I kept relapsing. I would give in to the darkness again, because it was easier than feeling guilty for being happy.
Now I understand that I do deserve happiness in my life, and I don't ever really feel guilty for being happy. I don't question it anymore. I know that I feel happiness much more acutely because of the depression that I went through, but I see that as something to celebrate. I am more aware of my happiness and I think I appreciate it much more because of that. But it took a lot of therapy and self-awareness to get to this stage, and I really do understand why people struggle so much.
So next time you don't understand why someone is taking so long to recover from their mental illness, take a minute to think about what may be going on in their head. The likelihood is that there's an internal battle between depressive thoughts and happy thoughts, and also a lot of guilt mixed in. Just stop and ask them to explain it to you, and you may help them a lot more than you realise, as they can sort through exactly how they are feeling.
The most precious gift we can give anyone is our attention. When mindfulness embraces those we love, they will bloom like flowers.
- Thich Nhat Hanh