Depression Recovery:  How Long is Too Long? 

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When I started this blog last summer, one of my goals was to share what I had learned in my 20+ years of depression so that others could recover faster than I did. I don’t actually know how long it should take.  No one does but that doesn’t stop me from thinking that I should have recovered faster.

In the last few weeks though I’ve wondered if it’s even possible to help someone recover faster.

5883100780_c79c14b43bPhoto Credit: Key Foster via Compfight cc

So while I debated whether my blog had any value, my mind raced ahead to whether life has any value.  I’ve been reading how others resolve their existential crisis – Viktor Frankl (Man’s Search for Meaning) and Leo Tolstoy in particular.  Tolstoy sunk into depression as he came to realize life had no meaning.

As I read this book summary of Tolstoy’s quest to find meaning in a meaningless world, I thought that perhaps part of the reason depression recovery can take so long is that, for many of us, it requires recovery  on mental, physical and spiritual levels.  Spirituality for me just means feeling connected to something larger than yourself and which gives you a sense of meaning.

Depression sounds like such a simple problem at first.  We hear so much about success rates of treatment, it’s easy to think that if you go get treatment, you’ll be cured.  Instead for so many people, recovery is complicated and drags on for years.  So a few thoughts I hope will help…

It’s hard to know what wellness feels like.

Wellness and depression aren’t two clear cut and distinct categories. You don’t suddenly cross a clear line back into wellness.  Even if you did, you probably wouldn’t recognize it.

Are you well if you’re in maintenance mode?  Are you well if the risk of relapse still hangs over your head?  How do you know if you no longer have thought distortions?  How much rumination is too much?

I don’t actually know how long my recovery took because there were times I thought I was recovered but I wasn`t, and times when I was blissfully well and then I relapsed only to emerge even more blissfully well at some point.

Having expectations of recovery probably isn’t helping you.

Do you ever really get to decide a timeline for wellness from any illness?  Why have you set expectations for yourself?  Are you trying to motivate yourself?  I suspect you aren’t finding them motivating and instead are using your failure to meet these arbitrary expectations as one more thing to be depressed about.

I also had expectations that I needed to know the root cause of my depression in order to make headway.  Nope.  I had expectations of how much the drugs would do.  How much therapy would do.  I was always wrong.  I also didn’t expect how much I would gain from meditation, exercise, Buddhism and literature.

Try not to have any expectations about what recovery requires and how it happens and just head on out on the journey with whatever feels right.

Some things just aren’t goals.

Happiness.  Success.  Money.  Recovery.  These happen as a byproduct of other goals.  Making these your goals only makes them more elusive.

Go with the flow.  Don’t be so hard on yourself.  Nature unfolds however it wants.

Set goals you have control over so that you have action to balance out all the thinking.  Aim for small wins – things you can see.  Watch for them.  Are you learning about yourself along the way?  Then you`re making progress.

What have you learned about recovery?


Me July 2013

About the Author
Michele Longo
I promote peer support and encourage people on their recovery journeys. My plan with this blog is to build a community of like-minded individuals offering ideas and encouragement from their own experiences. My master plan is to help create psychologically safe and supportive workplaces. I live in Calgary, Canada.

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2 thoughts on “Depression Recovery:  How Long is Too Long? 

  1. Kate
    June 4, 2014 at 7:18 pm

    Thank you. I often berate myself for not getting better fast enough. I also worry if I will even recognize what “better” feels like.

    1. Michele
      June 4, 2014 at 7:51 pm

      Thank you to you too for your comment!! Go easy on yourself.

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