Tips To Recover Faster from Depression

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When I started this blog last summer, I believed you could recover faster if you had a connection with someone who’s been there done that.  Now I’m not so sure.  And that’s why you haven’t heard from me in awhile.

I’ve come to think that the value of a connection with a peer is much more about validation and support rather than knowledge sharing.  So I’ve been considering whether to keep blogging.

I did think about what knowledge I have to share about recovering faster.  Turns out it’s the same knowledge I gained when I needed to lose 45 lbs.  That weight loss and my depression recovery happened at about the same time – likely not a coincidence.

Here’s what I learned, more so from my decade of failed attempts, than from my eventual success:

Getting informed will save you from wasting time.

Depression isn’t about being happier.  Weight loss isn’t simply about calories in/calories out.

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Photo Credit: gtall1 via Compfight cc

I wasted time focusing on the wrong things.  With depression, I didn’t understand the role of doctors, drugs or therapy.  I didn’t get how much of an impact sleeping, eating right and exercising would have.  I didn’t even know that isolation and irritability are symptoms of depression.  I didn’t know what I didn’t know.

You’ve only got so much energy, learn where to focus it.

Having reasonable expectations will keep you from giving up.

People overestimate what they can accomplish in a given timeframe with depression and weight loss.  Having expectations only sets you up to beat yourself up when you fail.

Have hope.  Have goals.  Don’t have expectations.

If you know you’re doing the right things (see my last point), trust that it will unfold in its own time.

Feel a sense of urgency.

Getting comfortable with status quo is a danger.  For me, change only happens when I make it non-negotiable.  Be in a hurry to get what you want.  Daily small persistence is better than inconsistent grand overtures.

Love for yourself will motivate you more effectively than hate or intimidation.

People often try to scare or intimidate themselves into making a change.  They set dates, make commitments, berate themselves.  I know, I did it too.  These kind of tactics are super at getting yourself to initiate a change.  That’s it.  They can’t help you with fully making a change.

You deserve to be healthy and at peace in your mind.  These kind of positive thoughts will keep you motivated over the long term.

Managing fear is part of the process of changing into someone else.

I had been depressed for so long that I couldn’t picture who I’d be once I’d recovered.  Same goes for being overweight.

You might think heading to a normal weight and a ‘normal’ mind wouldn’t be anything to fear.  Turns out, there’s fear anytime you head out of a comfort zone.  Be aware of it because it might be holding you back.  It tripped me up a few times before I learned to recognize and deal with it.

Look forward to the journey, not just the destination.

If you think you have to put up with a lot of misery to get to your destination, you’re doomed.  It’s not about will power to power through the hardship of change.  It’s about reframing that hardship to be something you actually want in and of itself.

If you don’t look forward to the journey as much as the destination, you will feel sorry for yourself as you try to change.  You’ll question if it’s worth it.  And it won’t be.

What have you learned along the way?

 

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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7 thoughts on “Tips To Recover Faster from Depression

  1. Tracy
    June 26, 2014 at 9:24 pm

    Hi Michele

    I would be disappointed if you stopped blogging, I get a lot from what you write here. When I struggle, I withdraw, I don’t reach out. But I still come here to read and ‘normalize’ what I’m feeling.

    I agree that a big part of the “value of a connection with a peer is much more about validation and support” but I think an extension of that IS knowledge sharing and can lead to a somewhat quicker recovery because it is immensely helpful to know that someone else has felt/done things you’ve felt/done and you’re not ‘crazy’ or a ‘freak’. I don’t know for sure but I’m willing to bet most people struggling with depression or other MH issues have used those labels on themselves.

    I remember my first group therapy when another woman shared what I thought was an obscure OCD habit that only I had. It shocked me to know that someone else did the EXACT same thing I did. And I thought if I found this one person in this group of eight people that does what I do, chances are there are a lot more people that do it. It stopped me from personalizing that specific habit and, in my opinion, halting a negative thought like that is part of recovery. And when I did the peer led sessions, countless times when we’d be talking we’d find similarities in things we thought only we suffered with.

    When I say ‘I struggle’, every day is a struggle, I spend a huge chunk of my time controlling, rationalizing, prioritizing my thoughts. It’s like herding cats. And it’s exhausting. Even on a good day I know I am one stray, unmanageable thought away from thoughts of suicide again. And I always think, if only I could call someone right now that just ‘gets’ this, “someone who’s been there done that”, they’d be able to help me make sense of this quicker than I can do it by myself. And not only will that person have helped me with rationalizing something, they’ve also helped me prevent total withdrawal and isolation.

    Honestly, I’d feel more comfortable talking about my depression and thoughts with a room full of people that are struggling with depression than I am with the thought of trying to talk to my own husband or family members. Not because I don’t think my husband or family will be supportive, but they honestly don’t know what to say or do. And the knowing, nodding understanding I’ve gotten talking about suicide with other people who have felt suicidal versus the look of fear and panic I’ve gotten from loved ones – clearly one is more of a relief to me than the other.

    I think you’ve been incredibly brave to share the things that you have on here. I’m not going to try to talk you into not giving it up, I couldn’t do it. One negative comment and I’d be down the rabbit hole with the darkness and the bad thoughts. I just want you to know that you HAVE been heard, you HAVE been helpful, you HAVE been the ‘voice’ I’ve needed at times to straighten out a thought. You HAVE been a tool in my ongoing recovery.

    I thank you sincerely and I wish you well, whatever you decide to do with your blog.

    1. Michele
      June 27, 2014 at 3:41 pm

      Hi Tracy, I so appreciated everything you said and it blows me away that you took the time to write me as much as you did. I know what you mean about finding someone who has the same symptoms and thoughts. I still feel a little rush when I’m talking with someone on the crisis line who says the kinds of things I used to say. It’s weird to know that something so private as depression is shared by so many.

      Oh and I’m with you on preferring to talk to a room of strangers who get it vs. family or friends. There is nothing more isolating or frustrating than trying to talk to people who don’t get it.

      As for my blog, last night and today I had two more future posts pop into my mind so I’ll just keep writing. This had stopped the past few weeks and I just didn’t feel like I had anything to say anymore. I actually felt a bit depressed this week. I recognized the old thinking. I’m not meeting my impossible expectations (this time with my blog) and so why bother when I’m not really making a difference. And then that all escalated until I started to think I needed to do something fast to shut down my line of thinking before I lost all control of it. Anyhow, this is what recovery is. Thanks for being there for me!!!!

  2. Thomas MacLean
    June 26, 2014 at 9:28 pm

    Hi Michele – I struggled with bipolar most of my life, from age 20 until I began taking the anti-depressant Effexor at age 40. So for a good 20 years I just struggled along as best I could when I was depressed & enjoyed the highs when they came, which actually made it harder for me to seek help because once I came out of a depression & felt so much better about myself, I wasn’t very motivated to look a little deeper at myself to figure out why I was getting depressed. I was just glad it was over. Until the next time. Once I started on my medication, I didn’t have the extreme highs & lows & I felt more normal & could cope much better. 15 years later and I am still encountering occasional bouts of depression, but in the past year I have connected with Al-Anon & have discovered that a lot of my depression has to do with growing up in an alcoholic family & the coping strategies I developed as a child that have carried over into adulthood and not all of them healthy or helpful. I am finding the Al-Anon 12-step program & information to be very helpful to me. It may not work for everyone & you have to be able to relate to addiction in your family of origin to some extent & be at a point in one’s life where you are willing to accept & follow the 12 step program, but for me it seems to be helping a lot to change some of my behaviours & thought processes that seem to lead to depression. It is something relatively new to me, but I am engaged in the process and am willing to do the work in a way that I have not been willing to do before.

    Anyhow, my thoughts may not be particularly related to your blog this month, but I appreciate the space & opportunity to share my thoughts. I enjoy your blogs & I would miss them if you do decide to discontinue writing & sharing your ideas & reflections, but I can certainly understand if you choose to stop doing it. And I’m pretty sure that life will continue on for the millions of your followers if you have to discontinue. Well maybe hundreds or perhaps thousands of followers, then!! LOL

    1. Michele
      June 27, 2014 at 3:46 pm

      Thank you Thomas. Always happy to hear from you! I’ve heard really good things about Al-Anon for family members of alcoholics. It’s wonderful when you can find something that fits your needs. It’s not so easy with everything that’s out there.

      Oh it’s not hundreds or thousands of followers but that’s OK with me. I’ve always been more about quality relationships than quantity. I know the kind of work I’d have to do to build up that following and I just don’t feel like it. I’m still trying to figure out where to head with my blog. I feel a need for change but I don’t know what.

  3. Betsy
    June 27, 2014 at 8:58 am

    Hello Michele,
    One of the things that has helped me the most through my major depressive episodes is knowing that others have been there and recovered. Your blog has been a part of my recovery and I always look forward to your messages. You are making a difference!

  4. Michele
    June 27, 2014 at 3:49 pm

    Betsy, what a lovely thing to say. It really means so much to me that people take time to let me know I make a difference. Writing is a very lonely thing so it’s encouraging to know when I’ve made a connection.

  5. August 12, 2014 at 9:24 am

    I just found you through John-Folks Williams newsletter. Please don’t stop talking via blogging. Sometimes it’s easier to take in the written word and focus on it than in a peer group setting where you forget what you heard five minutes before.

    I’m in a very dark place and it’s so good to know that it’s possible to get through it. For me, I feel like I wear a mask most of the time because of a young child. My only relief is at night, in the dark, when I can relax my face and cry or whatever.

    Thank you, I look forward to finding encouragement. BTW, I’m a writer as well, and for me it suits my isolated nature the best.

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