People often ask, ‘how do I know if I am recovering from depression?’ While there is no definitive version of recovery, and everyone is different, it may help to look at some examples of what recovery looks like.
THERE IS NO ONE PATTERN OF RECOVERY
Firstly, however your mind and body choose to recover is unique to you. There is no one way to do it. Some people recover slowly, and some recover quickly. For some it is a smooth path, and for some it’s a case of ‘two steps forward, one step back’.
OFTEN, YOU WON’T REALISE UNTIL LATER
Recovery is not always evident to the person recovering. You may still feel very wobbly, dissociated, or weak. If you look closely, you may realise that you are stronger, or more resilient, or more active, than a few months ago. Sometimes it may take someone else to comment that you are talking more confidently, or are smiling more.
YOU WILL COPE WITH DIFFERENCES OF OPINION
When self-esteem recovers, it is easier to express a view without fear. This makes a person better able to handle mild conflict without collapsing. You are likely to notice that you can speak out your view in a relaxed manner, and cope better with negative feedback. What once seemed the end of the world, will now seem much more manageable.
YOU WILL BE ABLE TO MULTITASK
One common feature of depression is the inability to do very much at once. Your executive functions are disabled, and therefore you can’t plan and coordinate your activities so easily. When recovering, you will start to juggle more different activities in a day. You need to watch you don’t take on too much, but a gradual increase in variety of activity is characteristic of recovery.
YOU WILL BE ABLE TO ENJOY FILMS AND ART
When depressed, art, literature and entertainment can become inaccessible in terms of pleasure. There is so little resource that it can be painful to do almost anything. When recovering, you will begin to catch yourself enjoying the occasional moment of watching TV, or reading. You may still come back to depression, but your mind will begin to clear time to enjoy, albeit briefly, leisure and reflection.
YOU WILL BE MORE CONSIDERATE
One little-talked-about feature of depression is that it is supremely self-focused. When depressed, you may have been unable to hear other people’s stories, or help them with any energy. As you recover, you may find yourself getting more engaged in helpful activities, and listening to the stories of others. This is a sign that your mind is recovering, and that you are freeing up resources to attend to others.
YOU WILL BE ABLE TO FOCUS
Attention is a key part of the human mind. As you recover, you will be able to give people and activities your sustained attention. In particular, you will notice that you don’t get so tired. Most depressed people find engagement and communication exhausting. As you recover, you will find it slightly easier to attend to, and complete, conversations and tasks.
YOU WILL BECOME MORE FEARLESS, AND MORE HOPEFUL
Finally, you will begin to drop the fear and despair that has been surrounding all you do. This in turn will give your mind room to hope for better outcomes, instead of assuming everything will go wrong. This can start with small things (believing a trip to the shops will turn out OK), and shift to greater things (believing a holiday or job will go all right).
There is no one way of recovering from depression. But some common symptoms of recovery are:
- coping better with differences and conflict
- being able to multitask, and flow between tasks, more easily
- being better able to enjoy entertainment and art
- being more considerate and thoughtful towards others
- being better able to focus
- being more free of fear, and better able to hope for good outcomes