Managing Depression in Recovery
As much as I hate to admit it, there are mornings when I wake up, and the thought of even getting out of my bed is exhausting. Thinking about everything I need to accomplish that day overwhelms me and casts a dark shadow over everything. I find myself feeling paralyzed, unable to work up the courage to face the day, but I know I have to.
Facing the day is part of the way I deal with my depression as a person in recovery. When I was drinking and I had particularly bad days, I could just drown my feelings in alcohol. However, that isn’t an option any longer. In the past four and a half years, I’ve had to come up with new ways to manage my depression, which was one of the major factors when it came to the reasons why I drank. It hasn’t been an easy battle, but I’ve discovered there are certain things I can do to take control of my depression rather than let it control me. Here are a few.
1. Try and determine if there is a root cause of why you’re feeling depressed.
I know that personally, sometimes something sets off my depression, yet other times there is seemingly no reason for why I feel sad and hopeless. If I can identify the reason. I feel more in control of the situation because I know what is causing me to feel depressed and I can make a plan to address it and try to improve whatever is going on. Of course, there isn’t always an obvious reason as to why I feel the way I do, or the reason is something I can’t control, like the weather changing. Unfortunately, those situations are harder to access and manage.
2. Talk to someone you trust.
When I am having really difficult, “off” days, I have a person I can talk to. I can tell her what is going on as far as how I am feeling mentally, and she doesn’t pressure me to figure out what is wrong or what I can do to make it better. She just lets me feel the way I feel, and she does her best to be understanding and be a good support system. Having people like this is vital in recovery. We need to know that the people in our lives will allow us to be ourselves — the damaged, dark parts and all. Having people like this is freeing and reassuring when the hard days do come along.
3. Start a journal or a blog.
Maybe this doesn’t work for everyone, but I’ve found that putting my feelings into words is therapeutic. It doesn’t necessarily solve anything or reverse feeling depressed. But it does allow you to feel as if you are taking all of the nonsense swirling around in your mind and putting it somewhere else, almost as if you’re freeing up space in your head to regroup. After I sit down and write whatever comes to mind, I feel refreshed. I may still feel down and depressed, but the weight doesn’t feel quite as heavy as it did before writing. The best part of this method of dealing with depression is that you can write from anywhere. Keep a pen and paper with you, or even start a note on your phone and journal there.
4. Consult with a professional.
There’s no shame in reaching out for real, professional help. I was in a particularly dark spot last winter and found out that my employee assistance program through work allowed me to have a certain number of sessions with a counselor each year. In the past, I’d have been hesitant, but at the time I was so desperate to feel better that I jumped at this opportunity. I went to a few sessions, discussed how I was feeling, and came up with some tools to help me manage my feelings. Again, it wasn’t a cure for my depression, but when I was in the throes of a difficult day, it helped tremendously to think back to those sessions and what I had learned.
5. Consider taking an antidepressant, if you aren’t already on one.
Just like seeing a counselor, some people have a hard time accepting that being on a medication can help their mental health. For a while, I felt that way. I even stopped taking my antidepressant for almost a year because I wanted to see how I did being off of it. That was a mistake, and lead to the dark spot I mentioned in the previous point. The truth is that the right medication can be incredibly helpful when it comes to depression and anxiety. Pills aren’t magic, and they won’t make mental health issues disappear completely. However, they will help you with stability and will work to correct the chemical imbalance in the brain that can be responsible for depression.
Depression is scary. For many people in recovery, it can even lead to a relapse. If you are sober and struggle with depression, this is why it is vital to have a plan to manage it. Take some time and determine what works best for you when it comes to managing your depression. If you need to write down methods that help you, do that. Then, when you’re feeling low and hopeless, pull that list out and go through each point on it. In order to live the best life you can in recovery, you need to be prepared to take on the difficulties without the aid of alcohol. This isn’t always an easy feat, but it’s possible.
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