Overcoming depression is a tandem procedure: learning what works, and unlearning and stopping what doesn’t work. We need to outline these points because often people do not understand why recovery is punctuated with relapses and episodes.
This article isn’t meant to impose guilt or make people feel worse if they have made these mistakes. To err is human, and we all make mistakes in life. We want to frame efforts in overcoming depression realistically, but we also want to encourage you to keep trying.
Ten Mistakes Made When Overcoming Depression:
1. Not acknowledging the problem or reaching out for help
Overcoming depression is painful. You feel scared, alone and helpless, even more so if you bottle it up and try to overcome it by yourself. Every day can be a titanic struggle as you try to make ends meet. You don’t want to jeopardise a relationship or an employment contract. On top of this is the fear you could be going crazy. So people often try to push through it and just get on with it it will often. In some of the worst cases people can spend 20-40 years with an undiagnosed mental health issue just because they fear other peoples’ responses and do not want to open up their vulnerability.
Destigmatising mental health is crucial in allowing people a safer space to explore what sort of mental health condition they may be afflicted by. People often are very sympathetic when you eventually disclose your problems, as long as it is done in an appropriate and genuine way. This really is the first key step when overcoming depression.
2. Getting caught in cycles of under and over activity
People with mental health issues often get stuck in under-active and over-active cycles. When they feel good they take on too many people, problems, projects, and ideas. This often leads to burnout and fatigue. When this sets in, conditions like depression, hopelessness, chronic pain, tiredness and anxiety become more prominent.
Similarly to bipolar depression, people with mental health issues experience the swinging of frenetic overwork (mania) to exhaustion and lethargy (depression). The compulsion to keep oscillating between the highs and lows can be driven by distorted personal boundaries, people pleasing tendencies and the inability to reason logically. The superego associates rest with guilt, preventing proper relaxation time. Overcoming depression is about finding that balance and not pushing too hard when feeling good.
3. Making decisions by emotions
Impulsive urges can send your life into chaos and put relationships in turmoil. People who are overcoming depression need to learn how to make fewer decisions based on emotions with a greater emphasis on reason and wisdom. It is difficult to sit back and see things from a wider perspective, not getting drawn into every emotional interaction with others. This takes time, skill and support when overcoming depression. This is a large problem for teenagers, who often think with their feelings.
Recovery can be hampered and even reversed when people try to sabotage their own success. When things start to get better and symptoms subside, it can induce amazing feelings of liberation. People can feel that they are over it and it will not come back. It’s then that self-sabotage can kick in and lead to destructive relationships, substance use and negative behaviour.
Some part of us doesn’t want to see that happen and will poison good growth with harmful actions. Perhaps it is drinking again, staying out too late with friends, socialising too much, taking on too many projects, thinking too much, pulling away from regular exercise and meditation, or avoiding support groups, churches and other healthy outlets. Or it could be also indulging in drugs, promiscuous sex or activities that damage the soul and ourselves.
For many these behaviours are so deeply ingrained that they are almost second nature. They don’t know how to consolidate a good, clean life. Some part of themselves perversely finds comfort in the darkness feeling like the unloved and unrecognised outsider.
It’s hard to learn to love yourself when overcoming depression as the dark side of our psyches affects us all in negative ways. When trying to overcome depression it’s vital to acknowledge this dark side which encompasses loneliness, guilt, anger and isolation. Instead of running from it, accept the shadow side without backsliding into sabotage.
5. Coming off prescribed medications prematurely and without professional guidance
This is most common for those with bipolar depression, but the temptation is for anyone to do it especially when they “feel better” – see the point on making decisions based on emotions. It is definitely NOT recommend to withdraw from any psychiatric medication unless discussed and monitored by your relevant health professional. These “good feelings” can sometimes be short-lived, especially if additional supports have not been sufficiently established.
6. Walking away from relationships when they get too hard
Depressed people often feel their relationships with others are superficial and shallow. No matter how you feel, don’t give up on your professional and personal relationships. The only exception is if the relationships are toxic and debilitating, like an abusive spouse or friends who encourage drug use. Overcoming depression and community connections go hand in hand.
7. Losing hope in the ability to get better
Life will and can get better. People with depression need to look forward to new days and embrace each day as it comes. Regaining hope and building a more positive outlook are assisted by community support groups. Don’t lose hope. You can overcoming depression is possible.
8. Adopting an individualistic approach to happiness
Today’s media focuses on independence as a way to happiness and true contentment. Part of this distorted view is the obsession with self-help movements and the false notion of self-made men and women. Even if people are able to overcome depression by themselves, if they don’t address selfishness and emotional maturity they will overcompensate and develop other personality problems such as narcissism and an inflated of sense of self-worth. True recovery is about becoming a more genuine person and working hard at authenticity and integrity.
9. Not anticipating situations and events likely to cause relapse
Major life changes will cause significant coping challenges, and anxiety can often ensue. For example, if a woman who is predisposed to major depression becomes pregnant needs to look into postnatal depression and the likelihood of developing it after birth. Someone with a history of mental health changing jobs needs to be aware of the stress associated with a new position. People with a history of mental health need to be aware of these triggers and the likelihood of mental health being exacerbated during these periods.
10. Giving up
Sometimes, people just give up in instead of trying to overcome depression. No matter how bad you feel or what situation you are in, you are responsible for your recovery. The will to get well is 50% of the battle, without the will to get better people tend to cruise along or deteriorate. Persist even when results aren’t readily apparent. Take heart and reach out to others and really believe that you can overcome depression.
We really want people believe overcoming depression is possible, learning from these mistakes is definitely part of the process.
References and further reading