Bipolar disorder is unpredictable. Just as our mood swings don’t come with any kind of regularity, they don’t go away predictably either. It could be weeks or months before there are signs of relief from crippling symptoms like fatigue, loss of interest, sleep problems, diminished ability to concentrate and overwhelming feelings of worthlessness and hopelessness. When recovery does begin, it takes time. Depression doesn’t disappear overnight. It also takes some effort on the part of the person who is depressed. Recovery from depression is a process.
There are several aspects of recovery that I have to keep in mind as I go through this process. Once we recognize that there is a light at the end of the tunnel, it becomes easier to help ourselves. There are a few ways I do this for myself.
1 Evaluate each day as its own
Sometimes it might be helpful to compare how I was feeling yesterday to how I am feeling today, especially if today is better. However, I have to let myself take recovery naturally. I need to let myself feel how I feel on that day and act accordingly. What am I able to accomplish today without comparing it to yesterday or what I hope for tomorrow?
2 Expect setbacks
Recovery from depression is not a straight line. Moods will still swing back and forth. There will be good days when I can get up, shower and be part of the world. Then there will still be days when all I can do is will myself to exist. What happens in recovery is that I just start to have more good days than bad.
3 Keep psychiatry and therapy appointments
It’s important to remember that psychiatrists and therapist are there to give me the help I deserve. Most of recovery will depend on the treatment I get, whether medicinal or through talk therapy. It’s important to keep regular appointments with my treatment team so they can provide the specific treatment and support I need in order to recover. Sometimes that means more frequent appointments because of medication changes and evaluations, but that’s part of the process.
4 Take baby steps and set goals
It’s important to set goals during recovery. It can start out simple with short-term goals like showering every day, cooking a meal or doing a chore or two. Then it can get more complex like making goals to socialize or be active. If I can’t meet those goals today, I can’t beat myself up about it. I’ll try again tomorrow.
5 Remember self-care
Self-care is not just bubble baths and reading a good book. There are important steps to take when dealing with a depressive episode, all of which can help me feel better. Self-care can easily tie in to goal setting. I make sure to include steps like following a routine, taking my medication, eating right, exercising and practicing mindfulness. During depressive periods, these things often get thrown aside. Being able to keep up with them will help with the road to recovery.
This is not a foolproof recovery guide. Every person is different and every experience with depression is different. It’s important to find out what helps you and work towards that.
Image credit: Efrén