Wednesday, July 24, 2013

I hope this is just a phase. I hope this is not a relapse.

Recently, I’ve been very down.  The old depressive feelings are, kind of, coming back.  Feelings of worthlessness, what’s the point, the world is a horrible place, and I guess I’ll go eat dirt.

Because I am sensing more depression lately, I am scared this is the beginning of a relapse.  In addition, I am completely off the anti-depressants, so that’s another reason for me to be worried about returning symptoms.

I was supposed to monitor how I’ve been feeling since coming off the medication, but the extra attention to my moods isn’t exactly helping my cause.  I’ve been putting too much focus on how I feel which is resulting in finding problems where there aren’t any.

The good thing is, however, I am still functioning.  I am still getting out of bed in the morning (11:55am counts), I am still eating (even though I don’t want to), and I am still taking care of myself.

I am hard on myself because I am not yet perfect.  I want to get up at 5:15am every day.  I want to eat healthy and exercise moderately.  I want to paint every day.  I want to be a good friend, sister, and wife.  I want to fill my schedule with volunteer work.  I want to be able to say “yes” when asked a favor.  I want to go to daily mass.  I want to achieve great things.  I want, I want, I want …in reality, I just want to be perfect right now.

Because I am not yet where I want to be, there must be something wrong, right?

People who struggle with depression and anxiety have common “all or nothing” characteristics.  It is either black or white, right or wrong, all or nothing…  We can’t see the gray area, and we have a difficult time with compromise.  But only when it comes to our own lives are we that strict.  We are rarely that hard on other people, especially loved ones.

So, this bad week is, in my mind, a relapse.  I am not good, so I am bad.  I am not healing, so I must be hurting.  I am not happy, therefore, I am depressed.

Luckily, this past year, I’ve learned healthy coping skills to deal with situations like this one.  And I’ve also learned how to stop the snowball of negative thoughts before it turns into an avalanche.

How do I do that?

First, I have to be my own best friend.  Since I have a difficult time loving myself, I treat myself as I would treat a loved one – with compassion and unconditional forgiveness.

Second, I have to remind myself of my “all or nothing” tendencies.  Just knowing that I am typically unrealistic can help me calm down.

Third, a relapse is NOT a do-over.  I am much better equipped to handle a fit of depression this time around compared to the last time.  So, even if I do have a relapse, I will be OK.

And last, but not least, my symptoms are nowhere near as severe as last summer.  I know this is true because my husband, Craig, and I made a list of warning signs so he and I will know when things are getting really bad.  Bad as in “relapse” bad.  Bad as in “need to re-evaluate the whole no more medication” bad.

My Early Warning Signals:
Emotional Isolation
Practicing Eating Disorder Behaviors
Crying myself to sleep every night
Obsessive list making
Avoiding going places out of fear
Obsessively Exercising
Drinking Alcohol
Staying in bed all day

The last two would merit a trip to the hospital.  The other six warning signs need to happen frequently over an extended period of time to cause any alarm.  For example, the other day I made a wicked unrealistic list of, at least, a hundred things I wanted to do in one day.  But, with Craig’s help, I was able to throw that list away.  We talked through it and I was reminded that I don’t want to go down that road again.

Comparatively speaking, I am actually doing really well.  I may not be where I want to be, I may not be perfect, but that shouldn’t stop me from giving myself some credit.  Perfectionism is a dangerous things and it can hold anyone back from living a fulfilling life.

I don’t have to wait until I am perfect to start living.

If I look at things under a positive light, I can allow myself some praise for my accomplishments, however small and minuscule they seem to me.  This practice is crucial part of seeing the value in your own life.

If you want to get over your paralyzing perfectionism, don’t be ashamed of giving yourself praise, compliments, or a pat on the back for your achievements, even if they are minor successes.

Sometimes, we fail to recognize the good in ourselves because we are afraid of appearing vain or big-headed.  On the flip side, if we constantly berate ourselves, we will have a difficult time finding value in our lives, which can sometimes have worse results than having a bit of self-worth.

My prayer is to see myself as God sees me, to love myself as God loves me.

I am proud of myself for coming off my medication.
I am happy that I finished a difficult painting recently and it turned out great.
I am pleased with myself that I tried a new recipe and it was a hit.
I give myself a pat on the back for regularly posting to this blog.

If I can find some good in me, instead of just focusing on all my flaws, I will have a greater chance of overcoming this depression.  I am not at the beginning of a relapse.  I am doing just fine.

If you liked this article, check out these posts:
All or Nothing Drama
Paralyzing Perfectionism
Tapering off the Medication


  1. Mary - Maybe I missed the post but why, in a nutshell, did you decide to go off the anti-depressants?

    1. That's OK. Here's the story:
      I had a manic depressive episode last summer and that's when I started taking the medication. My doctor told me that, typically, after a first occurance, he keeps his patience on the pills for one year. Then, if all is going well, they work on a reduction plan. If that doesn't work, then you go back on them for another year. If multiple years go by and you haven't been able to function without the med, then long term maintanance is probable. The intention is that you are always working toward recovery...working on your coping skills and as to not use the anti-depressants as a crutch. I am totally fine with the idea of having to go back on them if that is necessary. It is all about have a better quality of life.
      I am not sure if I talked about it in this post: or this one:

      The main thing to consider, however, is that everyone is different. Hopefully if you are taking medication you have a good doctor to work with you.

      Hope that answered your question :)

  2. Mary- I love reading your blog! The other day, I saw the birthday card you made for me for my 25th birthday with all the old pictures of us through the years and 10 reasons you like being my friend! It brought the biggest smile to my face! I was really laughing when I saw the picture of us at horse camp and the one where we were dressed up in ball gowns that were about 10 sizes too big! Hang in there dear friend! I keep you in my prayers and hope to see you and Craig soon! Love, CB

  3. Hi, again! Since I've discovered your blog site through Tiny Buddha, I think your tone and overall confidence speaks through you more so now. I think it takes great courage to be honest and share your story, but I also think that it empowers you to take charge in a positive direction. This is just me, but I believe that perfectionism is an illusion, as it keeps us stuck and makes us suffer greatly.

    Take care, Mary!

    1. Thank you! You take care too, Jinhee!