I met a woman several years ago during one of my hospital stays. We became roommates and fast friends during our stay and although we may never have otherwise crossed paths in our lifetime (Fun fact: the home I grew up in from the time I moved to Toronto when I was 8 years old until my late teens was right next door to the home she sold just months before I moved in!) or had much in common at first, it turned out that our friendship ran so much deeper than our illness and we have continued to be a great support for one another ever since.
Last year my friend began feeling better and living her best life ever. She started traveling for months on end, dancing up a storm (some nights) until dawn and engaging in joyful activities with her precious, young grandchildren. She was finally free from the horrible effects of her depression. It was no longer defining who she was or how she lived her life and the best part was that for the first time in several years she actually wanted to live; not for her children, not for her grandchildren but actually for herself.
I think I felt a bit envious of her at first wondering when or if I too would ever feel the weight of my depression finally lift or if I would ever break free from it as well. I mean what had she done so differently to make it all just disappear as though it had never even happened? What was I still being punished for since we had tried so many of the same treatments and medications but nothing was helping me?
I don’t have any of these answers and neither will anyone else to be honest because everyone’s journey is unique to them and everyone responds to treatments and medications differently and everyone finds their own path toward healing in their own time. But here is another question that pains me to ask; can depression truly be cured?
I’m asking this question today because well that same dear friend of mine who just last year was traveling for months on end, dancing up a storm until dawn and engaging in joyful activities with her precious grandchildren is now back in the deep throes of her depression. What could have made her go from living her best life to now wondering if her life was even worth living?
Again I don’t actually have the answer but from the research I have read it seems likely that individuals with chronic depression (defined as episodes lasting two or more years) or with recurrent depressive episodes need to continue with maintenance treatment; not for months, not for years but for a lifetime.
One major problem is that when a person’s depression goes into remission they may feel a state of euphoria, as though they are ready to conquer the world on their own but what many of us may not realize is that like with any other chronic disease that goes into remission, depression needs to be treated with the same ongoing support and care.
Just a few short months ago if you were to have asked my friend if she could ever imagine her depression would rear its ugly head again she would have probably said to you “What? Are you crazy?” (Ok just a little depression humour) but instead she is now left trying to understand why this is happening to her and feeling like she has somehow failed.
I know that I would feel the same way. I mean my illness literally seemed to hit me out of left field when it began close to 6 years ago (I want to throw up just at the thought that it’s been almost 6 years or maybe the nausea I’m feeling is just from the effects of my concussion). But through therapy I have learned that my illness probably didn’t hit me out of left field at all and I have been learning how to manage it ever since knowing now how quickly it can hit you.
I have not yet felt the effects of being in remission but I do have a better understanding that if and when that day finally comes I will know that I can never let my guard down and that proper maintenance and continued love and support from others could help to ensure that whatever obstacles get in my way I will be ready for them and that I also have faith now that my friend will tackle this beast head on just like she had so bravely done before!
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