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Monica from Australia emailed me a great question about change when recovering from depression.
Here’s a quote from her email (with permission) that sums it up:
“Even though I am in so much pain and that the world is so awful and heavy, a lot of the time I don’t have any desire to fight that, to make change or try, because the sadness and pain is just so familiar that it has almost become a friend or safety blanket. It’s almost relieving to wallow in it, to hurt myself, to carry on with all the destructive thoughts and behaviours because I know where I stand with depression yet happiness is so foreign it terrifies me. However I also hate it at the same time. Isn’t it curious that I can both love something and hate it with so much passion simultaneously?”
Change is scary for everyone, depressed or not. Whether it’s a haircut, a change of schools or beginning a new relationship, we all prefer to stick to what we know because it’s familiar and involves little risk. When we know what to expect, we feel safe.
I remember hearing a long time ago that it’s the unhappiest people who most fear change. And on the surface, that doesn’t seem to make much sense because no one wants to be unhappy. My understanding of this is that if you’re unhappy, it’s very likely that you’re aware of the potential for bad things to happen in this world.
My depression really took hold after some deaths in my extended family (read my full story). Death is the biggest change of all. The losses in my family felt so ominous and overbearing that everything felt out of my control. I became so aware of how impermanent everything is, how everything ends, and it made me want to give up on life. That way, I would be in control of the good-byes.
For years and years I resisted getting better from my depression because it felt like it was the only real truth that wouldn’t let me down. Negative thinking patterns felt comforting because I thought they’d keep me from being hurt again. I’d been hurt enough and I was afraid that I simply couldn’t take any more hurt.
After over a decade of hanging on to my negative thinking patterns, isolating myself, and generally saying FUCK IT to everything, I finally realized it wasn’t getting me anywhere. I wasn’t feeling better, I was feeling worse. Plus I wasn’t able to protect myself from further harm or bad things happening.
To be one hundred perfect honest, I feel ambivalent about getting better every day, probably a hundred times a day. So if you feel like you’re the only person who is confused or scared about getting better from depression, you certainly aren’t! It’s completely normal to be scared or unsure. It’s normal to take one step forward and two steps back, to try something new and then go, “Okay, that’s enough!” and go back to what’s familiar.
Something that comforts me is knowing that change doesn’t happen over night. Getting better from depression is like having the sun rise. It happens gradually so that our eyes get used to the change in light. If the sun just popped on and off like the world’s biggest lightbulb we’d all get in car crashes and walk into lamp poles when the light suddenly went out.
It’s normal to go slow, try things out, and change your mind. It’s normal to both hate being depressed and also feel some comfort in it because it’s what you know. The best thing about getting better is that we never forget the lessons we learned from our pain and years of strife. We grow and change but we don’t forget.
Honour your feelings, no matter what you’re feeling. Write them down, express them, and when you feel sad or scared about getting better, look at your old art and say, “Yes, this is how I felt, but it’s okay to feel better now. I will never forget what I’ve been through.”
Monica, thank you so much for reaching out and sharing your questions and concerns with us! I hope this post helped to answer some of your questions. You are most definitely not alone! Please don’t hesitate to write me and ask me more questions about recovery or depression or whatever crosses your mind. Change is such a huge part of recovering from depression that you can expect to read more about it in future posts on Daisiesandbruises.com.
I also recommend checking out this awesome post on LifeHacker: Why You’re So Afraid of Change (and What You can Do About it).
Do you have a mental health question you’d like me to answer on the blog? Send me an email at email@example.com.