A long-term depressive episode can take over every aspect of life. Home and family life, personal and professional relationships, work and finances, and physical health as well as mental health, can all be affected. For someone who goes through a lengthy period of depression, it can be devastating, as recovery proceeds, to realise just how much the depression has affected their life, and just how difficult it might be to overcome the depression permanently.
Why is Recovering from Depression so Difficult?
The most difficult thing about recovering from depression is that often, the things that your recovery are precisely those things that depression takes away from you—getting enough sleep, a healthy diet, positive and realistic thinking, spending time with friends and family, taking part in activities you enjoy; and perhaps most importantly the motivation to do all these things.
Another reason recovery is difficult is that depression affects every aspect of life, and it can be overwhelming to think about everything that recovery entails. It can be helpful to just sit down and write a list of changes you want to make, and things you want to repair. The list might include relationships, work life, your health, and anything else you can think of.
Depression is an isolating illness. People who are going through episodes of depression tend to distance themselves from friendships and intimate relationships, for a wide range of reasons. Some friends persist and keep trying to break through the walls that depression puts up, and some, for whatever reason, are unable to do so.
It’s very difficult, when recovering from depression, to realise that you may have lost the friendship of someone who meant a great deal to you, and summoning up the courage to take the first step towards re-establishing a relationship is not easy. It’s up to you to disclose as much or as little as you feel comfortable with about your depression, but honest communication is an important aspect of mending a relationship, and sharing the struggles you’ve had may help you reach a greater degree of understanding.
Finally, realise that unfortunately, some relationships may be damaged beyond repair—and it’s not necessarily something to blame yourself or the other person for. Relationships end for all sorts of reasons, and when that reason is related to depression there’s always a sense of regret, but don’t let that regret turn into guilt.
Getting on at Work
Many people with depression find that their work suffers, and if this has been the case for you, talking with your boss, and your colleagues, might be helpful. If the quality of your work has been poor, at the very least, it’s best to talk with your boss, and explain what’s been going on. You may even be able to take short-term paid leave, or work more flexible hours for a short period of time while you’re recovering—there are options available; if this is something you might be interested in, talk about it with your GP. Discussing your depression with co-workers is entirely up to you—you might decide to share information with one or two people you’re particularly close to, but not tell anyone else at work, for example, or you may decide you’d rather just tell everyone and get it over with.
Taking Control of Finances
If you’ve been unable to work during your illness you might have financial problems that need some attention. This can be particularly daunting; in practical terms fixing financial problems might be the most difficult thing you face as part of your recovery. Making financial decisions when you’re depressed is certainly not easy, but unfortunately it is very easy to get into debt. Depending on your situation and treatment program you may find yourself faced with medical bills or other debts, and worrying about these can impact your recovery.
Don’t be afraid to ask for help. There are many organizations that can provide help of all kinds, from budgeting advice to loan restructuring, for example. A good place to start is the Citizens Advice Bureau. Talking to your bank is also an option, or any other institution with which you have a loan, credit card, or other form of debt. Lead by The Royal Bank ofScotland, many banks are now asking staff to undergo training so that they can work more effectively, and sensitively, with people who are having financial problems due to mental illness.
Recovery is an Ongoing Process
Remember that recovery is slow—for everyone. If you’re finding it hard, and you’re worried that recovering from depression is taking ‘too long’ it might be helpful to think in terms of recovery as a process, rather than as a destination. Part of recovering from depression is learning the tools and skills to deal with life, and that, like everything else, comes with time.
Citizens Advice Bureau. “Help with Debt.” Accessed April 26, 2014. Debt advice.
Ella M. “The Financial Impact of Depression and Grief.” Accessed April 26, 2014. Recovering financially after setbacks.
Ian Murnaghan. “How to Assert Yourself.” Accessed April 26, 2014. How assertiveness helps recovery.
Ian Murnaghan. “How to Rebuild Your Life after a Breakdown.” Accessed April 26, 2014. Regaining confidence and rebuilding after depression.
Jane Framingham. “Strategies for Overcoming Depression.” Accessed April 26, 2014. Self-help tips.
John Folk-Williams. “What Comes after Recovery from Depression?” Accessed April 26, 2014. The process of recovery.
Jon G. Allen. “Recovering from Depression can be a Catch-22.” April 26, 2014. Why the nature of depression makes recovery difficult.
Kathryn Kitto. “Reclaiming Your Life after a Breakdown.” Accessed April 26, 2014. Recovery and coping tips.
Royal Bank of Scotland. “A Guide to the Lending Code.” Accessed April 28, 2014. Information on debt help.
RoyalCollegeof Psychiatrists. “Lending, Debt Collection, and Mental Health.” Accessed April 28, 2014. Collections staff sensitivity training.