The title is something that has taken me years to realize and fully understand.
When I was 15 years old, I was diagnosed with Major Depressive Disorder. I had a pretty severe depressive episode, and I basically dropped out of high school for the semester. I failed the Ontario Literacy Test, failed all my classes, and fell behind.
At that point, i didn’t want to try. I was convinced I’d always feel this way, feeling hopeless, sad for no reason, angry, irritated, and relentlessly exhausted.
By the time I went back to school in September 2010, I was actually doing so much better. My medication was working, and I was actively trying to better my mental health. There was a point I could confidently say “I’m not depressed anymore”, and I thought that’d be the end of it.
But I was so, so wrong.
Depression is a fickle thing. Many people experience it in different ways, and sometimes a person experiences another depressive episode so different from their previous one, they don’t even realize they’re having one.
This is what happened to me quite a few times over the last six years. Each time was different, so it was difficult to even realize. Or in a couple cases, I was just simply in denial.
And this is why I think recovery is not a destination. Recovery is an on-going process, filled with unexpected and unwanted bumps, detours, and backtracking.
Since that one time in 2010, I don’t think I’ve ever said to myself that I was recovered.
Recovery is about finding what works for you. What coping mechanisms help you best, medication or no medication, meditation, yoga, therapy, etc. It’s about actively working to better your health, but also being able to realize when you’re hitting a small bump, and life gets a bit rocky. That’s when you’ve taken what you’ve learned so you can get through this rough patch.
I didn’t realize until just a week ago how far I’ve truly come, and the progress I’ve made in six, almost seven years.
My life has been hectic since July or August. My dad was in and out of the hospital, and currently he’s there now. He’s doing well now, but for months I worried constantly. When the semester started, my mind wasn’t focused on school. I fell SO far behind, and my first two midterms were subpar marks. Its been almost a month since those first two midterms and I still haven’t caught up.
Years ago, getting below 70% meant I failed.
But at some point, I had to cut myself some slack. I was fighting so hard just to stay afloat, and not succumb to the darkness of worsening depression. I realized that the marks I got were actually pretty good considering all that was going on.
Sometimes I’ll still be upset that I didn’t do so well, but I find it so much easier to see it in a more realistic view. How on earth could I expect to get 80s on my midterms when my focus wasn’t on school, I was missing classes, and putting studying on the back burner?
Honestly, I’m incredibly proud of myself. I very seriously considered dropping classes. But I didn’t want to delay my graduation. I was in a tough spot, but I knew I’d get through one way or another. And now I’m more determined than ever to get through the semester.
My experience is going to be different from yours. The recovery progress is slow, and perhaps unnoticeable for a long time. Sometimes you’ll take five steps forward, and two steps back. Sometimes it’s one step forward, and ten steps back. Sometimes you just don’t move.
I don’t write this as a way to brag, and I hope it doesn’t come off that way. I just hope someone, anyone, realizes what I did about recovery and progress. And I hope it inspires even just one person to keep trying, to keep going, no matter how little progress you think you’re making.
You’re stronger than you think.