How do you know if you’re making progress?
Well how? With depression it’s difficult to see your own progress. In some ways you are just too close to it. But it can be there, that’s why friends and family are so important. They can see the progress even when you can’t. I’d like to share with you a little story about last weekend so you can see what I mean.
A Weekend Away
“You seem to be a little better today.”
-“Am I? I guess so… ” (inside my head, I fear that I’m not but I just don’t want my mum to think I’m not improving. She’ll worry even more.)
Above is part of an exchange I jotted in my journal last weekend when lying in bed in my childhood bedroom. I was staying at my parents for the weekend and this was from a conversation I’d had with my mum on the Sunday morning. To give you some context, the pretext of this visit was so I could be close by while my son spent the weekend with his father, from whom I am separated. All nice and logical and reasonable.
Except this wasn’t the reason.
The reason was I was afraid. Afraid to stay on my own for fear of where my thoughts would take me. I knew that I was going to be vulnerable, as even the thought of my children visiting their father can be enough to send my anxiety into overdrive. Likewise, my depression is often at its worst when I am dealing with my estranged husband. Reminders of negative feelings and self-doubt mount up and can often lead to a crash. My teenage son spending a whole weekend with him? My brain was going to have a field day!
Basically I didn’t trust myself enough to stay on my own for the whole weekend, even with my toddler. I knew that the moment she was asleep (i.e nothing to keep me busy) the potential for a spiral escalated. So I took up the long-standing offer from my mum for a weekend with them.
So I’m guessing you’re wondering how this relates to progress. For me, this is progress. I find accepting help extremely difficult, and staying with my parents is something I’ve avoided as I don’t want to be a burden. But I recognised that there was a huge trigger looming and I took measures to limit the damage I knew could happen. And it worked. Yes, I did dip at points. The Friday evening was particularly difficult, as was late on Sunday afternoon. But with the support and encouragement of my parents and one rather brilliant friend who kept in touch by text the whole weekend, I got through. No new scars, no major crash. What could have been a potentially disastrous weekend, wasn’t. In fact it was pretty good. I went out for a meal, attended a Last Night of the Proms party on the Saturday night and reconnected with an old school friend.
To some people, that wouldn’t seem a big deal. But with how severely my depression has been affecting me lately, I’ve been avoiding social situations quite a bit. If you don’t understand this, I really suggest you read Aspects of Choice. The Proms party was a particular issue because it was loud, brash and with lots of ‘happy’ families together, while I was the single mom. To be honest, I didn’t want to go to it.
This is where my mum was my rock. She helped me sort out an outfit, helped me straighten my hair, lent me some shoes and essentially gave me a mini makeover. My mum understood that there have been times lately where even brushing my hair has felt like too much. That of all my priorities, a little pampering of myself has been lacking. I felt awkward and fake, but she got me there. I’m glad she did.
I can now look on the weekend and see the achievements I made. When my mum was trying to point them out to me on the Sunday, I was struggling to see them. One of the questions we ask in the interviews is “What does a good day look like?”, and some of the answers we’ve received slant towards the negative; that there are no good days. It can feel that way, believe me I know. But maybe take a beat and really look at those bad days. Even at your worst what did you manage to do? Like Alex looked at in The Spoon Theory, I’m not saying it won’t have cost you. But every little thing you have managed, no matter how small, is progress. Sometimes it just takes someone on the outside looking in to see it.
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