When Depression Stalks Me I Fight Back

One woman explains why ignoring the urge to run from depression has helped her better manage an oncoming relapse. Find out why alerting loved ones and making a plan for calling her doctor has helped.

Beating a Depression Relapse: Stop Symptoms from Taking Over
Beating a Depression Relapse: Stop Symptoms from Taking Over

I feel it – depression. It’s coming on. I’ve held off calling my doctor for a few days. I’ve been taking a tricyclic antidepressant since 2010, which helps my depression and my migraines. My doctor has changed the dosage on occasion, but this time I have gone off the medication completely.

Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve lost all desire to do anything — prepare food, groom myself, get out of bed. I was able to ignore it for a while, but I can’t ignore it anymore.

So I have activated my first line of defense against depression: alerting my husband to the problem. Interestingly, he usually notices it before I do, so I don’t always have to tell him. But this time he’s not seeing it. It’s important to tell someone you can trust when you feel depressed. Depression whispers to me that I’m supposed to keep quiet about it and avoid human companionship. It has always done that.

[Screener: Depression in Adults]

Depression Is Bossy

From my earliest childhood, depression was authoritative. It told me to close myself off from other people. It told me that I was worthless and that I had something to be ashamed of. But it refused to identify the source of the shame. It told me that I should never tell anyone about it because nobody would believe me if I told them.

It played on my insecurities. It told me that my parents’ love for me was embarrassing, even shameful, because they clearly didn’t understand how worthless I was. It told me that I would die and that it wouldn’t matter if it happened, because of my lack of worth. It told me that perhaps I should consider killing myself. Depression has always been bossy.

Depression still warps my personality, and it deadens my thinking. But over the years I have built up a kind of resilience that I didn’t have as a child. As an adult, I have been able to weather depression. I have always seen a light twinkling at me from somewhere down the road.

[What Does Depression Look Like in Adults?]

I know that depression will pass, even if the interim misery is great. I know now that when my interest in personal care goes out the window for more than a day or two, I have a problem. Another clue is when I stop enjoying food. When I am unable to have a conversation that isn’t negative, that’s another. We all have stressful situations in life. But there’s stress and frustration, and then there’s the moment when my own brain chemicals start to take me down.

My instinct is to run from it. I am an antelope, and my depression is a lion. I may not be able to see the lion in the dark – like the antelope, depressed people have poor night vision – but I can sense it coming. Then, suddenly, its teeth are around my leg.

Positive Reinforcement

When this happens, it is vital that I tell my husband, making sure that he knows that this is the real deal. Depression can’t tell me to suffer alone anymore.

My second line of defense is making a plan about when to call my doctor. A plan gives me a way to focus my thoughts and actions in a positive direction. It offers me a small relief, a reminder that help is available.

[How to Treat Depression]

My plan this time is that I will call my doctor in two weeks, unless I feel worse, or feel no improvement, before then. In which case, I will call her next week. I’m waiting that long because I want to rule out the possibility that I might be in a little hormone-related funk that will pass in a couple days. Otherwise, I’d call sooner. But if I keep feeling like this for a week, or symptoms get worse, I will make that call, for sure.