“Just for today I will try to live through this day only, and not tackle all my problems at once. I can do something for twelve hours that would appall me if I felt that I had to keep it up for a lifetime.” – by Al-Anon Family Groups
When I received my diagnosis of “double depression,” recurrent major depressive disorder and dysthymic disorder, nearly nine years ago, I cried for 24 hours straight (crying non-stop while you’re at work doesn’t make a good impression; I really don’t recommend it). My psychiatrist told me that, very likely, I had suffered from depression most of my life, would have it the rest of my life, and would have to take medication indefinitely. I felt I had been given a death sentence.
Perhaps you have received a similar dire pronouncement from your doctor or therapist. There is nothing worse than being told you are going to be miserable and barely functional for the rest of your life. You might be thinking: How will I manage? Do I not even have the hope of ordinary happiness? Is there anyone who will want to be a part of my life?
Certainly, the statistics support what my doctor told me and your doctor might have told you. According to a study published in the American Journal of Psychiatry, at least 50% of people diagnosed with major depression experience a recurrence of the illness after recovering from the initial onset (2000; 157:229-233). The risk for recurrence, says the article, goes up with each successive episode.
This might be true in the general, statistical sense, but what if—just consider this, now—what if it did not have to be true for you?
You don’t have to know how you can escape the odds, just that it’s possible. (After all, approximately 50% of people diagnosed with major depression do not experience a recurrence, yes?) Consider it for the next few days. Ask yourself: “What if depression weren’t a life sentence for me? What if I could live a productive, happy life in spite of it? What if I could even be free of it?”
Grab your journal. (Nudging it toward you with your toe during commercial breaks works, too.) Number down the page 1-10, leaving 3-4 blanks between each number. After #1, write the following stem sentence: “If I didn’t have depression, I could ______”; write the first thing that pops into your head after you finish writing the stem. Continue down the page until you have 10 possibilities of what you could do or what your life would be like if you didn’t have depression. Carry this list with you and read it at least once a day.
Next time: “What Dogs and People Have In Common.”
(c) 2010 by Patricia R. Henschen, M.A.