I am in the process of recovering from my second episode of depression - the first was 10 years ago. I have worked hard at this recovery, done all the things that seemed to be "the right thing to do" - I saw my doctor and took the medication he prescribed (Sertraline and Amytripteline); I found support among friends and opened up to a few chosen and trusted ones. I exercised and resumed creative activities once I was able to do so.
After 6 weeks off sick I returned to work as a teacher. My current place of work was recognized by most as being a major cause of my depression. But since I need to work I have gone back, though I am still looking for a new school to work in. I have been congratulated on my speedy recovery. But now I find that I am really scared. I estimate that I am "95%" recovered, but I can see that those around me - some of them at least - think I am completely better. I am not. I still get down. I do want to be fully recovered, but I am scared of having to take control of my life again, and scared that I will never fully recover from this.
What should I do to get back to normality? Is feeling like this normal? How long will full recovery take?
Caroline, 36-year-old woman
Your letter implies that some people are '100% recovered' from any and all emotional problems. This is simply not so. There is no such thing as perfection in any part of life, including in emotional areas.
People who were once paranoid will always need to monitor their fear levels.
People who were anxious will always need to notice whether they are worrying about things that don't matter.
And people who were depressed will always need to notice how well they process their anger and other emotions, whether they try to 'bury' their feelings, etc.
You should simply CELEBRATE your 95% recovery and enjoy all those far better days you have now! And you simply need to take better care of yourself (like all the rest of us) on any days when you still feel down.
It might also help to realize also that nobody can read your mind! If you are feeling down and don't want others to know it, they won't know it (unless you decide to show it to them).
If I met you and you looked 100% healthy I'd feel intimidated! Never met anyone like that and never thought I would!
And if you seemed to be 95% healthy I'd be saying something like, Wow! What a together person I just met! You've come all this way in order to be 95% better! You've made it! ENJOY it!
And don't think that the rest of us are judging you. (When you think we are judging you we are probably thinking about that bus we have to catch, or the assignment we have at work, or something else that doesn't involve you...)
One other thing. You don't mention any psychotherapy at all. It is in therapy that people learn the kinds of things I'm mentioning in this letter. So, consider seeing a therapist for occasional 'checkups' in order to learn how well you do fit in to this imperfect world, how normal you are compared to the rest of us, etc...
Thanks for an interesting letter!
Tony Schirtzinger, ACSW