I think I’m doing a bit better than I was as far as my depression is concerned. I’m certainly not great, nor am I where I want to be, but things seem better. It’s another funny thing about depression. It’s really hard to tell whether I’m better or not.
I feel like I need a way to measure my progress. In some ways, it is obvious and easy. I was sleeping maybe three or four hours a night. Now I’m sleeping seven to eight hours a night. That is real, measurable progress and I’m pleased with it. In most other ways, I really can’t tell.
I think there are a few reasons why it’s so hard to tell whether I’m getting better. First, while there are actual, physical changes that happen in the brain with depression, they are not exactly trackable. It’s not like when you have a fever. It’s easy to see when your temperature has returned to normal. Instead you need to know what normal feels like even though you never really thought about it when you felt normal. It’s tricky.
The second reason it’s difficult to know whether things are getting better is that part of depression is a lack of confidence. In other words, I don’t really trust myself. As soon as I think I might be doing better, I am flooded with self doubt. Am I really better or am I just confused? Is this feeling real or not? It’s hard to tell.
The third reason it’s so hard is that feelings change all the time depending on what’s happening. If I’m feeling down, is that the depression or is there a real reason why I’m feeling down? How long should the feeling last if it has a real reason? I spend half my day trying to figure out which feelings are justified and which are not. It’s frustrating.
I came up with a sports analogy, and my therapist seems to think it works, so I’m going with it. If I rolled an ankle during a game, I would have to miss some time. It starts off very clear that something is wrong. It hurts every time I put weight on it. This is stage one. Then it gets better, but it’s not 100%, I still favor it. This is stage two. Then it gets even better, I’m pain free, but I’m still hesitant. So, I’m still not 100%. This is stage three. It is only when I can play without even thinking about the ankle that I am truly better, stage four.
Two things are certain. I am no longer in the first stage where the depression, like the rolled ankle, hurts all the time. Nor am I feeling better, in stage four, where I no longer think about it at all. I’m somewhere in the middle. It’s incredibly hard to figure out where in the middle I am. Some days, I’m clearly still making accommodations for the depression. I’m still favoring it, I think that’s stage two. Other days, I’m at stage three, the pain free, but still thinking about it stage. So, I suppose that puts me in between stages two and three.
The good news is I’m making progress. The bad news is the progress feels really slow. Whether I can get myself to notice the good or just dwell on the bad depends on the day. I feel a bit scattered. But, it is better than I was doing before.