I’ve Reached a Plateau

Photo by Edoardo Frezet on Unsplash

For those who don’t know, back in April, I had a major depressive episode. I was miserable. For a few weeks, my best days consisted of getting out of bed before noon and eating something before curling up on the couch for the rest of the day. I often struggled getting myself back upstairs to go to sleep. I worked with my therapist and doctor to get out of it, but now I have another problem.

This summer, when people asked me how I was doing, I started saying stable. I have a mood tracker app called Daylio. Each day, I put in how that day went on a scale from awful, to bad, to meh, to good, to rad. It also lets me track what I did each day: what I ate, whether I exercised, what chores I did and things like that. That way, I have some idea what contributes to my moods. In April and most of May, my moods were consistently awful or bad. By June they were consistently just bad with an occasional meh. Since July, my moods have been pretty consistently meh with occasional bads. That felt like progress until we got to September. Two and a half months of meh and it feels like I’ve stalled. I’m still stable, and mostly functional, but it’s frustrating to be stuck at meh. I’ve been talking to my therapist and doctor about it, and we’ve tried some things, but nothing we’ve tried has worked so far.

Psyche just ran an article about thriving after mental illness. It starts by talking about how many patients with mental illness plateau. The authors blame this on the focus on symptom reduction. Instead, they say, we should be looking at overall wellbeing. They came up with a psychological wellbeing scale and gave a questionnaire to a large group of people. Those who scored in the top 25% were considered thriving. They then gave the same questionnaire to people who had been diagnosed with a mental illness. They found that around 10% of people who had had a mental illness fit the criteria for thriving. Now they are moving on to try to figure out the difference between those 10% and the other 90%.

I think the article was supposed to be hopeful, letting us know that thriving is possible. I found that it just compounded my frustrations. It’s hard to stop asking, why have I plateaued? And why did I have to plateau at meh? There are also a bunch of open questions. For instance, if I didn’t have depression, would I be thriving or would I be in the 75% of regular people who fall below that threshold? How happy is it reasonable for me to believe I could be? And how much of it is within my control? Depression or no, money would still be tight; I’d still be busy and stressed.

At this point, though, I’m not even worried about thriving. I just want to be happy. Even if I still have meh days, I’d like to mix in some good days with them. That would feel like progress. I’ve almost forgotten what a good day feels like. I don’t think I’m being greedy. I just can’t figure out how to get where I want to be.

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