It has been almost a year since I last walked out of my therapist’s office. I had a nice BLT sandwich and a cappuccino to commemorate the occasion, I remember. My struggle with depression was over. Or rather I had grasped all the tools that I needed to deal with issues that were triggering it. I had finally accepted that it was me, and only me, who could help myself out of the situation that I was stuck in. This chapter was closed. Time to move on. Everything seemed to be on track for personal healing. Until the lockdown happened ten days ago. And these days I find myself asking a question again and again; will my depression return? Was my struggle actually over, or was it just biding its time for the right moment?
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Anyone who has dealt with a chronic health issue; physical or mental will relate to this fear. The fear of relapse. On some days it is just a passing thought. During a nice dinner when you are smiling ear to ear, and about to pat your back for the progress you have made, this thought streaks through your head. But on days when everything else around you is grim, that is all you can think of. You know that this feeling doesn’t stem from the fear of failing to prioritise your happiness, or your resolve of never giving anyone the agency to hurt you so much that it breaks you into pieces. This fear stems from knowing that often life and how it turns out isn’t in our control.
Until the lockdown happened ten days ago. And these days I find myself asking a question again and again; will my depression return? Was my struggle actually over, or was it just bidding its time for the right moment?
The coronavirus pandemic and the resultant lockdown has put across this thought very clearly. It has blindsided a lot of us and to an extent that we hadn’t imagined in our wildest dreams. A change to our lifestyle, a threat to our health and financial well-being of such magnitude is bound to affect our mental health. Knowing this, I have begun taking precautions. I exercise, spend time with my child, listen to music, put myself first, even at the cost of appearing selfish. But honestly, I am not sure how long all the shield that I have put up will protect me.
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Why do I fear a relapse so much? Because I do not want to go back to where I was two years ago. Crying into the pillow every night, muffling my sobs so that my child doesn’t hear them, and seeing nothing but the problems that I had in my life. This lockdown for me is like being locked up in a box with those very problems all over again. They stare back at me every day. I do not have the escape of going out of the house to cool off. To plan a trip, or to take any steps which could make me feel like I am in control of the situation, somewhat. And then there is this added stress from the situation we are in. Moreover, I am not sure how long this is going to last, and I think it is the uncertainty of it that makes me more restless.
Why do I fear a relapse into a depression so much? Because I do not want to go back to where I was two years ago. Crying into the pillow every night, muffling my sobs so that my child doesn’t hear them, and seeing nothing but the problems that I had in my life.
The sleeplessness has returned, an invisible weight seems to be lingering over the chest again. All the resentments that I had put behind me are creeping back into my thoughts. Perhaps the only silver lining is my resolve to make things better for myself. I know the consequences of putting depression on the backburner. Of letting it push me against the wall until there was no other way out but to seek help. All I can do right now is focus on wellness, to be hopeful that this will end soon. What else is there for all of us to do, with a history of depression or otherwise?
Image Credit: NY Times
The author wishes to remain anonymous. The views expressed are their own.