Depression, Bad Days, and the Dangers of Absolutism

At the height of my depression, I didn’t really have bad days, because everything was so awful that I could hardly compare each day to the one before. They were the same, neither better nor worse than one another. The more I recovered – slowly, over a decade – the more this changed.

As I came to realise that I had good days, I also realised that meant that I could have bad days too. And I did. Repeatedly. But the problem was, a lot of those bad days were self-fulfilled. Not because I was a terrible person. I was incredibly unwell. My being lazy or not didn’t really come into it (except, of course, in my internal litany of self-hatred).

Something would go wrong, and I would decide that meant it was a bad day, and write it off.

I wasn’t, at that point, capable of doing anything else. Unfortunately that “oh, let’s just write today off” response became a habit, and so I carried it forward into the point where I was back in control of my life. Something bad would happen, and I would give up. Where initially this had been all I was capable of doing, this wasn’t always the case anymore.

Depression had taught me to behave in this way, and it seemed almost impossible to get out of that habit. Just as it had seemed almost impossible to learn to feel emotions again after I’d stopped doing so. How strange it seemed to imagine that I could be angry, or frustrated, and that those feelings could be okay.

Recovering from depression continued to be all about unlearning the things it had taught me.

It should be at this point that I tell you about how I unlearned giving up on days when something went wrong. But I can’t. Because I know the reason that I manage to snap out of that absolutism, and I’m marrying him. Some days I can internalise his voice, and pick myself up off the floor after whatever has pushed me down there. But not always.

On the days that I can’t, I remember that I am incredibly fortunate to have someone in my life who is capable of acting as my carer and willing to do so. And sure, those days aren’t as often now. But as I’ve talked about before, sometimes it feels all the worse when I stumble now, because I’m so much higher up that it’s further to fall. I have much more to give up.

But here’s the thing about giving up.

And it’s something you’ve heard before, but I’m going to repeat it anyway. It is possible to repeatedly give up on something and still go on to succeed at it. Ask me how to recover from depression and I will tell you to just keep trying to. Because I certainly haven’t ‘recovered’ yet, and I might spend the rest of my life trying to. But I’ll still be trying. Even if I give up another thousand times along the way, I’ll still be trying.

If you’re trying to lift a box, and you abort midway through the lift because your legs give out, you’ve given up on that attempt. You haven’t given up on lifting the box until you’ve stood up and walked away. Even if you spend half an hour sitting on the floor staring at the damned box. You’re still thinking about lifting it up again, and that’s all that matters.

If you’re having a bad day, week, month or year, don’t suffer alone. Reach out to someone, wherever or however. If you don’t know where you can get help, check out this list of guides from Mind as a starting point.