My depression had to get worse before it got better

I was sitting in the waiting room of a building labeled Family and Psychological Services, filling out a dozen New Client forms, when I read this: “Sometimes, before it gets better, your illness has to get worse.” Had I been told this a year ago, I might have screamed. I might have run straight out of that waiting room, arms flailing behind me, crying, “NO.” This time, though, something in me told me to stay. My depression was at an all time low, teetering on that dangerously thin and suicidal line depression on which loves to reside. In my eyes, I had only one other option, and it wasn’t a pleasant one.

I couldn’t imagine getting any worse, but then again, I couldn’t imagine getting any better. The insomnia, the weird appetite, the incredibly dark feeling of utter hopelessness. It had become too much to bear. Again. I felt physically heavy, too heavy to live. So I called (and I will never understand how in the world I managed to even make my first appointment), and I drove to Pasadena, and I filled out the forms, and I walked into the office, and I just started talking as I had never talked before. I talked about things I had never told a single person. I brought up trauma I wasn’t even sure was real and admitted things about myself I had only once thought up then thrown away.

And let me tell you, it hurt. It hurt so badly that I thought I was going to crack in two. During one session, I had barely the time to sit down before I burst into tears, sobbing, convulsing. My therapist let me cry for a while before she said something like, “You know, I want you to feel this way for a little bit.” I glared at her. She went on, “You haven’t talked about any of this for how many years? Of course it’s going to hurt this badly and of course you’re going to feel this awful.”

It made sense. It was as if my depression had terribly stitched itself over these wounds, this trauma, all of these awful things I believed about myself, and I had just ripped the stitches out. So, of course I was bleeding. Of course I was raw.

But then, something incredible happened. I had bad days, oh yes, I had some very bad days (and still do). But in between, and what became more and more frequent, I had these beautiful moments full of hope and promise. I started having entire days where breathing felt good, where walking felt purposeful and important. I started spending less time with this old “friend” called Depression and more time with these new friends called Hope and Acceptance.

Yes, my depression, in many ways, may look like it is worse on some days. It may look like I have taken a step backward. I promise, I haven’t. I promise, it’s actually quite the opposite. Healing, especially from a disease like depression, is difficult and it looks different nearly every day. Today, my healing is messy and volatile. Tomorrow, it may be chaotic and confusing. Even still, next week, it may be calm and tranquil. I am ever-changing. My recovery is ever-changing.

As I sit here writing to all of you, on a day that I hadn’t planned to exist, I can only say that this is the best thing I have ever done for myself. To make the decision to get worse, to be 100 percent transparent, was the best thing I could have done to save my life. Because healing never felt possible. Healing felt like some sort of distant euphoria for everyone else but me. Am I close? Hardly. But it’s the promise of leaving my depression behind, of having more and more good days, that keeps me talking and working through it. It’s the promise that the hurting means I’m healing that keeps me alive.

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