Depression: getting better

Whether they had had one episode of depression or many, people talked about getting better. While it can seem that depression will never end, people do tend to get better in time (see 'Hope, advice & wisdom for people with depression'), and often with help, e.g. medication and/or talking therapies. Although recovery usually happens slowly, aspects of recovery can seem very striking. People described coming out of depression in vivid and optimistic ways. One man said, “It's the most wonderful feeling...The sun seems to shine better, the colours of nature are much sharper”. Another man said it was about “feeling that there are so many brilliant things available in the world”. One woman said, “I just woke up in the morning and I just knew that inside myself I felt different... I began to feel human”.

Getting better means different things to different people, and people aim for different kinds of getting better. For one man who had emerged from his depression after 15 years, recovering was about 'learning about the world' including how to socialise with others. For another, it was about “joining the rest of the human race and establishing relationships”. Yet another man saw it as about living a more genuine life and not identifying so much with other depressed people “and their distorted ways of thinking and feeling”. Others talked about gaining strength and better connecting with people. A woman (who had depression lasting months) looked at her recovery as 'going back to my normal life' of friends, family and interests. Recovery often meant looking forward to the challenge of life and having fun, instead of dreading life.

Some people who recover can feel so well that they believe they will never get depression again. This belief can contribute to anguish if they do get depressed again. One woman said, “I was just absolutely despairing because each time I've come out of it I've thought, I'll never go through it again”. Other people worry that they are going too high in their recovery, and fear they may be heading for mania and a subsequent crash into depression. Certainly, a number of people expressed fear of having further episodes of depression. One man was worried that each episode of depression was “worse than the last”, and one woman feared that her post-natal depression would return at menopause due to hormonal changes. Another woman realised that she could ride through the bad times, which were not the same thing as depression returning.

People talked about making very good recoveries from depression, but it was also clear that recoveries can be partial, at least at first (e.g. concentration may still be poor, or people may still feel depressed). Getting better can be a matter of struggling and taking one day at a time. People emphasised that you need time to recuperate from depression - recovery can't be rushed, and it may take months, years or even decades to recover. This point is important because some people been depressed for as long as they could remember, and/or put themselves under too much pressure to get better. For instance, one man wanted to get better quickly because he felt such a burden on his partner.

Even the people who had been depressed 'forever' talked about recovery. It was clear that recovery could happen at any age or stage of depression. One man said it took him until his 60s before he had achieved a sense of wellbeing and a firm belief he could recover. A woman who recovered in mid-life said, “I always say life began at 40”. Another woman described her recovery as a “fairly tortuous journey”. She had regrets about “life wasted”, yet she was glad to feel so well at the age of 44. Sometimes people talked as if they had an “old self”. One woman looked back at her achievements after getting better and said “the old me... could never have done that”.

Some people with long-term or multiple episodes of depression initially did not realise they could recover. For one woman, the idea of getting better “never occurred” to her until, after 9 years of depression, she went to a conference on recovery! Seeking out and meeting people in recovery can be inspirational. People with a “recovery attitude” tried to remain hopeful and believed in getting better (see 'Hope, advice & wisdom').

People with multiple episodes or long-term depression need to find their own way out of depression, using a selection of strategies that suited them e.g. medication, therapy, self-help techniques, support groups, holistic therapies. One man said, “There's lots of vicious circles in depression, and once you understand it, you can find the weak points in the vicious cycles and try to tackle those”. By discovering the things that contribute to their depressions, people were attempting to make more lasting recoveries (see 'Gaining insights about depression' and 'Hope, advice & wisdom for people with depression').

Last reviewed September 2017.
Last updated April 2015.


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