Depression and low mood

Getting better

Despite difficult experiences with low moods, and even severe depression over a long time, all of the young people we spoke with saw themselves as having come through depression, or were in the process of recovery. One man put this as:

“I feel the storm has kind of gone down.”

Here young people talk about how they got better.
 
“I decided I didn’t want a career as a mental health patient”
 
Many young people described having made a very conscious decision to want to get better. They described coming to a realisation that they had to do something differently, or to accept the help that was available for them. One woman said that after a series of hospitalisations, she was at risk of just becoming “a mental health patient” and decided she wanted to do something else with her life.
 
Making the decision was not always easy. For many, it had taken a long time to get to a point where they felt able to regain control over their lives and be proactive. Several described how the first step to ask for help was always the hardest but some pointed out that even before then, they had to accept in themselves that things just weren’t right. Some said they always knew there was help available and people offering them support but before they hadn’t been able to receive that support.
Another woman described the start of her road to recovery:
“I know one day I will get better, I will beat it because I have the help now, I have the means to, I have someone to support what I’m going through. I’m not on my own anymore.”
 
For some young people, it was a relief to be able to accept that they were ill and needed help for their illness, like for a broken leg or diabetes. Others said they had to come to an acceptance of who they were and were able to see depression as one aspect of their lives, rather than trying to explain it away. For a few, admitting that they needed help, rather than ploughing along all alone, was the hardest – and the most helpful - thing.
“My lift floated back up”
 
Most of the people said the process of recovery had been a very slow and gradual one. One man described this as:
 
“It’s two steps forward, one step back, two steps forward, five thousand steps back, every once in a while”.

For many, low moods and depression had affected their lives for months or years and they said they couldn’t expect all that to be “reversed” overnight. They said no treatment or intervention could be “a quick fix”. Some said that especially in the beginning, they had to take life day by day and accept its unpredictability. Focusing on getting through each day, or even each hour, and breaking tasks into smaller manageable blocks helped many to get through the bad days and, importantly, to gain a sense of achievement.

In addition to getting help, treatment and support, some had to rebuild their lives. Long-term depression had affected so many areas of their lives - schooling, friendships, home life, physical health - that they had to first find and then refit “all the pieces” of the puzzle back together.
“I want to make this crap worthwhile”
 
Young people described a sense of “achievement” over the battle through and recovery from depression. Some felt their experiences had made them “stronger” and one woman said she wouldn’t change her past because it has made her the person she is today.
 
A few people wanted to turn their experiences into help for others with mental health problems, either as a career or through voluntary work. A couple of people were active in raising awareness and campaigning for young people’s mental health issues. As one man put it; “I don’t want anyone to have to go through what I did”. Many people had experienced lack of understanding and insensitive approach from both professionals and other people, and felt they had to “battle the system”, which had spurred them on to try to change things for the better.
One young man, who’d experienced low moods on and off for some years said all his experiences had given him a desire to do something big and to “make all the shit worthwhile on the other side”.
Though people were focused on recovery and getting better, many were still unable or unwilling to look too much into the future. They felt it was better to focus on the present and to live in the here and now. One woman described this as wanting to “live, not just exist, because existing isn’t enough”. She further described “existing” as “it’s like a book being there but not being read”.
 
Several people were aware of the possibility that depression might come back but said they weren’t as consumed or scared by this as they had been.
 
“I don’t know where I’m gonna be in ten years but I want to know where I might be. I will wanna know what to do if I end up in a place XYZ QRBV. I want to know. I wanna know all the things that other people know about it, all of the possibilities.”
 
Others wanted to be armed with all the information regarding a future with depression. A few said they’d reached a place where they experienced the same ups and downs in life as “any normal person” but that it wouldn’t lead into depression. They were able to see those days as “just bad days”, and nothing more. Many felt reassured that if depression came back one day, they would know they had the resources and the knowledge to cope with it in a much better way. One woman summed it up:
 
“I had the fear of it [depression] coming back, I haven’t thought about it, and maybe yeah, one day it’ll all come back and I’ll know how to challenge it and every time I get it I know to beat it in a much better way, I get a bit of knowledge. It might come back, it might not. But right now I’m not actually that bothered. And it’s the best feeling in the world.”
This is how one young woman described her process of recovery and hope:
 
“I’ll get it on random times like if it’s a really sunny day, and I’ll be walking across campus, and like I’ll see all these flowers and I’ll be able to feel within the pit of my stomach just happiness, and be able to feel a smile like some back onto my face, without even having to try. And just kind of life is okay, life’s good. It isn’t or it is brilliant. Like it’s raining today, but you know the sun will come out again. But it’s easy to forget that when you’re in a depressive hold, when you’re in the hold of a depressive episode.”
 
“It’s hard to say to someone, you’ve just got to remind yourself that things will get better, ‘cos you can’t see it. I’ll go:

“Well no they won’t. But they got better for you; they won’t get better for me.” I remember reading things like that, and thinking, “You know, don’t worry things will get better.” I’m like, “No they won’t, you’re just being stupid.” And it is hard to say, but I’ve got to remind myself that things can get better. The sun will come out again, things pass. Life chucks stuff at you, but also you come out so much stronger from it.”

Last reviewed June 2017.
Last updated December 2013.

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