We’ve all heard the cliche that hindsight is 20/20.
It’s an old saying, but it’s true.
My hindsight has given me so much depth of understanding about my life, especially as regards my mental illnesses. Obviously, it wasn’t meant to be that I should know in the past all that I know now, and yet what a difference it would have made had I known.
If my present self could go back to speak to my past self, there is so much I would say to make my life easier. Eight points in particular stand out when I think about it:
1. There is no shame in having depression.
On two separate occasions, it took me forever to start seeing a doctor for my depression. Both times I was ashamed because I had had another lapse, and I didn’t want to acknowledge what I saw as my failure.
If I had only known that such things happen, are not our fault, and do not indicate failure, I would have gotten help so much sooner and saved myself and others so much suffering.
2. It’s okay to say you can’t do something.
I felt like I had to do it all, but it was so hard. Lots of things have always been hard for me–going out in public, running errands, going to parties, etc. Yet I felt that it was something to be overcome rather than something to be understood and sympathized with.
When I quit trying to force myself to do these things and let myself heal, I was so much happier and was able to devote my strength to getting better.
3. The process takes a long time.
Healing depression is not a quick fix. And sometimes it can only be managed, not cured. I wish I had realized how much time would have to go into the process, because then I would have started it sooner and not lost so many years of my life.
4. Treatment is worth the inconvenience.
As I said before, I put off going to the therapist for a long time. Not only was I afraid of the stigma; I was also afraid of the trouble of going and the work of the healing process.
Once I found a congenial doctor, though, I felt so much better in spite of these difficulties. I wish I had not let these fears slow me down, because I was missing out on so much.
5. Not all therapists/psychiatrists are congenial.
I was too trusting. My first experience with a therapist was outstanding, and I assumed all therapists would be equally good. That’s why I was shocked and made to feel worse when I ran up against some therapists who didn’t suit me as well.
If I had been prepared for this, I wouldn’t have been set back a few steps by these therapists.
6. Being tired is part of depression.
I have been tired most of my life. I remember when I was expecting my son, I heard you were supposed to get your energy back after the first trimester. I never did. Because I didn’t have any to get back.
I remember being tired all the time when I was teaching and someone was suggesting to me all kinds of possible diagnoses. Depression was never one of them, and yet we both knew I had suffered from depression in the past. Neither of us thought I might still be suffering from it. It should have been a clue.
I still drag myself through the days, but it helps to know where the tiredness comes from. Being aware of the source makes it seem more manageable now.
7. Some unpleasant habits of thought come from depression and may completely disappear upon treatment.
One of the ways I realized I had had depression most of my life was that when I started taking medication, certain lines on which I was accustomed to think just vanished.
I stopped having patterns of thought I had had as long as I could remember. It was like a cloud had lifted.
8. Depression makes people seem like enemies.
In the worse days of my depression, I had frequent bouts of animosity and resentment toward various people. I viewed these people as threats and enemies until the depression got more under control and I was able to look at them with more understanding and forbearance.
I think now of the relationships I could have had and the energy I wasted during all that time I was spending being angry.
Looking back, I can see so much that I have learned that I wish I had known from the start. However, although I didn’t get the benefit of knowing these things until recently, maybe one or two of these eight points will help you in your mental health journey. If so, I would be more than thrilled.