To go from living with depression to getting rid of the illness is a process in several stages. This post is detailing the five stages, and helps us look at the illness with a sharp eye.
Stage 0 – To live in suffering and ignorance of the illness
The first phase, let’s call it Stage 0, is about living in the depression, and being a victim of the illness. When you are here you do not have an overview of the situation. You may not even realize that you are suffering from depression. You feel bad, but you have no name for it.
In my case, I was in this stage for many years. It took a long time for me to realize that my condition had a name, that it was an illness, and that it was not normal to feel like this.
A fish swimming in the sea does not know that there are birds flying only a few feet above them. The water it swims in is all it knows. The same is true for the person who is in Stage 0, he does not know that there is something wrong, only that life feels hard.
What usually takes a person from Stage 0 to Stage 1 is a consultation with a doctor, and perhaps eventually a psychologist or psychiatrist who can evaluate your condition and give you a diagnosis. If you find that life is hard, and you don’t know how to improve the situation, this is where you should start.
Stage 1 – You know what is affecting you
When in Stage 1, you are aware that you have a diagnosis and that the name of the illness is depression. The diagnosis of depression has several sub-diagnoses with different characteristics, that I am not going to go into here. Many people also have several diagnoses, where depression is one of them. The point here is that when you are in Stage 1 you have understood that something is wrong.
This is an important milestone on the path to recovery. You’ve defined the problem, the problem that distresses you. And only now can you start looking for tools to help you. And fortunately, there are plenty of measures that are available and effective.
Stage 2 – You decide to get to work to become better
Many people live in Stage 1 for a long time before they move on to Stage 2. This was the case for me; I lived with depression for many years before I realized that it was possible to get rid of it with a targeted approach and hard work. It is no secret that the transition from Stages 1 to 2 can take time, as depression contains so many self-reinforcing mechanisms. Depression takes away the energy, motivation, your sleep, parts of your social network and your relationships. And lastly, it deprives you of all hope. That’s what kept me disheartened for so many years; I simply didn’t think it would be possible to get better, and at least not that I would someday be a hundred percent healthy!
If you find yourself at this point, even if you do not think it is possible for you to get healthier, you can fake it until you make it. You can pretend you believe in your healing until you actually begin to believe it for real.
Stage 3 – Getting to work
In this stage, you work purposefully over time with various techniques and measures in order to get better. Since we are all individuals, what is effective for me is not necessarily effective for you. We therefore need to become explorers, try many different measures, and build a toolbox of that which is most effective.
Here are some suggested reads:
In addition, therapy and possibly medication will be helpful to many. If you’re just going to do one thing, I suggest exercising more, which has been shown to be tremendously helpful against depression. Simply start with short walks everyday day and increase the length and intensity over time.
Stage 4 – When the work starts doing itself
You know you are here when you notice you automatically apprehend yourself for making a thought fallacy (a concept from Cognitive Behavioral Therapy signifying a damaging and erroneous thought about yourself or the world). For example, you tell yourself off. But then you stop that line of thinking and acknowledge it for what it is; just a part of the great lie of depression, and you immediately think of something different that is more positive.
Or when you stop and say an inner thank you for seeing something beautiful when you’re all by yourself. You increasingly notice that your life is filled with beautiful, beautiful things, even though the pain is still there. The journey out of depression is not a straight rise out of a hole, it is a roller coaster where you still occasionally fall into a hole, but it happens increasingly less and less.
Stage 5 – You are more or less rid of depression, but continue the good work
One day you are going to look at yourself and your life and declare yourself as more or less well. It is a wonderful feeling; worth all the effort on this tough journey. At the same time, you acknowledge there is no point to stop investing in yourself. So, you continue the work, for example, by exercising in an increasingly optimal way, or by making career choices that take you closer to what you really want to do.
And by simply enjoying life, in the here and now.
Begin your journey out of depression by following the program in 14 Steps to Happiness with its accompanying workbook. And you can start this very minute, by subscribing to my free system with instructions and reminders.