Recovery from Depression: A Road Map

Man with suitcase walking down middle of roadDepression is a lonely road, traveled by a one-trick pony. Whether depression is a nagging symptom or completely disabling, it is one of the most common reasons people seek counseling.

Most often, people think medication is the first line of treatment, but that is rarely the case. I like to think of treating depression like planning a route on a map. Typically, depression results from the mind’s defense system against chronic frustrations. Basically, depression is a dead-end street, a resting point, after some attempts to make life changes to meet needs have been ineffective.

Are you feeling depressed? It’s time to get off that one-trick pony and slide behind the wheel of a tricked-out roadster.

Finding these alternate routes to wellness is where counseling can be useful. In our culture, we tend to blame others for our unhappiness. How often have you heard someone say, “If he would just do (fill in the blank) then we would be fine!” The truth is, you can’t force anyone to change. What’s more, someone else changing doesn’t cure depression. There’s no one else on your path back to wellness. It’s just you.

Now, you could see this as depressing in and of itself, or you could see this as simple and freeing (a good example of changing your perception). If the changes you will make are only your own, and you dump the heavy baggage of frustration from hoping others will change, it is likely you will discover some energy to start your journey.

Sometimes this insight brings total recovery; sometimes it is just the start. Either way, the first burst of energy you feel with depression recovery is critical. Do something. Exercise is enormously helpful, assuming you are healthy enough for it. Making sweeping declarations and changes in your relationships can be useful but is a high-risk, high-energy move. Maybe there’s a third avenue. Often, the “something” is to consciously change the way you think about your relationships or situation.

The key to recovery from depression is to be aware of energy and frustration. Feeling a little Freudian? Not to worry, we’re not going that deep and I’m not blaming anyone’s mom. In fact, I’m not blaming anyone. Remember, this is a lonely road. When I talk about energy, I am talking about the energy you need to get through the day. The energy to handle your job, the kids, relationships, laundry. This change can happen all from the comfort of your non-Freudian couch.

To start your journey back from depression:

  1. Think about a situation that depresses or frustrates you (actually two sides of the same coin). It likely is sapping your energy—which is a strong warning that depression is lurking. Since we know the only real control you have is the way you think about something, it’s a perfect starting point.
  2. Express your complaint (to yourself or a counselor) and then ask, “Is there another way of looking at this issue?”
  3. When you think of a fresh perspective, it is often instantly followed by an excuse. Tell that excuse-making voice to hush, and enjoy the new perspective.
  4. Try it on for a while. See how it feels. Journaling through this process is enormously useful.
  5. Remember, this isn’t a one-shot deal—changing your thinking and perspective takes practice. You may have to travel down a few roads to see which way of connecting feels best.

The benefit here is that as you spend less energy feeling frustrated, mad, and ultimately depressed, you will have more energy to handle your daily life. The more energy you have, the more potential for success and happiness. Try these ideas out in your life and let me know how they work for you. If you’re not finding the recovery you’re seeking, try talking with an experienced counselor who can help you bypass any roadblocks in your journey.

© Copyright 2013 GoodTherapy.org. All rights reserved. Permission to publish granted by Kelly Baez, PhD, LPC, NCC, therapist in Atlanta, Georgia

The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by GoodTherapy.org. Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

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  • Collin

    Collin

    July 1st, 2013 at 10:26 AM

    I find that the real stumbling block for healing that so many people who are depressed face is that they just can’t ever get to a turn where they can truly see some light at the end of the tunnel. For them life is always so dark and bleak and when they are feeling this way there is a hoplessness that there will ever be anything better. This is as good as it gets many of them think. I think that if they could see that hope then they would have more of an opportunity to recover and heal more quickly and wholly. But when this is beyond what they can see then that makes recovery awfully difficult for them.

  • jose

    jose

    July 1st, 2013 at 1:48 PM

    this is my weak point..once low it takes immense effort on my part to get out of it..even sad things makes me sad for an extended time.do not know how or when this started but I sure do wish this was all over..!

  • Kerrie Williams

    Kerrie Williams

    August 31st, 2013 at 11:37 AM

    These things sound similar to my experiences too :)

  • Caroline

    Caroline

    July 2nd, 2013 at 1:03 PM

    Too many people get bogged down in what they think that recovery and self care should look like. this kind of thing does not come perfectly packaged in a box. How can there really be a road map to recovery when this is a journey that is so unique and individualized? My journey is mine, and your is yours; we may not even be headed for the same destination for my healthy will also look differently than what yours looks like. But that’s not to say that one is better than the other, right?

  • Kerrie Williams

    Kerrie Williams

    August 31st, 2013 at 11:44 AM

    Seeing the light at the end of the tunnel took 11 years for me but the problem now is that many of the survival skills I learnt to get by are now holding me back and I’m having to “face my fears” one at a time even tho I appear better to others….has anyone else experienced this ?

  • brenda

    brenda

    March 25th, 2014 at 8:11 PM

    I have struggled with depression most of my life,it was so bad at times I had to be in hospital. I’ve been on Zoloft and anti anxiety meds which.. Worked a little too well and ended up being an addiction.it’s been a hard road, I lost my brother two yrs ago to top it all off. I’ve fallen many times, but I’m aware of this..and I know what works and what doesn’t. A good support system is important.. Stay on your meds, exercise, try to eat well and the most important to me.. Faith.. Faith that you will get better.. It doesn’t matter if your Christian or Buddhist or Mormon..just having some faith and the act of prayer helps immensely.I am not religious but I believe in the great spirit.. So I ask the creator to help me and give me strength to fight my worst enemy.. Myself. Be kind to yourself and live in the moment.

  • Michelle L

    Michelle L

    February 2nd, 2015 at 12:16 PM

    I truly do believe it is a matter of a combination of things,but for me i think a good change of perspective would help. But am struggling telling that lil voice to shoosh.

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