"I miss me. The old me, the happy me, the bright me, the smiling me, the laughing me, the gone me." -Unknown
It's an unfortunate truth that those who triumph over depression aren't immune from its return. I know that it's easy to blame yourself. I know that it's so much harder to believe it's not your fault, but rather for whatever reason you're more susceptible to this issue and no matter what happens, can still come out of it again. Believe me, I continue to battle depression even if I am able to find periods of immense happiness and contentment. In fact, the American Psychological Association reports that "at least 50% of those who recover from a first episode of depression [has] one or more additional episodes in their lifetime," so you're definitely not alone in this experience.
I know that even in the darkest periods of depression, however, I can at least find a sense of calm and glimmer of hope where there was once success. I can speak to you all from the perspective of an individual who has faced this issue herself and worked with those who have faced similar issues. You can feel free to amend what I say to fit your own circumstances and what you think could help; ultimately, it's most important that this is a time you can prioritize your mental health and stay safe on the road to recovery.
1. Discuss changes in symptoms with mental health care providers
Hopefully there are mental health professionals you can reach out to about changes in depressive symptoms--or that you can talk to a physician about the possibility of seeing a psychotherapist and/or psychiatrist for treatment. Maybe there needs to be a shift in medication or in a certain treatment plan. Maybe it's time to go back to therapy. It can be difficult to reach out after you've felt okay for a while, but you deserve to feel okay.
2. Don't wait for a full-blown episode to take action
You know what it's like to fall back into familiar depressive symptoms--tackle the issue as soon as you start to feel it's possible that you'll relapse. I know that you may want to stay hopeful that you're not falling back into depression, and that's definitely possible, but it's better to take action when you are in a better state of mind.
3. Create (or review) a safety plan
If you've experienced suicidal feelings or behaviors in the past, keep a safety plan for what to do in an accessible place. Write down The National Suicide Prevention Line 1-800-273-8255, Crisis Text Line (Text 'Hello' to 741-741), and other useful resources for this situation. Jot down the contact info for trusted friends and family to reach out to in order to keep you safe. Brainstorm some activities that can help you deal with difficult feelings and urges. If you already have a safety plan, take some time to review and make possible changes.
4. Your mental health is #1
Your mental health affects every aspect of your life; thus, mental health needs to be a top priority. Particularly with a potential depressive episode on the horizon. This means that self-care is a top priority: eating well, sleeping well, reaching out, communicating with those with whom you are close, all of these are top priorities.
5. Reexamine your life
Sometimes we can figure out potential reasons for increased depressive symptoms, and sometimes we can't. However, there are always options to increase pleasurable/joyous experiences and decrease negative experiences. Changes in our lives can bring about difficult feelings--even positive changes can cause this to occur. Routine can become mundane. We can become uncertain about our lives. There are an infinite number of reasons.
6. Discuss mental health with trusted friends/family members
One of the most important aspects to prevention and recovery from depression is social support systems, and an effective step you can take to bolster this is to discuss changes in your mentality with trusted friends/family members. If you already feel comfortable discussing these issues with them, all the better--think about possible avenues for support, whether that means just a listening ear or a shoulder to cry on. Or even if you don't know what they can do for you right now, knowing that they'll be there for you can be of immense comfort.
Now is the time for self-care. Whether that means simply putting food on the table or taking showers on a regular basis, it's important that you take care of yourself the best you can. It's not all glamorous spa days and yoga classes, no, but rather doing the things that allow you to be healthier on all different yet interconnected levels: emotional, psychological, spiritual, physical, etc. Write lists and plan out what this means to you.
This sucks, I know. And that's an understatement. I can't verbalize how much it sucks to have to experience depression and experience it again and again and again--the experience itself doesn't get any less painful. However, you may have some of the right tools and resources for dealing with depression still at your disposal. You know that it'll take all your strength and resolve to continue forward, but you also know that the whole 'light at the end of the tunnel' cliche turns out to be true. You can overcome depression again and again--it may be hard to believe at times, but I believe in you.