Monday, September 20, 2010

Depression: Good Days and Bad Days

Many if not most places in the world have fairly predictable weather. My wife is from Japan. A rainy season of twenty to thirty days of rain occurs every June, and every summer has a withering string of at least forty hot, humid days.

When someone who is used to consistent weather patterns migrates to the city of Melbourne (where I live) they are in for a bit of a shock.

We Melbournians patiently endure the cold days of winter while eagerly anticipating the arrival of spring and warmer weather. Spring finally arrives and with it comes a string of warmer, sunny days.

New comers rejoice, thinking that winter is finally over and that warmer weather has arrived!

But then without warning the warm spell vanishes, replaced by a cold snap akin to a typical winter day. Those new to Melbourne are caught unawares by this sudden return to the cold. Dressed in thin summer clothes, they shiver and often contract colds or worse. By rights, November, the month proceeding summer, should be nice and warm. Yet my grandmother, who migrated to Melbourne from Queensland, termed September to November the 'pneumonia months,' since these unexpected cold snaps caused so many illnesses.

In contrast to newcomers to Melbourne, the locals expect these abrupt changes in the weather. Throughout spring and even during December, we keep a jacket handy. If the weather turns suddenly cold, rather than be surprised and caught out, we don the jacket and stay warm.

Recovering from depression can be very much like Melbourne’s weather. Depression begins with a frigid, cold winter of despair and black hopelessness. Then as we begin to recover, it is similar to entering spring, and finally summer, or complete recovery.

Speaking from my own experience, once we start to feel better and realize we are improving, we may entertain thoughts such as, “that's it, I'm on the road to recovery, only clear sailing from here on it.”

Unfortunately, if we think this way we set ourselves up for a fall. Because like Melbourne’s spring weather, even when we begin to feel better, depression still has those cold snaps, those bad days, which can catch us completely by surprise – unless we are expecting them.

That is the theme of this article – even when on the road to recovery we need to maintain realistic expectations and expect bad days or periods to afflict us from time to time. Otherwise when they come, we may become shocked, disappointed, downcast, and even fear we are regressing rather than improving. Such reactions of course do make us temporarily worse.

Yet if we know in advance that there will be these bad patches such as panic attacks, mental churning or the return of familiar disturbing sensations, then we can react calmly and head off a negative reaction that would intensify those symptoms. These bad patches are not significant, just a normal part of the healing process. It helps us a lot if we can accept these bad days without fearing or fighting, and simply wait for tomorrow, or the next day. We need to remind ourselves, “It's just one of those days, but it will end. More good times are ahead.” Sometimes it is a case of four steps forward, three back, two forwards, one back, but upon reflection we will see that we are actually moving forward.

This was something I learnt the hard way, as you can see from my diary.

16th May 1990 –
Two weeks ago I felt almost normal again,
But was I too hopeful?
The last two or three days have been almost as bad as before,
And it has caught me off guard.
A familiar disturbed sensation once again flooded my chest and emotions,
And it was too much for me today.


I have several diary entries to this effect, but eventually, I became accustomed to the cycle of occasional bad days mixed with good ones, and I no longer bothered to record them in my diary. Instead, aware that I needed to let time pass, I concentrated on keeping my eyes fixed upon Jesus, pursuing hobbies, serving in the church, exercising, and so on.

So let us persevere and run the race Jesus has set before us, and keep our eyes fixed firmly upon Him, for He is our portion, our inheritance.

Hebrews 12:1 ‘Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.’

Hebrews 12:2 ‘Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith.’




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  • 36 comments:

    1. Needed this today...God knew..thank you for sharing your journey...God bless you with the Light of His Presence today...

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    2. Once again, perfectly expressed. Even as someone who suffers from moods of mild depression my whole life, I can attest to these same cycles. I felt like you were reading my mind here:
      "but eventually, I became accustomed to the cycle of occasional bad days mixed with good ones, and I no longer bothered to record them in my diary. Instead, aware that I needed to let time pass, I concentrated on keeping myself busy with hobbies, serving in the church, and exercise."

      It is amazing what a difference it makes to know that the clouds will move in, and when they do to have your umbrella ready.

      Hope this information rains on all those who need it.

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    3. Such incredible insight that I can definitely relate to. I really hope you realize how powerful this is.

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    4. Peter, your words bless, and your words heal, because God is in them. May God fill your heart to bursting with joy that He is using the hard-fought and hard-won truths you are sharing. What a blessing this is!

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    5. That was a great analogy Peter. Us Northerners often joke about Melbourne's weather, but until you live there, you can't really appreciate it. In the same way, you can't understand how a person suffering from depression feels unless you have experienced it yourself.

      God bless you brother.

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    6. Reading your blog posts is a great comfort to me, Peter. Everything you describe is spot on and I don't feel alone or weird any more. Thanks Brother.

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    7. Dear Peter, Thanks for what you share in this article, I really needed to read it again today. After 2 or 3 weeks of feeling almost normal, today many fears and discoragement came back, I was feeling depressed today, I felt many sensations again on my chest and I felt down but I am trusting God with all my heart. Now I know what you spoke about in this article. Thanks for it and many blessings.

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    8. Loved reading this! Just what I needed to read at just the right time while I'm entering my own process of overcoming depression, who knew?

      Thanks for writing such easy to read and understand articles.

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    9. Amen! Praise God for his strenght to overcome the bad days!

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    10. Thanks for your encouraging words on my blog; keep your eyes on Jesus Peter and he will keep giving you beauty for ashes and oil of joy for mourning!

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    11. Continue to post dear friend. You are a God-send to so many. (including me) Be encouraged that your words are read even though you don't know who or where, and God uses them to heal.

      May this day be filled with joy in your heart.

      Pat

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    12. Hi Peter,

      Thanks for sharing this. I can fully identified with it as the road to recovery from depression is a process and there are good days and bad days which can at times be confusing. Eventually when I began to understand it, I became less discouraged and learn to wait upon the Lord through all its ups and downs.

      I also slowly learn to discover what can help me to cope at such times. Though it is still difficult, but it became more manageable and I began to have assurance in my heart that God will deliver me in His time. He is good in all His ways and He is able to do far above what I can imagine.

      May God bless you with His peace, joy and grace daily. Take care!

      God bless,
      Nancie

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    13. Peter nice to see you again, even though you are not regularly blogging. Thank you for your prayers. Blessings.

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    14. Dear Mark
      To answer your question, the picture is from Microsoft Word's clipart, to which I added the words. Feel free to use the picture.
      God bless
      Peter

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    15. Hi Peter,
      Thank you for popping over to The Faith Lounge.

      I am so happy that what the Lord laid on my heart ministered to you. What a joy to know that we have a God who never fails, that He is all knowing to those things we need and always provides at the right time, not always in the way we expect!

      I pray that all who need deliverance from the Spirit of depression will gain victory over it in the name of Jesus.

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    16. nice post thanks for sharing loves from holland...God bless you

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    17. Thanks for your kind, hopeful and encouraging words, as well as your Godly attitude. This blog is real and helpful.

      I am just learning about depression, and just learning that, yes, indeed I am at times depressed. I've had a hard time recognizing that. I am also dealing with being a care-giver and home companion for my mother. She also is suffering from depression at times, some due to medical conditions and some, due to aging and loss of independence. She refuses to recognize this, and also refuses to discuss counseling.
      Thanks for your prayers.
      Please visit my blog- "No Common Day" http://nocommonday.blogspot.com

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    18. Peter: Thank you for your blog. It's a great help to me.

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    19. Hi Peter, thanks for your blog, it has really helped me today. I thought I was in sunny skies, as have been happy for 8 weeks, but last night a tunder storm hit me and I wasnt prepared, but to know it is normal and so many others are like it, will make it easier.
      Thanks, Michael.

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      Replies
      1. Dear Michael, thanks for the feedback, and so glad the blog could encourage you. I remember learning that others were suffering from the same as I was, and knowing that it was normal was so encouraging to me too.
        God bless
        Peter

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    20. Peter, encouraging blog! I have been to it many many times. Please know that your words are encouraging to me and others, and that God has given you this ministry for folks like us that have been to the edge only to realize that God's mighty arm was carrying us the entire time. I am encouraged to know that there are many on this blog that have persevered thus far and will have the strength to go further with God's hope. I am also confident that many on this blog will praise God in the midst of the storm and will be sustained even in the darkest hours. The darkness cannot survive the light of Jesus, who gave us faith and will perfect it in the days ahead. I too have suffered with depression and anxiety for 8 months now and can relate to every conceivable symptom posted on this blog and those symptoms in Dr Weekes' Book, Self-Help for your Nerves. I too have read it in detail, and it was amazing to see my recovery. I am thankful to the Lord for what he has done thus far and know that challenging days will be mixed with good days and not to be discouraged by this lie from Satan. The Lord is trustworthy. Thanks Again Peter for your faithfulness and desire to help others. I will pray for you Peter!

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      1. Hi Jeffrey,
        Thank you for the feedback, and for praying for me, very much appreciated. I am glad to hear that you are well on the road to recovery as well. The Lord is so wonderful :)

        I thank the Lord that He has been able to use my testimony and writings to help others cope with and overcome depression, and for giving us people like Dr Claire Weekes, who has been such an incredible help to me too.

        God bless you, and may the Lord Jesus continue to take you by the hand and lead you through each day.
        Peter

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    21. Hi, Peter. Your blog has given me much hope throughout the past 3-4 months!! I've been battling chronic anxiety and insomnia for the past year, experiencing almost every single thing you went through and have struggled to find peace in Jesus. When the panic attacks first started I ran to and cried out to Jesus for peace but the anxiety just got worse. I was confused and angry and could not understand where my Savior was due to not being able to feel Him any longer. From your blog and reading Dr. Weeke's book, I have gained so much knowledge on anxiety and understand that God never left me, I just can't feel Him through all the emotions and symptoms. I've gone from having no good days to having a good day or 2 here and there to having 2 full weeks of good days. I know to expect bad days but today I'm on my 7th straight day of terrible anxiety after having 2 weeks of good days. These seem to be the worst days yet and I don't understand why accepting and "floating" are no longer working the way it did last week and the week before. Do you recall having long periods of bad days while in recovery? Also, do you recall ever thinking to yourself "I must be the exception. I don't know if I can ever fully recover."? I don't understand why the bad days are so bad after having so many good days. It feels like I'm starting all over and don't know when any good days will come again.

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    22. Peter, I also wanted to mention that the bad days I'm having now are crushing my hope due to the severity of the anxiety. Did you experience this during bad days? I really feel defeated and want so badly to have more good days. Thank you for all you have shared in this blog! It takes a huge amount of courage to publicly talk about things like suicidal thoughts and anger towards God while being a Christian. I know all to well those emotions and thoughts.

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    23. Dear Josh,
      What you are describing here is completely normal for anxiety/depression sufferers. Depression runs in cycles. You can have 2-4 weeks of good days, and then without warning, be slammed with bad days that are as bad as the worst you've had.
      But don't let these bad days trick you or discourage you - they are temporary. They will pass. So when you have bad days like that, keep accepting it and learning to live with it, and then wait for them to pass in the knowledge that better days are ahead.
      Sometimes the bad days seem to set us back a bit, but that's normaly.
      So Josh, you are NOT the exception. This is normal. So keep pressing into Jesus, and wait for this bad cycle to pass, knowing better are ahead.
      God bless
      Peter

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    24. Thank you so much for your response, Peter!! I REALLY needed to hear that it's completely normal to have these bad days that are as bad as I've ever had. You are such an incredible blessing!!

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    25. Peter, I've been on an antidepressant for about 2 months now and I had the idea that once on them I would never have bad days as severe as before on them. Did you experience really bad days even while taking antidepressants?

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    26. Dear Josh
      The answer is yes, after being on anti-depressants for months you can still get occasional bad days that are really bad.
      Also, you've only been on the meds for two months, which is still early days. Keep working on the facing, accepting/floating, learning to live with it and letting time pass, and now that you are on meds, the improvement will slowly (or quickly!) become more noticeable.
      God bless
      Peter

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    27. Nothing can compares to the promise I have in God, that he will never leave no matter what happen. And I thank to Him because every time I feel bad, he is always there. He is so great, I want to dwell always in his presence.

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      Replies
      1. Amen! So wonderful that we can completely rely upon His promises and rest in the knowledge that He will never leave us.
        God bless
        Peter

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    28. Your words are always a Blessing.... I have a question Peter.... When having a "bad day" How do we know when we are getting better, or if we are still at our worst? If someone said to me.... You are getting better, but just having a bad day... I would feel great! But how can we tell if we are headed up or still in the worst? ( Hugs ) bronwenprsns@aol.com

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      1. Hi Bronwen,
        I recommend getting a 12 month planner, like this one that you can download from this web site. Get green and yellow highlighters. For each bad day, color it green, for each good day color it yellow. If a day is only half bad, then only color half the day green. For a very bad day, you could use black or just very dark green. Also mark on the calendar any medication dosage changes etc. And then over the weeks/months you will get a clear pattern of whether you are improving or getting worse. I also recommend that you keep a diary, where you record briefly how you feel each day, with more specify details.
        Hope this helps,
        God bless
        Peter

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    29. Just wanted to let you know I'm a new reader of yours. I suffer from anxiety and depression and your words have helped me a great deal, especially that you include God. Thank you.

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      1. Dear Deb,
        Thank you for the comment, and sorry to hear about the anxiety and depression, but that is great news that my writings have been of help. I love the way that God uses us to comfort others with the comfort that He has given us.
        God bless
        Peter

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    30. I,m so glad you have wrote this I have been suffering with depression since april and was doing so good and then these last two days ive felt so hurt and down again and was worried I was heading back to that horrible place but now ive come across this I now know that it will pass and more good times are ahead. im also fed up with people saying they would never take antidepressants and like I said its not a sign of weakness its a sign of needing help for a illness thankyou for writing this it has helped me x

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      1. Dear Anonymous
        Thanks for sharing what you've been going through, and that the article has been encouraging.
        God bless
        Peter

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