One valuable skill in early recovery is recognizing when you’re feeling depressed. Here are four signs to look for, in no particular order:
People remark on your negative attitude. They may see you as oversensitive or moody or unpredictable or make observations like “you haven’t been yourself lately.”
You notice that your negative moods are interfering with your normal routine. That can be patterns of sleep, eating, work, school, lovemaking, enjoyment of life, relationships with others, etc.
You find yourself preoccupied with your negative feelings. You realize you’ve been feeling sad, or worried, or angry, or disappointed, irritated, envious, fearful, discouraged, jealous, frustrated, unhappy for an unusually long period of time. There’s no universal standard for ‘unusually long’, but ask yourself: has it been a long time for me, based on my past experience?
You struggle to control these negative feelings. They persist despite efforts to make yourself feel better. For some reason, the activities you ordinarily rely on to improve your mood somehow don’t seem to do the trick.
Take a moment to ‘track back’ your negative mood. Has it lasted a week, two weeks, a month — longer? Is there a particular event or occurrence that seemed to coincide with its beginning? If yes, what was it? Do you think it might have been triggered by something in your current situation, or perhaps something from the past, like an episode of grief or personal trauma? The better we understand the origins of a depressed mood, the more likely we are to come up with an effective remedy.
Some options to consider:
- You can seek professional help. This might come from your family physician or from a counselor or therapist. Family physicians normally think first in terms of medication. Counselors and therapists tend to focus on therapeutic interventions that may or may not include medication. Every case is viewed individually and good treatment always begins with an assessment.
- You can seek support from peers, such as a sponsor or a trusted advisor. Just the act of opening up about your mood can be therapeutic. It removes some of the burden of isolation, provides an outside viewpoint, and can help you identify options that you may not have thought of on your own.
- You can initiate activities that have been shown to improve negative mood. There are actually quite a few of these. For instance, meditation, exercise, or healthier patterns of diet and sleep.
For many in recovery, the most effective solution involves a combination of all three.
And of course, time can be a healer, too.