Relapse Happens with Depression. So Why Aren’t We Talking About It?

There seem to be two dominant narratives about depression — that you're either overreacting and exaggerating for attention, or that all you need to do is seek treatment and your depression will be magically cured.

And that's exactly the problem.

When YouTuber and advocate Marina Watanabe was diagnosed with clinical depression in 2014, she wasn't sleeping, struggled with crying spells and constant guilt, and began skipping classes regularly.

When she started treatment with antidepressants, though, she felt amazing — at least, she did at first.

What she didn't expect was that the feeling wouldn't last forever. What people don't learn when they're told about depression, she says, is what it's actually like to receive treatment — and that it's a treatment that has to be ongoing.

"The thing that no one ever told me about depression was that even if you go get treatment and start feeling a lot better, you're not going to be magically cured," Marina explains.

Marina, like most people who have depression, thought she was "cured" because she began treatment for her mental illness. She'd only ever heard the persistent myth that once you seek treatment, you'll get better.

The reality, though, was that this upswing was temporary.

"Depression is an ongoing struggle and for a lot of people it's something that they're going to be struggling with for a lot of — if not most of — their lives."

When Marina started to go through her first relapse — or as she describes it, a period after starting treatment when she felt depressed again — she realized how inaccurate those myths are.

In other words? Even if you seek treatment for your depression, you'll still have highs and lows, which makes committing to your long-term recovery essential.

That said, Marina notes that it's even harder for people who don't have financial and emotional resources to get the treatment they need.

She was fortunate to have access to health insurance and she can see a psychiatrist to get prescribed medication to manage her depression.

However, almost 9 percent of U.S. people don't have health insurance and it's more expensive to see a medical professional, get a diagnosis, and get your prescriptions filled when you don't.

She was also lucky to have parents and friends who didn't dismiss her mental illness.

Having a support system can make it easier to open up about mental health issues and get the right treatment, which might be harder to do if the people close to you are denying you even need help.

"Shaming people for their mental health issues or telling them that their experiences aren't valid is only gonna make it worse," she says.

That's because telling people that their mental illness isn't as bad as they think discourages them from seeking treatment and getting a diagnosis.

The truth is, everyone who has depression experiences it differently — and honestly reflecting this reality (and validating every feeling that comes with it!) is so important.

It may take time to figure out the exact treatment plan that works best for you, whether that's medications, therapy, a combination, or something else.

If you're working to treat your depression and you're going through a relapse or low period, don't feel ashamed or guilty. This is all part of the process of finding a treatment plan that works for you, and your mental health is always worth it.


Alaina Leary is an editor, social media manager, and writer from Boston, Massachusetts. She's currently the assistant editor of Equally Wed Magazine and a social media editor for the nonprofit We Need Diverse Books.

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