Moving Forward: Risk Taking and Relapse

Feeling stuck?  Maybe you’ve been depressed for awhile and settled into a new version of yourself.  Maybe you’ve given up hoping for more out of life.  Or maybe you don’t think you’re capable of more.

If you’ve got the worst of your symptoms under control, you may now feel like you’re in a holding pattern.

The good news is that it’s possible to want and have more for yourself.  However, I may as well be up front and tell you the bad news.  Getting more means facing your fears and taking risks.   Taking risks can move you forward or it can lead to a relapse or worsening of your symptoms.

risk taking
Photo Credit: J. Star via Compfight cc

Should you risk it?  It depends what you want out of life.

I’m going to assume you want more.  I’m assuming you have a sliver of hope that things can be different.  Perhaps you discovered possibilities for yourself from seeing other people recover, from recalling your past successes, or by talking about your ambitions with others.

Getting unstuck

Getting unstuck is about starting to let go of what’s holding you in place.  It’s about preparing to feel uncomfortable and challenging your current identity.  Do you believe you can be different?

Depression has probably given you a spectacularly negative self-image so you may doubt your own abilities.  People with depression often underestimate what they’re capable of and so avoid taking action.  Have you noticed you expect less of yourself now that you have depression?

Challenge any beliefs that limit your future.  This is your life.  You might not be 100% confident that change is possible but that’s OK.

Feeling ready to take a risk

Once you can see a different future for yourself, fear will start to creep in.  If you want more for yourself than to just hold steady, you will have to push on and face your fears. A common fear is that you won’t be able to handle what might happen if things don’t go well.

Negative self-talk might be giving you messages of “you’re going to fail, this will turn out like it always does, you’re going to get hurt, yada, yada, yada”.  Other people may not want you to take a risk.  Physicians in particular with their goals of stabilization and maintenance might not be encouraging.

Assess the risk for yourself.  If you stay in your comfort zone, what do you give up?  If you face your fears and move ahead, what will that do for you and what might be the cost?  Is it worth it?

Taking action will strengthen your sense of self and level of resilience.  I had oodles of relapses but each one taught me something about my depression and allowed me to be stronger and smarter when I was ready to take another step forward.

It’s time for a simple act of courage

Breaking free of depression was a much slower and less linear process than I’d hoped.  It is sooooo slow!  It’s frustrating and it makes you doubt if change is ever possible.  I learned to manage my expectations about what success looked like.  Sometimes success meant I went backwards but rebounded faster.

Have you ever been in a situation where you moved out of your comfort zone?  What did you learn about your strengths?  How did you face your fears?  What support do you need this time to take a step?

Recovery, whatever that might mean for you, is a lengthy journey, not an end state.  Be brave.  You are stronger than you know.

Do you find yourself wondering if this is as good as it gets?  What’s holding you in place?

Me July 2013

About the Author
Michele Longo
I promote peer support and encourage people on their recovery journeys. My plan with this blog is to build a community of like-minded individuals offering ideas and encouragement from their own experiences. My master plan is to help create psychologically safe and supportive workplaces. I live in Calgary, Canada.

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