There are times I know that I am deeply depressed. And times that I really think that the depression is pretty gone. But mostly I live in varying shades of gray- I was even diagnosed with double depression at one time, major depression superimposed on top of dysthymia.
But as I start to come out of a depression, thinking about whether I am depressed or not, well or not- it often isn't useful. Because when people tell me- or even if I tell myself- look how much better I am doing- this feels deeply invalidating. Because I think it has to be all or nothing. If I am back at work, and not constantly fighting back the tears- that must mean I am all better (it certainly seems to mean that to my family). And yet it is not.
I got out to a social engagement last night. I had a good time. I am better. But I'm not better, too. It isn't like there is a quantum leap between mental health and mental illness- it is all a continuum of suffering and ability to function. And when I move up faster on my ability to function scale than my suffering diminishes, it is scary. I think that I will live the rest of my life feeling like this, and it doesn't even matter if I "get my life together," because that is getting better and I am still in pain.
So I think that is why I hate it so much when people tell me I am doing better as I start to climb out of a depression. My mood is usually the last thing to come. And so they are telling me I am better and I still feel miserable- and I am afraid that if this is what "better" is, then it really isn't very good. I can't stand the thought that this could be all that there is.
But if it is a continuum, there is always room for improvement. I am not trapped where I am. And the fact that I had a good evening out does not deny how paralyzed and stuck and sad I felt the rest of the day. It is all a part of my experience.