Is this as good as it gets? About 14 years ago I was diagnosed with treatment resistant depression—and then bipolar disorder. I take a number of meds. In the past few years I've felt better than I have in a long time, but I still also don't enjoy the things I used to. All I want is to get these things back. Is this as good as it gets?

Unfortunately, your experience is fairly common. For many people living with mood disorders, treatment results in being “better, but not well.” Symptoms may be “controlled” or “stable” (to use the medical terms), but symptoms certainly are not gone. And wellness is about more than removing symptoms; it’s about feeling well, accomplishing goals, and moving forward in life. DBSA’s Year of Thriving is about raising expectations.

First, tell yourself that it’s OK to expect more than this. Spending a lot of time depressed can leave you thinking that you don’t deserve more than you’ve got. But that’s just the depression talking.

Second, get together with your doctor to take another look at your medication plan. Sometimes, feeling dull or flat is a symptom of depression, and a change in medication could help with that. Sometimes, feeling dull or flat can be a side effect of medication, and a change in medication could help with that, too. Our current medications have a lot of limitations—both in their effectiveness and their side effects. But you can certainly investigate whether there are better options for you.

Third, look beyond medication to things that will help you thrive. Spending a lot of time depressed can also shrink your world—so that you withdraw from things that bring you joy and lose hope about trying new things. Start with this “rule of two”:  Try to do two things every week:  one thing that you’ve enjoyed in the past and haven’t done in a while AND one completely new thing that you usually wouldn’t think of trying. For that new thing:  If it scares you a it, then you’re probably right on target.

I hope that 2015 will be your Year of Thriving. Happy New Year!

About the Doc

About the Doc

Greg Simon, MD, MPH, is a psychiatrist and researcher at  Kaiser Permanente Washington Health Research Institute in Seattle. His research focuses on improving the quality and availability of mental health services for people living with mood disorders, and he has a specific interest in activating consumers to expect and demand more effective mental health care.