The journey has been long and we have been wounded. We were reckless and have found ourselves with a loss of capability in a department we had once been mobile. We had been in a state of normality, but something has robbed us and left us incapable.
The act or process of becoming healthy after an illness or injury;
The act or process of returning to a normal state after a period of difficulty;
The return of something that has been lost or stolen.
(Provided by: http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/recovery)
Often, when recovery is referenced, an immediate thought shared by many is physical recovery. The first association made is that, an individual has harmed themselves or received a surgical procedure, leaving them incapacitated for typical, everyday activities. As we grow, we are usually considered rather “normal”, unless we have been diagnosed with a disability/disorder as a child. A normality would be attaining what is expected; thus hygiene, feeding oneself, getting out of bed, etc. One who has recently injured themselves may not be able to reach these daily requirements; having a wounded knee could confine them to a wheelchair, having an organ removed could require them to be bed ridden, etc. They are evidently needing a recovery and support of those around them.
What if this otherwise normal individual was suddenly hit with something non-physical that ROBBED them of their ability to attain these daily requirements?
Suddenly, this person is no longer getting out of bed early or brushing their teeth, wearing clean clothes or attending work. They are bed ridden and feel as though they cannot complete daily tasks. They may push you away and suffer from an instability of their emotions, developing hostility. Their unpleasantry is causing you to feel attacked and they cannot help it. They may make threats towards themselves and be in high reluctance to try to achieve anything, in belief they are too run down. Some may cry, some may be numb, some may be angry, and the symptoms continue. This would be an outside perspective of depression.
Some mental health conditions are even more transparent than that; they are near invisible and the one suffering may feel invalidated. They may still complete daily tasks, but a normality is no longer normal for them. For example, someone with an eating disorder can lead a pretty typical life on the exterior, but they may be constantly counting things and be phobic of foods, spiraling into a deadly disorder of a desire to regain control. The invisibility of mental health is what makes it so dangerous. The misunderstanding that it’s just a phase, or that it will pass is flawed and is a skewed perception.
They can just get over it, right? Send them to a therapy session and everything will be okay.
No. They can’t “just get over it” nor can a therapist solve their problems. A mental health condition is caused by genetics, environments and/or repetitive behaviours, causing an illusion or disorder in the individual experiencing this chaos. Not to mention, once a condition lays its eggs, it multiplies rapidly. They may not be able to manage their emotions properly, leading them to physical self-destructive behaviour. And, automatically, their condition has gone from singularly emotional to a combination of that and physical. A condition as such becomes ingrained in their minds, and they may feel an impossibility to break their self-destructive coping behaviours, as self-harm is “working” for them..
They are now not only unable to achieve daily tasks, but are now covered in scars or have an alcohol problem, causing tension in social environments and activities. They fear public environments, using avoidance to outcast themselves, and no longer show interest in some of their previous most guilty pleasures. They become a victim to their mental health problems, being a parallel to physical injury. Each a valid condition, worthy of a recovery and relief from the inevitable life changes.
What does a mental health recovery look like?
Well, as per physical injury recovery demands, there is a lot of self-care and mindfulness of oneself involved. The individual seeking recovery must learn to accept their condition and be aware of the aspects that follow it. Wanting change will be their first step into recovery, but even those who want this change turn back because self-destruction had been self-taught and they feel more comfortable being in that ill mindset, being what they know and what is familiar to them. Recovery will NOT be a succeeding option if they do not want to work at it, and if they do not dedicate themselves; but that doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be an option nor that it isn’t worth your time. No one is happy living in self-loathing, hatred, with fluctuating emotions and an addiction, and this is where they seek change.
Recovery is not easy; it is courageous to pursue it. It is stronger to fight your mental health conditions than to tango with them.
But for recovery, what do we need? How can we succeed?
As stated previously, wanting change is the gateway into recovery. We do not want to partake in these behaviours anymore because, though they helped us temporarily, they have worsened our problems, emotions and actions. They have robbed us of friends, family, assets and property, etc, and anything that we cherished prior to our condition(s). We do not want to lack control and continue to have a shortage of stability in our lives. We reminisce on the wonderful times we once had and we’d like to be able to smile in that way again. We are coming to the realization that we are not coping with our feelings properly, and this is leading us to react in unhealthy ways based solely on emotions and emotion driven thoughts, not considering the entire effect they could have on us and all that is important to us. We must be willing to drop our “sick” title and work on this recovery in a serious manner, never taking “just one more cut/drink/etc” lightly. That in itself is a threat to our recovery, and one relapse can throw us into a full blown relapse, bringing us further than we’ve ever been.
Change involves adjusting habits, behaviours, toxicity and our mindset. Without being ready for change, recovery will not succeed.
Additions and Subtractions
We need more positivity, and less toxicity. Determining what is a positive influence in our life versus destructive may be complicated, but it can be done with thorough consideration.
Positive things to be seeking can involve new hobbies, which can be anywhere from a community sport, to arts and crafts, to activism. These can turn unhealthy if we become obsessive over them, letting them control our every thought and driving our emotions. Hobbies should be fun and joyful, and the moment they stray from this description, we should reanalyze how we are approaching them and how we can adjust ourselves to keep them good. Maybe this means spending less time partaking in activism as we are getting aggressive, and instead consider spending more time on scrapbooking.
Toxicity can involve many things, even things that were once good. Toxic people should be a main subtraction, as other people’s realities can rub off onto us and cause us to become frantic. If we are going to partake in this, we need to verify that it is their behaviour and feelings, for their own reasons, not pertaining to us, and not us being so emotionally unstable that they are walking on eggshells. Some people may be frank and emotional with us around because what we are doing is harming them and their well-being, and in this case, it is us who needs to change and put effort into emotional control, despite how hectic we get. Removing toxic people could be leaving an abusive partner (which NEEDS to be done for our recovery), quitting a job with an abusive boss (and finding a new one), a friend who is partaking in self-destructive behaviours, etc. We need to mindful of our environments and avoiding the ones that are detrimental to our recovery, for example, being a recovery drug addict at an EDM festival. We should be focused on our recovery, even if we have to give up social situations that were “fun” but that could trigger or encourage us to use drugs.
Determine what is harming you, what you can remove, how you can cope and how you can fill your time positively. Additions and subtractions are very important to our recovery, and learning which to remove/add can make a huge difference in how we cope, and how quickly we will recover.
When in a positive and good state of mind, we must set out a daily routine to follow in an ideal to sustain and “plug away” at everyday tasks, while remembering our triggers and taking note of what brings us down. We can practice our predetermined pattern and be conscious to avoid these threats to us with game plans and coping kits. Getting to high-productivity days may take some time and effort, the amount of time depending on where you were at in your mental illness and where you find yourself in recovery. Pushing ourselves too hard can be detrimental to our progression, yet many of us do it so often, so we must determine our position on a spectrum. Where are we at? Did we just get discharged from the hospital for a suicide attempt, or have we been leading a stable enough life lately? Though this can be difficult and may require some practice, trial and error, it is essential to to dictate ourselves for our maintenance of recovery. We must be mindful of what is actually doable for us, and recognize our success. For some, this routine may just be a to do list of the most basic daily necessities, despite the desire to do more.
The vitality of our efforts will show as we develop and grow within. We will, in long term, see our own advancement and the results will be rewarding. We will be able to retrieve our life back and learn to be happily functional individuals in society as we behave properly within our path. Deciding on a routine and our daily capabilities will provide some structure to our, otherwise, out of control lifestyle and reward us with a sense of accomplishment.
Consistency and Perseverance
To have a healthy, long lasting recovery, we must be consistent in our efforts and preserve when need be. Some days are just not going to be easy, and they will test us beyond belief, but these trying times are when we must push through and persevere. By creating good, we attract the good. We will not feel better bunched up under 7 blankets, munching on chips and watching a Simpsons marathon, but we will if we get up and take a shower. If it is set out that we will complete a list of things daily, we must stick to it. Getting out of routine can happen so easily, yet returning to it can be excruciatingly complicated when we are battling depression, for example. Our diurnal tasks are also our accomplishments and will give us something to be proud of. They are huge factors to our recovery.
We created this routine when we were in a good head space and we did this mindfully remembering how we can be on a “downer”. We were knowledgeable of our hurdles, but we were also aware that we would be capable of achieving our goals. We need to remember what the positive us would say, and work through our emotions and lack of motivation.
To gain irrefutable outcome, we should oblige ourselves to constantly be alert of and aware of ourselves, our conduct and how our maintenance can be sustained. To be steady and stable, and to seek out our absolute best in the moment will provide the ultimate triumph we have been awaiting.
When we get caught up in a bad mood or have just experienced a triggering event, the urge to harm ourselves and relapse will arise. It is inevitable that our emotions will lead us to what we know best, and what has “worked” for us in the past. Accepting that we feel this way and that it is normal is key, yet we cannot be sucked into that coping strategy. We no longer wish to participate in these self-destructive coping habits and a trigger is no excuse to give in and stray from recovery. This conduct has only been defective for us, leading to misplacement of some of our most valuable possessions and relationships.
Saying “NO!” to our negligent desires will empower us to continuously reach for recovery. We will learn that we got through it once and that, next time around, we can get through it again, and worse. We will have taught ourselves that we are capable, and once we return to a calm state of mind, we will realize that we made the right decision by not hurting ourselves. This type of experience demonstrates to ourselves how competent and effective we really are, and we will be rewarded with a confidence boost.
Failing into old coping strategies that didn’t benefit us only hurts us in the long way. We will let ourselves down, and get caught in relapse if we do not control our emotions. There are many things we can do to help ourselves through these times by exercising hobbies, art, our coping kit, etc. We are not interested in throwing away everything we pursued and we want to remain on this recovery path.
By living a recovery lifestyle, we will learn what we will tolerate and what we will not, whether that be from ourselves or others. We will learn to manage our emotions and our strategies to better interact in our everyday life. We may have repressed memories resurface, and though they will be hard to face, we will understand ourselves a little better. Some friendships and relationships may resurface based on our personal realizations. Our drive to strive for better may return or strengthen as we grasp how deserving we really are.
The clarity we lacked will come as we work on ourselves and truly employ all we planned. In this, our self love may appear as we observe all of our positive qualities and what we can offer the world based on our discovery and life.
We must accept and understand that this is a process. Results will not be present overnight. It will take hard work, and giving up will often feel like an option. By reminding ourselves of the steps above and our positive coping strategies, we can see a better day. Returning to the “tried-‘n’-true” offers us nothing of value nor of progression. We ought to keep trying and to never quit; to never let ourselves be disrespected like we once were. Recovery is not easy, but the consequences of our self-destructive coping behaviours are much worse.
Remind yourself that this is YOUR recovery! You are in recovery for YOUR experiences, mental health and coping behaviours; nobody elses’, thus, we should not expect it to appear like someone else’s. Nor should we be troubled by worrying for others. You chose recovery because you were aware that you needed it. Selfishness needs to be your priority. Right now, in your life, you are what matters most.
A barrier that will inevitably arise if you are present on social media platforms daily are the “picture perfect” lifestyles portrayed within recovery communities, or well known Instagrammers in recovery. Recovering individuals on Instagram and other social media platforms will convey an image of their recovery, the part they want you to see. Their life is not what it seems, and it is important that we recall that many of their pictures are paid. It is not reality and their lives are not our concern. Comparing yourself to others and their success, trying to measure yourself up to someone else, will evidentally produce more issues and hurdles in your recovery (especially through an eating disorder recovery).
Remain in a selfish state. Mind your own business and your own recovery. Do not be influenced by progression that isn’t yours. YOU are important and YOUR recovery is valid.