Some of you may know that I have a history of depression. And an ongoing relationship with anxiety (more here). Being in recovery means I’m learning to live with my past and balancing my relationship with the future. Sometimes I’m almost able to forget. I feel normal. Other times it’s an all too present presence in my life.
What is Recovery?
In mental health we often talk about a recovery journey. We accept that for many of us recovery is ongoing. For some of us indefinitely. I’ve been on this journey since I was 15. I’m currently 27. It’s been a long 12 years and it’s not over yet. But I’m definitely a far cry from where I started.
I wish I could say that I’m anxiety free. That I know longer have symptoms. That it no longer bothers me. Many of you, particularly those with your own experiences of mental illness, will know that’s not always an achievable reality. Recovery is about learning to live alongside your illness with or without symptoms. Not necessarily getting rid of them.
On Fearne Cotton’s Happy Place blog I heard Russell Brand say:
“Recovery means recovering the person you intended to be”
This made so much sense to me. My history of anxiety and depression had made me feel so out of touch with the person I had wanted to be. For a long time I felt like I had lost myself. Even when I started to feel better I still felt so far from where I thought I would be by that time. It seemed that everyone had taken the direct route to the end goal whilst I had gone the far longer way around. Tripping over obstacles and falling by the wayside as I went. And yet no-one knew. There was very little recognition of what I had been through. Or the hard times I had faced to be exactly where they were standing.
Although I’d say I’m in recovery it’s still an uphill climb. One step forward is often followed by two steps back. I think we too often assume recovery means cured. And it doesn’t. Too often when people say that they’re “better” or “in recovery” that’s when we take our foot off the pedal. And sometimes it’s actually when they need us most. We need ongoing support for people in recovery.
Whilst we may have climbed out of the pit, we’re not out of the woods. It’s still appreciated when people check in to see how we’re doing. It always puts a smile on my face when someone drops me a message. Even on my good days but especially on the darker ones. A simple text shows you care. That you were thinking of us. On days when our brain may tell us no-one loves us, cares about us or causes us to overthink every social interaction. One message could help tip the balance in our favour. Many of us are finding our way in a new normal and it’s easier when we don’t have to go it alone.
What are your thoughts about recovery? Let me know in the comments below!