I am in what is known as mental health recovery. Recovery can mean multiple things – often it means that you’re living a full, active life while still experiencing symptoms, or it can mean a complete absence of symptoms. In my case, I’m living with symptoms but am coping and doing the work necessary to function with what can sometimes be devastating anxiety. Recovery is like going to physiotherapy after you break your leg. You have to do it, and it often hurts.
Everyone’s recovery is going to be different. My recovery involves actively listening to myself instead of shoving all my feelings down into my core like I’d prefer to do. Avoidance is my first instinct. But lately, I check in and see what’s up and now that I’ve been practicing this since July it’s become a habit. My emotions flash before my eyes, lit-up like a sign saying DEAL WITH ME NOW. So, I take a moment, usually around 90 seconds and feel that feeling.
It can be incredibly frustrating to forever be coping with a never-ending queue of emotions and thoughts, but this is the work required to continue in recovery. Occasionally someone who doesn’t really know me will rattle off reasons why I should be happy and I probably confuse them with my facial expressions – because I am happy – but I’m also still fighting demons daily and it’s exhausting and confusing and the work I am doing daily deserves to be acknowledged. My brain is working against me some of the time, which is incredibly frustrating because one moment I can be laughing with someone I love only to be flattened by a tidal wave of fear or sadness without any warning.
Everyone has experience with emotional/physical fatigue. There are days when you cannot give what you gave the day before. This is where I use one of my favorite methods: No zero days. These are days where I do at least one thing everyday. Sometimes it’s literally just showering, sometimes it’s cooking and reading (even if it’s just one page). There are days when I don’t have to think about the tasks ahead and I just do them because they aren’t a struggle, but on days when anxiety is high and my brain won’t let anything go I turn to this method and I do what I can. It’s all progress, regardless of how small.
Mental health recovery is best described as learning and managing self-care, along with working to understand triggers and what your personal triggers are. Realizing what things/places/people/actions affect your well-being is the key to recovery. If you’re in mental health recovery as well, here’s a check-list to make sure that you’re taking care of yourself properly:
I know that I’m not always capable of being OK, but I actively remind myself that whatever is going on in my head is OK. Even though it cannot be seen physically my mental illness is just as a real as any other illness. The metaphorical cast is off, it has hundreds of signatures on it and I’m doing the work necessary to heal.