What does recovery mean to you? What even is it?
So many of us during these times have wanted to get back to normal. To recover from the pandemic and move on.
But just as it takes time to develop a vaccine, so too does it take time to recover from mental health.
Sometimes there isn’t a simple solution to recovery. There can be lots of suggestions, therapy, medication etc…some may work; others may not. But it’s unlikely you’ll be cured on the first sit-down with a therapist.
Mental health doesn’t have easy answers, and there’s no one size fits all here. Different people experience different things – even if they’re going through the same thing, like anxiety.
But does this mean recovery is impossible? I’ve made the journey sound so difficult already, experimenting in the hope of finding something that works and then having to keep at it for months to actually get it to work.
For me, recovery isn’t the destination – the light at the end of the tunnel. Recovery is the journey, the series of steps taken a day at a time.
When I first started feeling depressed, I just wanted to get rid of it. To not feel that way. I thought I could, if I tried really, really hard, I could just make it stop. I was unsuccessful. The feeling remained.
This frustrated me so much. I just wanted things to stop, for everything to get back to normal, for me to feel the same way everyone else did, to not be different. I ran away from home to escape it. I thought a different place would make things better.
But nothing worked.
I realised that I was fighting too hard, trying everything I could to make a feeling stop that was never going to happen.
I eventually learned to work with my depression.
This took time and the strength of my support network around me. But instead of taking my depression to war, I learned to negotiate. I learned coping strategies.
Music, getting outside, and freewriting were all things I found helped me in my low moments. Instead of feeling depression and letting myself get depressed, I would try and do something about it to make those feelings less.
This doesn’t work every time. Sometimes the feelings are stronger than I am. But I can go about my day and do most of the things that I need to. Yes, it was hard, to begin with, but over months I used determination fuelled by every setback to get myself to the position I’m in today.
Does that mean I’ve recovered then? I think so. I’m now able to most of what I want to and manage myself on a day-to-day basis.
But am I back to normal. Am I cured? And the answer to that is most certainly no. I still hold those depressed thoughts, I still get anxiety. So certainly not “normal” and I never will be cured.
But I’m recovered because I’m able to manage that. I’m in control over what I’m going through and are still able to live a life that I want to.
And that’s what recovery means to me. It’s not about getting back to normal, or being cured. It’s about getting to a place where I can manage everything and be the person I want to be.
And that wouldn’t have been possible with the small steps I took on this journey. Every time I was able to have a little win over my depression was another step made. When I was 14/15, this was something I could barely do. But now I’m halfway to 19 things are thankfully manageable.
I want to finish by saying it does get better, and it’s important to look forward not back. Mental health doesn’t just fix itself overnight, but reaching out, getting help, and taking small steps can start the journey of recovery.
Focusing on my life now, the life I wanted, was how I pulled myself through my recovery journey. Longing for the past, longing to be normal, longing to fit in held me back.
Realising that I could have a new normal, and form my own path to recovery was my lightbulb moment when things started to change for the better.
Recovery isn’t the end, a cue. But when you take steps on your recovery journey, you’re improving your mental health and making it’s burden much less.
Once you can manage mental health, once you can stop it getting in the way of your life, to do all the things you want to…
That’s the place of recovery.