The road to recovery – it isn’t about the easy days

Standard

 

Source: Interesting Engineering

Source: Interesting Engineering

Doesn’t the road to recovery from depression, anxiety and PTSD feel like this sometimes? What I know is that “recovery” isn’t a place you can get to. It is a journey and sometimes there will be really big potholes in the road. What’s really important is to trust the process. I read about this concept all the time – it must be the universe trying to tell me something ;-). Allow life to unfold. The late Jeff Buckley says “life has its own rhythm and you cannot impose your own structure on it – you have to listen what it tells you.”

I saw this the other day and I think it is true:

Anyone can do recovery on a good day. Recovery isn’t about the easy days. Recovery is fighting through the worst days and coming out the other side. You’ve worked incredibly hard to get there. Don’t throw it all away. Keep pushing through.

Advertisements

Find your silver lining

Standard

siliver lining

You know that saying ‘every cloud has a silver lining’? I’ve decided to think of depression as the silver lining in my life. This realisation didn’t come to me overnight – I can assure you that – because I don’t like labelling myself. I always resist labels because I don’t want some external standard or idea to define me. I guess it is fear of judgement. There is so much stigma around mental illness and honestly, who wants to deal with all that?

But now I see it all differently.  What I understand now is that knowing what I’m struggling with and giving it a name has been so helpful to me. I know I have to manage it. I can take responsibility for it.  Some days I still feel so angry about the many traumatic events that caused this to be part of my life, but I can’t do anything about that now. I have to find constructive ways to stop depression from becoming an all-consuming thing in my life.

For such a long time my life was completely unbearable. It required so much energy to get through each day. I thought that I was just having a (very long) series of bad days. I had clinical depression and I was struggling with post traumatic stress (for years!) and I didn’t even know it. There was always this nagging feeling that something was really wrong. I saw the warning signs, but I thought I would try and “hang in there” and “tough it out”.

I’ve learnt an important lesson.

My clinical depression diagnosis was full stop in my life, a line drawn in the sand. It was a signal to slow down and gain perspective. The anxiety, fear, flashbacks and depression were all signals that pushed me to act.  It created awareness about the things harmful in my life – because if I didn’t do something about my depression it would have completely destroyed me. It is a completely debilitating thing– but the signal was there and it was something I had to deal with immediately.

So this is why I view my depression as something that’s completely changed my life – it is my silver lining. I’ve discovered so much beauty and inner peace and self- acceptance. My life is so wonderfully good. And I am so grateful.

And this is my favourite part – it has been an opportunity to totally recreate myself. How exciting is that? I get to go on a journey of discovery about myself. Try new things. Figure out what I like. Discover things I didn’t know about myself. And it isn’t a selfish thing at all. It is so necessary.

Think about it this way: if depression is a shadow your life, there must be a light cast from somewhere. Don’t live in the criticism of your shadow. Life in the part that brings hope, renewal, joy, inner peace and happiness.

I’m fine and other lies

Standard

Image

I’m fine.

How often have you found yourself saying that? I think people who struggle with depression are professionals at this. I know I am.

It just seems so difficult to tell someone how you really are – and it is risky.  How do you explain it? How do you tell people that you’ve reached your breaking point? I didn’t tell most people because I was worried that they might delegitimize my feelings and then I wondered if would they really even care.

I also didn’t want to risk someone telling me that I should just pull myself together, that I should snap out of it and that there are lots of people worse off than me (by the way – these are three of the worst things you can say to someone who has depression).

Sometimes it just seemed easier to hide the pain and despair. But actually – it’s not. Doing this is exhausting. And when I do it, I’m just lying to myself. It takes a lot of energy to pretend that you are happy.

Eventually I realised that I need people in my life who I don’t always have to be fine with. People who don’t have to see the cleaned-up version of me.

Image

I saw this quote the other day and it got me thinking:

“Everybody is always so fu***ng “fine. But we are not. Sometimes we are hurt and bruised and nearly completely shattered and this, sir, is not what one calls fine.”

So I wondered why I feel the need to be so guarded? I hide my emotions to protect myself and because I’m scared of making myself vulnerable. But there is actually nothing more freeing than being real and telling someone how you feel, what you’ve been through and what you are experiencing now.

I treasure the people in my life who stood by me when I was at my lowest point. These people helped me to find the things I had lost – hope, courage and the will to live. They helped me to stay close to the things I love and make me happy to be alive.

So what do I do these days?

My psychologist doesn’t allow me to walk into her room and tell her “I’m okay” or “I’m fine”. I have to explain how I’m feeling. Properly. This irritated me so much in the beginning, but now I’m learning to label my emotions and express them. The word “depressed” isn’t an emotion. Now I rather work out if I’m feeling fear, despair, hopelessness, anger, betrayal or sadness.

I’m realizing that emotions are messages delivered by my subconscious mind and I owe it to myself to listen to that message.  And I also take time to document that feeling in my journal.

What I also find helpful is making a list of all the emotions I feel – positive and negative. It might sound stupid but if, like me, you struggle with these things it is a very useful exercise. And if you struggle to find the emotion – just Google it!

I don’t always get it right – I still struggle with identifying and dealing with my emotions because it wasn’t something that I was encouraged to do as a child. My default mode is to push my emotions away as quickly as I can.

But now, when I’m starting to feel that my mind is a race track of thoughts and emotions, I make a point of calming myself down and I take just a few minutes to figure out what I’m feeling. This is something that’s really worked for me.

And in the process I’m learning to be gentle with myself. I’m not a project to be completed flawlessly and I don’t always have to get it right – this is one of the biggest life lessons I’m learning all the time.