Recovery is a word we often hear. “You will recover from this” But what does it mean to recover? In terms of physical health, you are often given a “recovery period” oh yes within 6 months you will be walking on that leg again. Within a few weeks your surgery sites will knit themselves back together and maybe after a few weeks of recovering in bed you will feel “as good as new”.
Physical health is a lot more predictable, it follows a pattern, there may be complications but eventually you will come to the same place as all the other people that have suffered the same ailments as you. Mental health however is entirely different.
You are often told you are in recovery from a mental illness or you will eventually recover but that is often very misleading. It isn’t a broken leg that you can put a cast on and the bones will fuse together, there is no set path to the healing process and you do not often feel the same way you did before your struggles.
That isn’t necessarily a bad thing however. I have personally struggled various diagnosed mental illness, bad relationships, bullying & ptsd from previous trauma. I am not the same person I was before, but I believe I may be a better person with a few dents here and there. I have learnt my own value, behaviours I am not willing to accept from other people, identified toxic behaviour in myself and others and surrounded myself with a strong support network. I have sought help from others when I needed it, and I am far more receptive to other’s struggles.
You don’t need to “recover” to survive, you need to learn how to manage your bad days, utilise your good days and take your experiences to make you feel stronger. Some days you may not want to leave your bed and face the day, or it feels so bad that you can’t even breathe. Making yourself a drink and a meal may be too much for you to bare that day but try.
Trauma has a way of peacefully making itself at home in the darkest corners of your mind and when you least expect it, it opens Pandora’s box. It would open it just ajar letting the occasional low mood and intrusive thought escape. Or it can rip it open like taking off a plaster and letting a tsunami of hurt overtake your mind. Or it just quietly goes into hibernation until the next difficult situation.
When poor mental health manifest itself so deeply it doesn’t simply go away. It has laid down roots and it is there to stay. You need to learn to live with those roots, put caution tape over them so you don’t trip, take a detour because trying to cut them down and dig them out every time will only exhaust you. Think of it like an annoying neighbour. Your mental health isn’t going anywhere just like a neighbour, it is better to peacefully coexist and put up with the occasional late-night party and loud music than having an argument every time. It is better to learn how to deal with panic attacks and relapses instead of keep fighting them or putting yourself down for having them and exhausting yourself. Because your mind is like your home. Fill it with happiness and you will always look forward to coming back, but if you let things get on top of you it will feel more like a prison. You can take control of your own thoughts.
It is okay not be okay. It is okay to struggle, but do not suffer in silence.
Take the time to learn about yourself. Consider it a project. Take the time to get to know you.
What are your triggers? Is it a certain song, smell, sound, scenario, stresses, person?
Can you take steps to avoid those triggers?
If you cannot avoid those triggers - find ways to ground yourself to the present moment to avoid your thoughts and anxieties overwhelming you. What makes you happy, what do you enjoy, who in your life makes you feel secure and loved? Surround yourself with positivity and support and always remember no matter how bad things get – you are not alone, you are loved, and you have survived before and you can do it again.