I’m not recovered, I don’t even think recovery is a concept I believe in. However over the years that I have battled with mental illness, I have grown. I may not be ‘recovered’, but I’m certainly not where I was. I’ve learnt a lot in recent years and I wanted to briefly share what I have discovered….
We are responsible for our actions. We may not be able to control a situation and sometimes it’s easier to blame our behaviour on someone or something else, but regardless we are in control of our own actions. We always have a choice in what we do. But saying that, we are not always responsible for what happens to us as we are not in control of other people’s actions. If we go through life always making justifications – “I did it because x happened”- rather than accepting that we made a choice, we will never move forwards. We choose what we do and in doing so we must accept the consequences.
To move away from a place of self-hate we need accept and forgive. We need to allow the past to be the past and let go of the pain which keeps us trapped in disorders. But most importantly it’s essential to forgive ourselves. If we keep holding on to the anger of the pain, the idea that we are to blame or that we need to be punished, we will always stay trapped. And the truth is, we deserve to be forgiven, regardless of the underlying cause of our illness. We didn’t choose to become ill and the likelihood is that we weren’t responsible for whatever caused us to become ill- whether it be because of a life event, genetics, circumstances, or even a mistake- we have already suffered, we don’t need to cause ourselves more pain by holding on to an idea which isn’t correct. We are not purposefully causing harm to others, we are not bad people. Forgive yourself. There is no reason to keep on holding to the idea you are undeserving. Forgive yourself and leave the past in the past.
You have strength. We may believe we are weak for struggling, but the struggle in its self comes from having strength. If we weren’t battling, it wouldn’t be hard. No, the use of any maladaptive coping mechanism isn’t ideal, but you are still finding the strength to cope in some way. You are strong for surviving up until this point, even if there have been many bumps along the way. You have the strength to continue and you have the strength to change. To be ill is not a weakness.
No one is all bad or all good. Every person is capable of both good and bad. We all make mistakes and do things wrong, but these human traits do not make us bad people. Other people might do or say something which leaves us feeling a negative emotion, this doesn’t make them a bad person. A person can be good and do things wrong and often mistakes come from a place of caring enough to try.
Things will change. We are fluid, we are constantly changing without even meaning to. At times it might feel that this fight is endless, but times will come when it’s easier. You haven’t always been ill and even if you are suffering from a chronic illness, there will be times when it can be under control and managed. As you travel through life, the more you learn, the longer the periods of stability will be, until the point that you can live a healthy life. Although nothing ever stays the same, we have to choose to make changes in a positive manor and grab hold of the glimmers of hope. We get to decide if we keep making the same negative decisions or whether instead, we do something different. Life changes, nothing stays the same, allow yourself to adapt with time.
Sometimes all we can do is fake it until we make it. You might not like yourself. You might not want to live. You might want to lose weight. But if you focus on your positives, commit to life and limit disordered options, eventually these commitments will become as second nature as the disordered path of thinking you currently have. Don’t let an illness and maladaptive coping be the only option or commitment you make. You haven’t always been ill and therefore it’s possible not to be. If a bully is constantly telling the victim a certain message, the victim will believe it eventually even if it’s not true and the same is true with positives. It will take time and it doesn’t mean you have to avoid what you are feeling, but rather we should be kind to ourselves as we would be to others. Tell ourselves a truth we don’t believe and eventually we will. You are worthy. You are good. You can succeed.
There is no time line to life. Often illness leaves us feeling left behind and maybe it is true that you aren’t at the same point as others around you, but that’s ok. This is your life and your journey will take you different places. It doesn’t mean you are a failure, that you are unlovable, and that you might as well give up. It means that you should learn what you can from where you are right now to take forwards in life with you. Maybe you haven’t got a degree, maybe you aren’t in a relationship, but that’s ok, because you are learning lessons unique to you. You don’t have to do anything at a set time, opportunities are always available so long as you are alive.
No one knows what they are doing. It’s common for people to be afraid of growing up, getting older, the future, responsibilities, new events in life. In actual fact, everyone, even those who aren’t ill or have had a ‘normal’ life are afraid. Nobody knows what they are doing, but that doesn’t mean we can avoid moving forwards. There is no handbook to life, there is no guide telling us how to ‘adult’ and there is no one single correct way- we just do it, even if we don’t know what will happen, or what we are doing. If we keep our mind open and take it day by day, there is no reason to be afraid because we will survive. We have survived till now, we can survive the unknown.
Think before you act. Sometimes the intensity of a situation may impact on our ability to make rational decisions. If your initial idea after an event is to do something negative, to avoid the situation, to reinforce your negative core beliefs- don’t do anything. Don’t withdraw, don’t cancel an appointment, don’t harm yourself or whatever else, just keep going as you were before, or do nothing at all until your thoughts calm down and you can think clearly again. Emotional situations impact upon everyone’s cognitive ability, so sometimes it’s best to wait before doing anything in response. Take time to stop, to slow down, to breathe.
I could probably write a whole book on things I have learnt and what I believe others need to know. But then again, I don’t want to give away all the answers, because some things we need to work out for ourselves. And when the time is right, you will!