I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how I’ve been coping with some recent changes to my life, as well as how I’m doing generally. Recovery is actually a concept that’s quite difficult not only to grasp, but to measure. Day to day we lead our lives in whichever ways we can at that time, not really thinking about the days prior. I know that’s definitely the case for me, anyway. I wake up in the morning to go to work for the day and I come home and I write, take photographs, walk, or take some time out. These things seem so normal. But really, all of those things are actually quite a big deal.
They don’t sound it, I know. They sound like completely ‘normal’ activities – activities that most people do every day. But not for me. For me, these are things that have gradually built up over time and that I’ve become more able to do. Things would become so overwhelming before. A day at work would drain all of my energy – emotionally and physically – bringing me to a point of no longer being able to socialise or, to a degree, function. Everything was exhausting. Everything was a trigger. Everything was hard. Some things are still hard – I don’t doubt or sugarcoat that for a second – but we must take a little bit of time every so often, just to acknowledge what we’ve done.
This thought process naturally brings up how I’ve changed as a person, as well as how my daily life has changed. Ok, I got a new job, I’m managing to do it, I’m socialising more, panicking less. But what does it really mean? The triggers are still there and will be indefinitely. But the point is, I am strong. I am really strong. I won’t even apologise for saying that because you know what? I’ve dealt with shit. But that’s exactly it: I dealt with it. I’m still dealing with it. Everybody has their own shit and I am pretty darn sure that you’ve got yours – you wouldn’t be human if you didn’t – and I’m also pretty darn sure that you’re stronger because of it. You have grown because of it. Maybe you’re still growing, I know I am.
Every day we’re growing, learning, being. Who do you want to be? I wouldn’t wish mental illness upon anybody but this is my reality, this is life as I know it, and I have to deal with the life that I’ve got. When I look back I sometimes think what was I actually like before all of this? Who was I, really? I wasn’t as strong, compassionate or mindful. I didn’t think to look after my mental health. I didn’t really think about how my actions could affect others. So I’m proud of who I am as a result of my mental health struggles. I’m a better person for it. I have learnt to be understanding, compassionate, kind and mindful. Maybe I would have had these qualities anyway, without everything that’s happened, but I can categorically say that I doubt I’d be the person I am today. I wouldn’t be so mindful of the way I treat others; I wouldn’t be as compassionate towards others; I wouldn’t be as consciously kind to other people, aware that I don’t know what they’re going through.
Maybe this is why stigma frustrates me like it does. Don’t people realise how strong you are? Do you realise how strong you are? Let this be your focus – you owe it to yourself.