Mental health recovery is a funny thing. Long term mental illness can make you feel like you’ll be that way forever. That it’s just life now. It’s just who you are now. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a long old process and not a simple or linear one and, for some, the recovery process can take years, particularly with trauma related disorders. So it’s important that we take as long as we need to heal, not as long as we think it should take. It’s such an individual, personal thing – your brain is your brain, your circumstances are your circumstances – so you have to take the time that you need. Of course, it’s comforting to discover that other people may be in the same position as you, have the same diagnosis as you or know what you’re experiencing, but it’s a different experience for everybody.
One of the main things I’ve learnt about CPTSD – and all that comes with it – is that sometimes I feel everything; sometimes I feel nothing. But in recovery, both of these things do start to even out. For example, when I was most unwell, I’d either feel emotions at a really high level and be easily affected – when I was down, I was really down – or sometimes, I’d feel nothing at all. In those times, it’s a bit like just being a body with no soul or anything in it, literally just like an empty body walking around. But as time goes on, both of those extremes become more rare. Of course, there are still days. There’s still weeks. There are still times when I have been back in that shitty place thinking ‘fuck, am I really going to be like this forever?‘ But I won’t. I know that I won’t.
The thing we don’t realise is that recovery is much like growing. Every day, we grow a bit more, change a bit more, become a bit more, but we don’t notice. It’s not until you look back, maybe at a photograph or something, and think blimey, haven’t I changed! Look how young I look! This is what recovery is like. Day by day, we don’t notice the small changes or small victories that are happening. Then we look back, and we realise the progress that we’ve really made. But it doesn’t always feel like progress. Sometimes, it feels like the completely opposite of progress, actually.
On a bad day, it can feel like you’re back to square one. But I thought I was getting better? But the truth is, every single relapse, every single setback, become further and further away from each other. In the midst of it all, bad days could have been constant before. It could have been all there really was. Now, it’s broken up by the good days. What I’m trying to say is, there will still be bad days. There may still be bad days for a long time. But gradually, they become less regular, less hard-hitting, and let me tell you something: you are far stronger for it. You will bounce right back. All the time we’re dealing with whatever it is that we’re dealing with, we are learning how to deal with it. Seems obvious, right? But this is what I’d forgotten. I know how to deal with my shit. I know what to do when certain things happen. So now, bad days are exactly that: days.
Always keep going. You’ll thank yourself for it. Promise.