QUESTION: is the idea of ‘recovery’ helpful?
I have mixed feelings about recovery. Whether it is a help or a hindrance when so many people present it as an ideal which feels distant and unattainable to people who are in the midst of any type of illness. Sometimes when people reference recovery or being recovered, it just makes me feel more lost and hopeless than I was before. However, other times it can inspire me and give me the courage to keep moving forward with the comfort that others have weathered similar storms.
What is probably most frustrating to me about the idea of recovery is that it is so vague by virtue that it is subjective and hard to pin down in what it means to each of us individually. There is no specific route or journey that will lead you straight to recovery, the same steps and challenges do not work for anyone. Recovery does not look the same for everyone either, leaving me in the strange position of never being entirely certain of what I am aiming or working towards, meaning that my motivation begins to dwindle behind my uncertain mind.
Whenever counsellors or therapists have mentioned recovery to me I have felt myself recoil into my seat. Even the word seems so intimidating and far off in the distance. Also, I find the use of the term frustrating because who has the right or the knowledge to determine exactly what recovery is, what it looks like and what the time period for recovery should be? However much I want there to be a finish line I also do not know who I am without mental illness because I have let my mental health define me for so long. How do I separate myself from the characteristics of my illnesses and how will I know when this process is complete and I have recovered?
This post is a mess of rhetorical questions and abstract thoughts but what I have learnt from it is that I need to narrow down the specifics of what I am striving towards and what progress I will be satisfied with so that I could call myself recovered. Abstract and vague goals only lead to more frustration and motivation leaving me like a deflated balloon.
“I wanted to tell her that I was getting better, because that was supposed to be the narrative of illness: It was a hurdle you jumped over, or a battle you won. Illness is a story told in the past tense.” – ‘Turtles All The Way Down’ by John Green
My meeting with my student support worker went as per usual today.
It started off as usual with me updating her on my progress and what I was doing currently but then inevitably the conversation turned to my lack of socialising. She began questioning me on all of the clubs that are on offer at the University and the surrounding area and was enthusiastic about me going out and meeting people and forging a group of friends.
This is the point that I can never seem to convey to counsellors, therapists or support workers; having a group of friends does not appeal to me. I don’t enjoy organising trips out and meeting up with people to chat, I find it draining and daunting. I always feel that there is an invisible block between me and other people which stops me being able to fully immerse myself in conversation with them. Instead, I am constantly counting down the clock until a reasonable time that I can leave without being impolite. Also, I have nothing to talk about, no funny anecdotes to share unless they want to hear about the successive nights when I have stayed in my University room and chuckled to myself about inane youtube videos! I have a narrow set of interests that I find hard to talk about when someone asks me about them on the spot because I feel like I have to prove to them that I like whatever it is and then I just panic and fail to get any of my points across.
Does this all make me broken? My student support advisor has told me before that humans are sociable creatures, they are not meant to spend prolonged lengths of time on their own. So, does the fact that I have no desire for any relationships (whether romantic or otherwise) mean that I am a non-functioning human? Has a wire come loose somewhere in me and need re-connecting so that I spark back into animated life?
This morning I lay in bed feeling that my body was too weighed down to heave out of bed. The rational part of me was telling myself that I needed to get out of bed and get on with my day, I am already behind on Uni work. But the rest of me just wanted to stay cocooned inside my duvet for the rest of the day. I didn’t want the responsibility of sustaining myself, having to feed myself, having to hydrate myself. I wanted to pretend that the night could last all day – no new dramas, no challenges, just being suspended in that feeling of comfort all day.
I had an initial appointment for on-campus counselling yesterday. I have counselling and therapy before and each time I have to spill my guts to a new stranger so that I can get referred to another stranger to talk things through, I feel more drained and hopeless. I move from person to person and begin to think ‘what is the point?’. I fall into this black hole of thinking that I cannot be helped and that I can never verbalise my feelings properly anyway, so how can I ever get a counsellor or therapist to understand me?
I know that I am in a privileged position to even be close to get counselling, there are so many people across the world who are denied the treatment they need for a multitude of reasons. So, I’m sorry for moaning about it.
I am aware that every blog post I have published on here has been overwhelmingly negative (I specialise in catastrophic thinking and ruminating on all the bad things in life). So today I am going to make a special effort to look at the positive things that have come my way over the last few days which have really brightened my days and given me hope for going forwards (I don’t want people reading this blog to think I am a Moaning Minnie basically:
1. I am so thankful for my Specialist Mentor at University
Meeting my Specialist Mentor this week has really renewed my vision of University life. Since I have come here I have fallen into the lonely and dark cycle of cynicism which meant that I thought this whole experience was doomed and no positive changes would happen in my life whilst I am here. However, the understanding and sympathy which my Specialist Mentor gave me when I met her has really spurred me on to try my best for a change whilst also not expecting too much of myself. She encouraged me that by setting small goals for myself I can over time both re-invent myself and my life, which for years now have both stagnated because of my ongoing struggles with mental health.
2. The idea of exercise
I used to be quite a sporty child; I liked cricket, swimming, running, rounders, hockey and running. However, at the age of 14 I essentially just shut down all my interests and retreated into myself. This was around the time that I was first encountering depression and I convinced myself that I was no good at these things and that I shouldn’t try and gradually I lost any interest or enthusiasm I had for these things. However, my Specialist Mentor really conveyed to me how much of a positive impact exercising could have on my mental health. It may give me more energy and also help me sleep as hopefully I will be physically tired by the end of the day. So, I am going to take-up running again. I am not going to set myself ridiculous goals and aim to run miles and miles when I am only just starting out again. I will be gentle with myself and hopefully I regain the enjoyment I once had for exercising in general.
3. The Wizarding World Loot Crate Box
For the first time ever, I received a Wizarding World Loot Crate Box this week. For those who do not know this is a subscription box which filled with all things Harry Potter and Fantastic Beasts related. The things which I received in this box has really helped to make my University room feel more homely as now I can look around and glance at little Harry Potter mementos which make me feel comforted and happy just like the Harry Potter books and films do.
4. The University Housekeeper
This may sound like an odd one but bear with me! Starting University has been quite a lonely experience for me as most people give-up or don’t bother talking to me once they realise that I am anxious. I give off these signs, such as not looking people in the eye and fidgeting, which make people think that I am not interested when really I am just REALLY nervous. However, the Housekeeper for my block (who cleans the communal kitchen once a week, our toilets once a month and is around for general maintenance) is such a nice man and persisted with taking an interest in my life when he really did not have to. He noticed my Harry Potter key ring and started talking to me about it (which instantly made me warm to him) and then he took a genuine interest in my studies and just generally made me feel happy rather than like a failure which is how I usually feel when I am around people.