Recovery. The Dictionary definition of recovery is ‘a return to a normal state of health, mind, or strength’ and ‘the action or process of regaining possession or control of something stolen or lost.’ How accurate is this when it comes to mental health though? What is a ‘normal state’ of the human brain?
Recovery is spoken about like it is a destination; somewhere magical where your woes will leave you and you will be happy forever. But in reality recovery is subjective from person to person, some believing it is a point or goal to get to, others think it’s a continuous road with ups and downs.
What recovery means to me:
Years ago I believed recovery was a point I would end up in where my anxiety would be gone and I wouldn’t get symptoms anymore. Now I believe my anxiety won’t really ever go away, but learning coping mechanisms and new ways of thinking is what will lead to me to a more normal life. To me recovery is a journey and not a destination. In a perfect world my ‘recovery’ would be a state of mind would be not catastrophising everything, where my physical symptoms happen in a blue moon and where I can control my emotions and thoughts better than I do now.
I decided to get others in the blogging community to give me their definition of recovery; below are the responses I received.
I don’t know if I believe in recovery. There’ve been so many times when I think I’ve recovered only to find anxiety railroads itself back into my life. Instead I like to think of being well and, as my GP put it, functioning well in the world, even if I need a bit of help to get there.
Recovery means different things to different people. For me it is a journey, not a destination, it’s something I have to constantly work on whilst accepting that some days/weeks/months will be more challenging than others. I don’t feel well, but it doesn’t mean i’m at square one.
I’m 30 next year, have a beautiful baby boy and married to my best friend, am in really good health, have supportive family and friends and am lucky to do a job I love. Thinking back to my 14 year old self when I was caught in the grips of anorexia and hospitalised which meant I missed out on year 8 at school, I am even more appreciative of where I am now – although at the time I had no idea how my life would turn out. A lot of that recovery process has come down to educating myself and really trying to change my mindset; I’ve always been a perfectionist, a control freak, wanting to push myself and do the best I possibly can – but that can sometimes be toxic and get too obsessive. Of course exercise and healthy eating is still a huge part of my life and always will be, but learning about psychology of the mind, BALANCE, and having people in my life who inspire me and open my mind up to new things has helped me to evolve so much as a person – not just someone with abs. Now as a mum with another human being to look after, it makes me appreciate life and respect my body so much more in the most humbling way. These life experiences and time have got me to a point where I am (mostly) comfortable in my own skin. Recovery isn’t easy, there’s not one answer, it’s something that will always be with me, but learning that there’s more to life than that destructive obsession is what I keep in mind.
Recovery is feeling really great one moment and feeling like a complete mess the next. It isn’t always pretty. Countless times I have felt very uncomfortable or been a sobbing mess because things aren’t going right. Recovery is knowing your limits. There were times when people did not listen to me because of my mental illness, believing the words coming out of my mouth were simply the words of the eating disorder. Recovery is a process. One that takes commitment and support. It’s taking time for myself, and making time for others. It’s hugs and kisses and letting others in again. It’s facing fears and past wrongs, forgiving and holding on. It’s being lazy and happy, sitting in fierce depression and realizing I’ll be OK. It’s eating and enjoying nourishing food with lots of colour and flavour. Recovery is not forcing yourself to exercise everyday. Recovery is glowing skin and bright eyes. Recovery is loving yourself enough to heal for you. It’s placing value on yourself because you are worth the effort.
I was diagnosed with depression when I was 16. It never developed into chronic depression, because I feel I ‘caught it’ early on. Being diagnosed was odd, as it made me more anxious. I felt like a nuisance/odd and abnormal to everybody else. because I had this ‘official’ label of having something wrong with me, and knew nobody else my age who had the same thing. I spent a lot of time off school or avoiding people because there were a lot of days where the way I felt made me not want to get out of bed. I spent about 10 months going to cognitive therapy, to find out why I felt the way i felt and thought they way I did. It was life changing. For me, recovery is an ongoing thing. I am in a beta state, always working on myself and facing relapse when times get tough in life, but most importantly taking my own time and gradually getting better with every year that passes. It’s something I’m glad I’ve experienced, because I am totally comfortable talking about my experience and hopefully helping others by being open about it.
Recovery means many different things to many different people. To me, it means – evolution, growing, becoming stronger, dealing with situations in a relaxed and grateful manner and remaining rooted to the ground beneath me. Throughout time I have realised that I am very in-tune with my body and I am totally aware of the feelings when they arise. Anxiety is a natural human response, it can occur when we perceive that we are under threat. It can be experienced through our thoughts, feelings and physical sensations. It’s normal and it’s a true indication that your body is aware of your actions. If anything, it’s a very connected feeling within yourself.
What does recovery mean to you? Leave your thoughts in the comments.