Mental health recovery and what 2018 meant to me
Let’s talk about my mental health, my recovery and why this New Year saw me in floods of tears come midnight.
CN: This post discusses suicidal feelings, hospitalisation, mental illness including depression, BPD & anxiety and mental illness stigma.
I am incredibly grateful to have lived an entire year without a depressive episode. A year where my anxiety was under control and where my BPD was not totally in control of me. A year of choosing and practicing self love, of growing, of letting go. A year of living, not just surviving.
It was only in 2016 that I found myself in hospital with suicidal thoughts. I had lost all belief in humanity. I had given up even trying to build hope. Outsiders may consider that weekend my rock bottom but it wasn’t. I had felt worse before, much worse. I had been to far darker places many times previously. I had spent months at a time in a brain that was in way worse shape than it was in 2016. And yet 2016 began the spark of my recovery.
I started therapy again and it was hard but, looking back I realise just how important it was. In the moment it was little, practical things for beating anxiety or reminders to journal but I see now how that therapist, Dr Jules, instilled a sense of self belief in me. How she gave me opportunities to see that I was enough, that I was not wrong by default, that I was not broken and, most importantly how she validated my feelings & experiences.
Despite making lots of progress in therapy and alone, I spent over 6 months of 2017 absolutely believing that I was not supposed to be alive that year, that I had cheated the Reaper, that there was a mistake, that it should be over. It wasn’t a feeling of suicidality, just a knowledge that I shouldn’t have seen that new year and a disappointment that I had. It was hard but hard in a different way than previous hard times had been. Hard because I had given up so completely that I didn’t even have the energy to be suicidal. I wanted to just stop existing. I wanted to never have existed.
I was laden with guilt, shame and self-hatred. I didn’t know who I was or, more to the point, I felt so deeply the judgement of others that I was scared to be who I was. I have never known what changed for me, what flipped the switch from self destruction to recovery. I can tell you the things I did and do to support my recovery, I can tell you how I started building a self love practice, how I began embracing my identities, how I let go of things but I could never see how I got started until I saw a quote, only today, that read
“All we can do is cultivate circumstances for healing to occur” — Kari Kwinn
That was what my therapist had done; cultivated the circumstances in myself for healing to occur. Planted the seed that maybe I do know what I need better than others do. Suggested that who I am is actually just fine as it is. Set up opportunities for me to prove to myself that, actually, I can do it.
2017 saw a few things fall in to place for me; a realisation about my sexuality, among other things. For me, understanding is important. I find it very difficult to move forward, to process, to forget, if I can’t understand.
I also came off my medication and lost all the weight I had put on because of it. (I am not anti-meds, they work for a lot of people. If they work for you, keep taking them. If they don’t, speak to your doctor.) They hadn’t worked for me, they had just put a layer of fatigue over everything. I still felt all the awful emotions, I still had the awful thoughts, I was just too exhausted all the time to express them or do anything about them.
It’s only when you look back you see just how much progress you’ve made. When you are confronted with the how it was and how it is and, as the reality of 2018 sunk in for me, I cried floods of tears as midnight struck. Tears of relief, tears of joy, tears of gratitude. Tears of, quite honestly, disbelief. Utter disbelief that my reality was that I had spent a year, 12 whole months, without a major mental health crisis when I never ever thought I would manage that. A year of not wishing I could stop existing when I never thought I would be in a place where I was happy to be alive. I thought it would always be like it always had been; something to put up with. I thought that even the happy moments would always be accompanied by a “but I’d rather just not be here,” but they’re not.
I don’t think it’s possible to explain to people who have never experienced that ‘depressive happiness’ just how special it is to feel happiness on its own. To feel happiness without guilt or fear or “but everything else is still awful.”
I am so fucking proud of me! Of the self discovery I have done and the self compassion & self love I have created. I am also still mostly in a place of disbelief that I am here, writing this, feeling this, living this. But here I am.
To the people who aren’t there yet
I know you don’t believe me. Before I was in recovery, recovery was a concept I just didn’t believe in. Being in recovery, that has been one of the most difficult things; wanting to show others it is possible but knowing that they are likely in the same space I was. I have written many, many blog posts over the past decade about my struggles, my false starts and about how my mental illness was. They are still public because I want you to see that I really was as ill, as lost, as in pain as you may be now.
People tell you that you have to reach rock bottom before you can recover. In my experience, rock bottom does not exist. Every time I have believed it cannot get worse, it has. Rock bottom is a lie and you do not need to “achieve” it to recover.
You can find my therapist on her website, Dr Jules counselling & psychotherapy, she is based in France but also offers online sessions and I would recommend her wholeheartedly.
Originally published at Mrs TeePot.