Recovery 101: messy, fickle and worth it
Updated: Jul 19
Last time, we discussed the importance of mental health awareness. We've acknowledged that we need help… but now what? How do we start to make a change on an individual level, to the road to recovery. Here are some personal pointers, that may help you on your journey.
Disclaimer: *please take with a pinch of salt*
STAGE ONE: REACH OUT
I know that when we feel very stuck it can feel so pointless to try anything, because we don't immediately feel better. Furthermore, when you tell someone, it makes it so real. But take it from me (whatever that's worth!), every step we reach out and try something even though we have absolutely no want to do it... the future-you will be grateful.
Maybe try reaching out to someone who has been through this before. At the very least, it will make you feel less isolated. Next, is seeking out professional help. Most likely, the idea of seeing a doctor and therapist, and making it a 'thing', fills you with dread. But I'm afraid this will be the first and certainly not the last time you have to be brave. Being brave kind of grows on you slowly, but it first needs a big push (activation energy, anyone?). Personally, I eventually just had to tell myself to suck it up and do it. Not for a lack of compassion to myself and others of how hard it is, but because things will never change if we don't take action.
A good thing to remember: everyone needs something different. Maybe the first person doesn't work out, but never stop searching until you find people who can help you find the key to your unique lock.
STAGE TWO: KEEP GOING
So now you have a game plan… But how can you stick to it, how can you want to change?
1. Your brain is tricking you…
Your brain and what you feel is absolutely telling you that this is pointless. I'm here to tell you: your brain is a liar! Yours, mine, your irritating sibling, that person at the gym with the vacant expression on their face... Our brains are pretty clever but we give them too much credit. A lot of time, especially at the beginning, it isn't about want but instead ingrained habits that we need to override.
"95% of your behaviours run on autopilot. That's because neural networks underlie all of our habits, reducing our millions of sensory inputs per second into manageable shortcuts so we can function in this crazy world" (Mindful).
There are automated and powerful thoughts, that can change how we experience life (see my post on the power of thoughts).
This means that with all our intentions, our brain can give us thoughts before we even realise it ourselves. Accomplishing what we have set out to do, recommended by our therapist or doctor, can be hard to follow through. It is important to note, we're not trying to stop thoughts here, just not letting them control us. This is why mindfulness is such a popular practice. It allows us to be in the driver's seat! It's time to to turn off autopilot. Until it becomes a new habit, we need to set external reminders. It also needs to be refreshed from time to time, as even those reminders can become redundant. Persistence is key here.
2. What do we have to lose?
Nothing we have done so far has worked, right? Before we can begin to heal using whatever they recommend, we need to trust that something will change with time, effort and help. NOT necessarily because we feel it in that moment, but because they've helped hundreds of people like us. So we have to keep trying and trying until something changes.
STAGE THREE: TIME AND PATIENCE
When you finally start to understand more about what's going on, even feeling a little better, it can be tempting to want to race to the finishing line. Unfortunately, it does not work that way! This is not a race and there is no finishing line. Healing is not linear. It is super messy and fickle. It can be amazingly frustrating. But be gentle with yourself. This didn't happen all overnight, and neither will it all 'go away' overnight. Just go with the flow. If there's been a bad day, know that this is part of the process too and every time you overcome adversity you become more resilient. It is surely difficult and confusing, but so worth it in the long run.
I'll leave you with this: if my stuck-in-a-rut, stubborn arse (ass?) can do it, so can you! Good luck.