One Year in Recovery
Well, holy shit.
When my therapist discharged me from CBT a year ago, I was scared. I couldn't see a life where I would ever be free enough from mental illness that I could function to a "normal" capacity. Prior to the last round of CBT, I had gone through the therapy twice before. After being formerly released from both sessions, mental illness went on to present itself in my life in various ways. Initially I was concerned this would happen again, but am beyond grateful that I can say this time has been different.
I remember doing a lot of pretending before, during and after therapy ended. If you were to scroll through my Twitter or Instagram feeds, nothing would have ever given the game away that I was honestly really struggling to stay afloat. Being socially anxious as well as a naturally quiet person, I've always kept to myself, and in this instance continued to keep a brave face despite how hurt I felt.
But when it comes to depression, sometimes there just aren't any words. Being unable to fully articulate feeling devoid of emotion, or interest, doesn't feel like a complete answer to "What's wrong?"... Simply because there are often no concrete reasons to give to the "Why?" that follows. I just felt empty.
Before CBT, I felt as though my life was ruled by depression and anxiety. It led me to self-sabotage; particularly choosing to isolate myself as I thought it would protect those around me, and letting symptoms fester as there seemed to be no alternative than to fall deeper into what felt like vast nothingness.
After CBT, I was fed up with the way depression and anxiety had made me feel for years, and years, and years. The tiredness, constant headaches, always being on edge... I was done. And so, put my everything into being okay.
I pushed myself to get up and dressed when I felt stuck, threw myself into projects in the hope to find something that interested me, challenged every thought that told me I couldn't, and said yes to all the things that made me feel anxious. I did a couple of photoshoots, flew 5,000+ miles from home on my own, met up with old friends, and made new ones around the world through meet-ups and blogging. I visited countries I hadn't before, threw away possessions I once clung to, read more books than I ever have, attended interesting events, got back into film in a big way, and basically, after all this time of not really knowing, starting trying to work out who the heck I am.
Over this year I have seen myself grow. I've become increasingly aware of myself, particularly when it comes to learning about who I am and the way I act. For example, I've noticed how I find scheduling helpful, but it difficult to stick to a routine. That my relationship with food is something I would like to work on, but that going out to eat with friends and family makes me far happier than any material thing ever will. I have also become more switched on to the world around me, and am trying my best to do my bit.
I've tried to write this post a handful of times, absolutely set on making it some sort of bubbly, thrill-ride; sharing how I've gone from strength-to-strength this year... But, whilst I am stronger and mentally happier now than I have ever been, recovery is hard.
To get better I've had to expose myself to the scenarios, emotions and thoughts, that I would usually attempt to suppress through fear of a meltdown, and just sit to let them wash over me. The concoction of adrenaline and anxiety left me feeling exhausted, overwhelmed and upset on numerous occasions, and there were times I desperately felt like throwing in the towel.
Yet I continued to push through, and y'know what?
I'd do it all again tomorrow if it meant I could know what I know, and feel what I feel, right now after believing being okay was unattainable for so long. Recovery isn't all rainbows - I struggle with my memory, have anxious wobbles, and the (thankfully) odd rough day or night that can act as a reminder to how things used to be - but I'm so bloody proud of myself and how far I have come.
For anyone else who is currently in recovery, or even those of you that aren't quite there yet, please know that there are better times coming. You will have moments where you catch yourself feeling like you aren't making progress, or even that you are taking a few steps back, but please know that this is not true. Even the fact that you recognise you are experiencing a dip is an achievement in itself, and all the more reason to take some time to celebrate the progress you have made. The darkest times will make you want to bury yourself away, but please cling onto those bright sparks - the ones that make you forget, even if it's just for a moment or two. I promise life is worth it and I promise you are worth it too.