Five Months In Recovery
At the beginning of every CBT session, my therapist would ask me the questions from PHQ-9 and GAD 7 forms. The answers relate to feelings and thoughts, and are rated on a scale of 0 to 3. 0 being that you've not experienced the feelings and thoughts, and 3 that you have experienced them nearly every day. The feedback to these questions is then inputted into a form on a computerised case file, and when the data begins to show a steady pattern of lower figures, you are referred to as being "in recovery" and discharged from the service. I've been in recovery for five months now.
When I was discharged from CBT, it felt a little like I had been left to fend for myself. I got used to meeting with someone every week; cleansing myself of worry and being taught new techniques to implement. Naturally I felt concerned. I was determined, but there was a niggling feeling in the back of my mind that questioned what would happen if I became unable to cope, fell back into old ways or required to start the process all over again. What I didn't realise was how I had already began to form healthy habits, continuously learn about the illnesses, and that I had the means to make sure I would be okay.
One of the biggest things I have taken away from CBT is the idea that the best time to do something is when I don't want to do it. I have applied this to everything. It's been my way of showing that I'm fighting and claiming my life back for myself.
Don't feel like leaving the house?
I'll go for a walk.
Don't feel like seeing anyone?
I'll arrange to see friends.
Feeling overly low?
I'll head to the gym for an endorphin boost. When I was first suggested this, as the smallest tasks felt huge, it sounded impossible. But after learning I had been living with depression and social anxiety undiagnosed for years, I ran at every technique full force, arms wide open and with the mindset that I can and will get better. And this may sound blasé, but constantly counteracting thoughts really works.
The thing they don't tell you about recovery is that it isn't linear. Progress isn't experienced in a way it would be expected to, for example: following a timeline of bad, improvement, good - and then that's it. All's fine and dandy, forever and eternity. It's something that will always require some attention. I will have to keep working on it, by using what I have learnt and through continuing to seek new methods, whilst experiencing expected dips along the way too. When I went through my first dip, I felt panicked. I didn't want to go back
. I then stepped back and looked at the situation objectively, something I had never done before, to think about how everyone has bad days - and even if it lasts for more than a day, then that's just how it is. I must remind myself that it is okay to just feel. I must remember that it is okay to pause, but I must try not to stop. I must also think about how it has gotten so much easier.
I don't have a constant headache like I used to. It's so strange to me that I never really noticed it before, until things really built up and my head would throb with pressure. I guess because the headache had been there for such a long time, I had become accustomed to it. It was just the way things were. As time has gone on, my head no longer feels like it's muffled in a cloud or trapped in a vice. As I've approached situations in different ways or thought about things more logically, in turn its helped me continue to do that with increasingly effectivity. Now I make sure that whenever I catch myself starting to feel any kind of overwhelm, I pause for a moment and think about everything as a whole or ask myself why I am worrying about something I don't need to - before moving on accordingly.
There have also been parts of recovery I had not at all anticipated. The biggest being that I experience emotions now. This may sound odd, as I've always experienced emotions, but now I don't feel like I am meandering through. I'm finding I'm not always getting caught up in looking to the past or future, but in the moment instead. For one, I full-on belly-laugh at things. Things in films, on TV, the internet or that my friends have said, cause me to make hilarious giggly noises or roaring guffaws. I cry
things now too. Crying used to come from exhaustion and built up frustration, but now it's due to inspiring stories or tales fraught with emotional twists and turns. I've even noticed myself welling up at the ends of films I've seen before, but had experienced no reaction to previously. I simply experience everyday emotions. I know what it's like to feel happy, sad or content, rather than only being aware of soaring highs and crushing lows. Having the ability to recognise when I'm having a bad MH day, then tracing it backwards to identify a source of where my feelings may be coming from, all in order to counteract them, means I know how to find happiness in myself, as appose to depending on those closest to me for it. This has been one of my healthiest improvements.
Another thing I didn't foresee was that I would eagerly be spending less and less time in my pyjamas. I used spend entire days in my PJs. Just lazing around... Doing nothing... But now I start to feel gross and not put together. It's surprising what a quick wash, a fresh pair of jeans and comfy shirt can do for your mood, when you feel a little lost. Similarly, I have to go outside at least once every day now. It feels strange to think back to the weeks I spent cooped up indoors, when now I start to feel trapped if I don't nip out for a couple of minutes. Making sure I am seeing friends every single week has greatly helped too. Always having someone to turn to is invaluable. I talk to friends throughout the day, every single day, and couldn't imagine living any other way.
Something else that happened seemingly out of the blue, was a change in my tastebuds. I've never been a fan of tea, but during the evening before
, I was gasping for a cup of English Breakfast with milk and sugar. Oh, and I like olives now too. Two distinctive flavours I wouldn't suggest sampling together. I spoke to Mum about my curiosity regarding a possible link between tastebuds changing and an improvement in mental health, and after a search online, I wasn't surprised to find studies talking about
I've been in recovery for five months. It feels pretty amazing to be starting 2017 being able to say that. I'm more in control of my brain now than I have ever been. I don't tear myself to bits anymore, but instead let myself take some time out in order to see the situation for what it is. I know when depression and anxiety are taking hold, and I know what I need to do when they do. It isn't about going around in circles, but stopping it in its tracks. Seeing it for an illness, and treating it like one too. Being in recovery doesn't mean there is a euphoric sense that everything is now absolutely fine, as that's not how it works, but I have undoubtedly seen the biggest change in myself. I've made so much progress, and even though I know there is still a way to go, and that I will experience rough patches, I will endeavour to keep up a constant, unwavering will and belief that I will be and am okay. I've found it helps to remember that when it comes to life, no one truly knows what they are doing. Everyone is muddling through the best they can and making the most of what they have - so I know I can do the same too.