Choose to Recover.
I used to hate that statement. I would see it written in articles, part of motivational quotes or on messages from people who were fighting mental illness and I would feel such anger. It would bubble up inside me and burst out in a what I thought was a righteous tirade ending in a big dose of self-loathing, as if someone saying that made it necessary for me to justify why I wasn’t getting better. How dare they suggest that I’m not choosing to get better? How dare they assume I want to feel like this? How dare they say that when they don’t even know my story? They’re different from me, they’re obviously stronger than me. They must be a better person than I am. Why can’t I do that? I’m such a failure.
Months into my recovery and now I feel myself repeating the words I used to hate and trying to justify why this statement is, in fact, true.
Why the change of tune? Because I have learned it’s true. You do have to choose to recover. The problem is so many people say this statement and leave it at that which is no use to anyone who is lost, struggling and doesn’t have anyone there to explain it. It’s not a simple black and white choice that you make and suddenly you start getting better. There’s no switch you can flick in your brain to reverse the damage you’ve experienced and stop more from happening. It is a constant, never ending list of choices you have to make every single minute of the day.
It’s like when you have something big or important that you know you need to do which makes you want to put it off for as long as possible. You know in the end you’ll still have to do it and that leaving it to the last minute will cause even more bother but you do it anyway. That feeling when everything in you is screaming, trying to drag you away from this mammoth task because it’s so hard and will take so long and use so much energy that you just…can’t. The battle is draining and eventually one side will win out, either you’ll do it or you won’t. That’s how it feels to some of those living with a mental illness. That battle you faced for the mammoth task? Someone had to face that to open their eyes to the day after waking up. They faced it again trying to get out of bed, or even just sit up for a few hours instead of just lying there. They faced it again trying to convince themselves to go downstairs AND have to eat. And again to go shower. Try picture having to face that struggle every moment of the day.
We are so used to making decisions in our daily lives that we forget how often we make choices. Did you get up this morning? Did you brush your teeth? Make your bed? Put shoes on? Leave the house? How many of you consciously argued to yourself whether you should do those things? For some, it’s a simple ‘I either do this or I don’t’ choice that is made fairly easily. For others it’s choice after choice after choice. Or more accurately, it’s a fight against your illness over and over and over again.
So ultimately, to overcome mental illness you do have to choose to recover. You do have to choose to get better- you just have to make that choice a hundred times a day. Every time you try to do something you have to choose to win the battle and keep going on. If you haven’t experienced a mental illness can you see now why so many people struggle to fight it? Having to go through life like that is impossible, when the ‘simple’ daily tasks reduce you to exhaustion adding on anything else requires an inner strength stronger than you can possibly imagine. And that’s before any other factors such as depressions’ lies, anorexias’ punishments or anxieties’ panic are piled on top of this.
If you want to recover you need more than the statement you have to choose to get better. You need to be given the tools to overcome it, just like anyone with an illness is given the tools to recover. That might be medications to get rid of an infection, physiotherapy exercises to heal an injury, stitches to hold a wound together or a plate inside your body to help hold a broken bone together. In this case what you need is knowledge. Only by being taught how to manage the tough days, how to make the constant battles easier, how to look past the moment to keep going can you then make the choice to recover. Medications can make a difference and for some that is all they will need but for more severe cases it’s not enough. It’s about going to the root causes of your illness, identifying the behaviours that contribute to or worsen it and coming up with techniques personal to you that will help.
If you’re suffering and have had a bad day then this is for you: well done! Read it again. Seriously, if you’re thinking ‘all I done today was get out of bed’ then you should still be proud that you made the choice to get out of bed. If you lay and slept or cried all day then that’s fine too. Some days, you can’t keep pushing any longer and that’s okay. I’ve come so far in my journey but I still have days where I can’t beat my mind and can’t make the choice to get up or get dressed or even eat. That’s perfectly fine! It’s okay to stop, rest and regain your strength for another day. If you have a bad day, it doesn’t take away any of the good days or good choices you have made. It’s simply you taking care of yourself. For me, the best way I have found is to break everything down into small goals. Months ago my only focus was getting out of bed, getting dressed, and eating. That was a huge achievement for me when I managed that and now I face challenges by adding more each day or week.
I’m planning to dedicate a few posts to things I have learned in my recovery that changed my mind about having to choose to recover. There’s way too many things I’ve tried to post just one. If you have any ideas or things you know have worked for you, please feel free to comment or message me about them and I can include your suggestions. You never know what may help someone!