As the years have come and gone and my battle with mental issues went from bad to dangerously worse, I couldn’t see much in the way of hope. I thought that there was very little to be proud of myself for, and even less to celebrate. There was nothing in me that felt good enough, just the simple act of being caused great distress each and every day, looking forward was a terrifying venture, and looking back was horribly depressing.
It has been a slow process, but for the past year, with adequate care and a lot of help, life has started to improve. Admittedly, there are times when I still fall backwards, when suddenly the mat feels as though it has been torn from beneath my feet. But for the most part the difference between this time last year, and how life is now, are very different.
Over the past few weeks my husband, Doctor, and my close friends, have kept reminding me that I have started to recover, I am well on my way. Typical of someone with very low self confidence, I stubbornly refused to believe in it, in myself. Slowly though, they have made their point, and I have begun to acknowledge that each of us, myself included, must make time to celebrate our wins – to find some pride in what we have achieved.
To help me be able to do this though, I needed to take some time and sit down to process carefully what the difference was between this time a year ago, and how I am currently feeling.
THEN: I was distressed beyond adequate description. NOW: I have days when I feel distressed, but I can move past them, not getting locked in a cycle.
THEN: I was experiencing 10 or more panic attacks every single day. NOW: I experience one or two panic attacks each week.
THEN: I was constantly dizzy and unknowingly held my breath frequently due to anxiety. NOW: I occasionally feel dizzy and notice it is because I am holding my breath due to anxiety.
THEN: I was regularly, often daily, self harming. It was almost impossible to ignore the urge. NOW: I sometimes have strong urges to self harm, I normally manage them by using distraction techniques.
THEN: I was frequently suicidal, and was actively putting into place plans for my death. NOW: I occasionally have strong suicidal ideation – but I do NOT have a current suicide plan.
THEN: My emotions were continually overwhelming and the skin on my face often felt raw from tears. NOW: I occasionally experience overwhelming emotions, but can regain control with mindfulness.
THEN: My thoughts raced a million miles an hour. NOW: My thoughts sometimes race, but are generally calmer and logical, even on the bad days I can normally engage rational thinking and slow my mind down by using meditation.
THEN: I could not concentrate, which made watching movies, reading, writing, or doing art impossible. NOW: I can concentrate well with some effort, I can write, watch movies, and do art and enjoy it. Reading still poses a challenge but with perseverance I can get through a book, and study.
THEN: I could not acknowledge negative emotions, and buried them until I had a break down when the pressure built up, normally over something very small. NOW: I can often acknowledge and accept negative feelings in a healthy way and deal with them as needed.
THEN: I rarely slept well at night, and was unable to get through the day without napping. NOW: I sleep well on most nights with medication, and very rarely nap during the day.
THEN: I experienced constant nightmares and was highly distressed from them. NOW: I have regular nightmares, but I can often use logical thinking to disconnect from them.
THEN: I was exhausted and my whole body felt as though it was stiff and unmovable. NOW: I am tired and sore due to ongoing health issues but I am able to be active.
THEN: I was ashamed to admit I wasn’t coping and was starting to receive professional treatment. NOW: I am open and honest about the fact I regularly see a psychiatrist and take medication.
THEN: I was not coping with the above challenges, and had no desire to try. NOW: I am hopeful that I will recover, and I am determined to keep trying.
I am learning to recognize that it is important to look back to the start and see how far I have come, instead of always looking at how far I still have to go. Comparing the “then” and “now” is very motivating, it stimulates hope for the future and gives you a reason to keep pushing forward on the hard days (because they still come), it helps you recognize that the work you are doing has a purpose. It is so much easier to just give up when things are hard, it takes courage and bravery to keep trying.
I am thankful to those who have walked by my side, who took my hand and lead me back when I strayed off the track, and then continued right on with me again. Recovery takes patience, and perseverance, both your own, and from others. I am grateful for the encouragement to look back and be pleased with myself, the reminders that it is not prideful, but purposeful.
It is not shameful to be proud of your progress, it is essential.