Progress, and Recognising It

Recovery from chronic mental illness is not as straightforward as some ignorant people seem to think it ought to be. It’s not a straight line, it’s a curly one with ups and downs and swings and roundabouts. Sometimes there are dips, and then I start to feel so hopeless because it’s awful to feel so bad  especially so frequently over a short period of time, and I start to think to myself, is this it? Am I getting worse? Will I never get better? Do I need to increase my antidepressant dosage again? Should I just give up now?

The thing is though when you look back over the bigger picture, over a bigger period of time, it’s quite clear that it’s just a dip. It happens, but it doesn’t mean anything for my long-term recovery. I will improve again, I just have to stick it out, and get the support that I need to get through it, and not make any snap decisions because I have to realise my considerable weaknesses when my state of mind is substantially impaired by poor mental health.

I have been on a dip for the past few weeks. I hadn’t had a panic attack for probably around 2 months but over the last few weeks I have been having about one a week. I have been having about one migraine a week too, and headaches almost every day. My bowels have been a bit funny, my acid reflux and heartburn have been more frequent problems. My mood has been lower, I’ve had suicidal thoughts, and my anxiety has been close to constant and very debilitating. As a result I’ve missed a deadline at uni – I was too ill to attend to do a presentation. My attendance in general has dipped a bit over the last few weeks and there is one class that I’ve only been to about twice. Not great. But my partner has helped me notice that to be honest I do usually have a dip in my health around this time every year. I think a lot of this is linked to the change in weather from mild to rainy, cold, and dark. I hate winter, I hate the cold, the wet, the dark. It always takes me ages to adjust and it really makes me feel miserable. So I just have to sit this out and I will be back to my normal healthier self soon enough.

Although I still have a considerable number of stresses to be dealing with that aren’t great for my anxiety, I am trying my best not to ruminate and to focus on one task at a time, and also to recognise all of the progress I have made and how well I am doing overall. I have so many achievements and my partner does give me tons of praise for them but other people generally don’t because they don’t realise how big a deal these things are.

This week alone saw many great achievements. I competed in the final of my uni Law Society’s Client Interviewing competition. My partner and I didn’t win, unfortunately, but we made it to the final, we came second. I performed in front of spectators, strangers! And my partner was also a stranger to me whom I knew of only through someone else that we both know, and I went and met him completely on my own for the first time a few weeks ago. I would never have been able to do any of that even a few months ago! I also went to the Pole Fitness & Dance Society’s Christmas meal. I had to get my partner to walk me to the bus stop and put me on the bus to make sure I went, but I was fine on my journey, I didn’t even feel anxious. I was anxious upon arrival, especially when it became clear that everybody else from the Society who came to the meal already knew each other last year too so I was the only person who was a new member this year, and I was also not dressed anywhere near as much as some of the other beautiful ladies were. It is hard being the only mug wearing glasses and having acne at a meal with a bunch of beautiful pole dancers who all know each other far better than you do! But I tried my best, I asked lots and lots of questions because that’s all I know to do to spur on small talk and I think I did ok, either way I definitely enjoyed myself and hopefully the people I was sat next to didn’t think I was too annoying/chatty/weird. The food was lovely and I had a great time and mostly I’m just proud that I was able to go and enjoy myself. Because that trip out to a restaurant is a BIG DEAL for me. Those girls won’t know it but it was. And I’m glad I got to go and enjoy myself. Because I DESERVE to enjoy myself. I try really hard, I work really hard every day of my life to be healthy, to be like other people, and it is really great when some small part of it pays off and I walk home at night with a big smile on my face with my partner ready to greet me at the door and him being so proud of my achievement as well. 🙂

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