Recovery doesn’t happen in a straight line. This is what they told us at the outpatient treatment I went through after being released from the hospital. They drew this swirly line… one loop d loop after another on the board… and I had no idea then exactly what it meant, but I’ve come back to that mental image SO MANY times since.
It has been 9 and a half years since my time in the hospital, since I almost lost the battle to mental health, since I’ve felt truly suicidal… But that doesn’t mean I don’t have loops, it doesn’t mean every day has been a straight walk toward sanity. There are good days and bad, or, I’m learning for ME personally it means there are good MONTHS and bad. But (with work) the line, my line, of mental health recovery has still slowly and steadily moved toward more and more wellness.
I was 28 when I checked myself into the hospital, and after checking out, I certainly didn’t consider my work just “done.” I spent a month in outpatient treatment, and then the following 5 years in intensive therapy with my counselor. I took my meds every single day. My therapist used the expression “doing the work”… and I love that because it is so true that that is what recovery is actually like. It is taking the time, finding the courage to face hard feelings… it is finding those deep deep-seated notions you had about yourself, about life, that were false and are keeping you sick inside. It is kinda like filling in holes with a shovel and kinda like slaying dragons, all in one.
I won’t say that I had this one single moment of “being better” it isn’t like after the honesty and the hospital and the meds and the therapy the clouds just cleared and everything was suddenly bright…. But I do remember, a moment. When I got in my car and I buckled my seatbelt out of an instinct because I WANTED TO STAY ALIVE. It happened without effort or thought, but as soon as it happened I had a moment of shock, and gratitude, and blue sky-ed hope! This was the first time, in as long as I could remember if I’m honest. That I felt truly hopeful about the rest of my life. I wanted to live. I wanted to grow old. Under my nose, it had gone from: “can I survive this next day/week/month/year” to: I am looking forward to the rest of my life.
Today, man friends…. Today, almost 10 years later, I am happy. I live a life I truly love. I have so many things to live for, I have my family (that lifeline that carried me way back then)… but there also is so much more! I have a job I love and a pink floored studio, and adventures, and dreams….there is a blue sky above me and solid ground below me. There are moments filling my day, day after day, of sweet gifts of bliss, that first cup of coffee, the way my dog wags his tail and follows me around, the tree out my window where squirrels are constantly up to shenanigans…. and food and drink and sweet sleep in my cozy bed…
Oh so many things, that I LIVE for…
…and maybe because I know what it feels like, to not be able to experience those things, to not be able to hope and dream…. but it the joy, the gift of living, it hits me so hard, sometimes it knocks me right off my feet and feels my eyes with huge fat tears of gratitude, tears of pride. Because I survived the darkness to make it HERE.
When things do get dark, and trust me, they still do. My parents divorce, running into pieces of my past I haven’t quite sorted through, or just when my brain chemistry goes wonky… I have gotten to the place where I KNOW. I have had enough experience of that light and hope, to keep me holding on till I reach the other side.
I also hold with me tightly the lessons I learned through that terrible first struggle… the lessons of speaking the truth, the lesson of asking for help, the lesson of braving even the very hardest of things to access the things I need…. these have become the foundation for how I face the dips in the road today. I have started therapy again more than once, I have taken meds I need, I have STOPPED jsut saying “fine”, when people ask me how I am. I CLAIM my mental health, I use the language I say “PTSD” and “anxiety” “bipolar” and “depression.”
The deepest struggle of severe depression can be that sense of not feeling safe with yourself… So I am learning, still learning every day, to BE a safe person for myself. I’m teaching my little inner hurting person that I will take CARE of her, I will HONOR her, I will NOT shame her, and I will speak her truth again and again.
Just a little over one year after my fight for my life, I turned 30 years old and I got the tattoo you see above (no, I didn’t draw it myself, I wasn’t quite confident enough at that point in my journey to permanently put my work on my own wrist). It says “live” and it was both a celebration and a reminder. That I had been through the darkness and LIVED. That I WANT to live. That I can do it, that I will do it. That it is absolutely worth it.
I hope that whoever you are, my story can bring you some light – light to a subject we too often keep in the dark. I hope my experience can offer you resources and information that makes a difference. I hope my truth gives you permission to embrace your own truth and come into the light…. Most of all, I pray that this story, my beautiful, terrible, wonderful story, gives you HOPE. I pray it gives you COURAGE. That in my journey you can see your own inner strength.
We are survivors friends, as human people we ARE SURVIVORS. We have the inner resources to do the hard things, to get the help, to reach out with more truth and more understanding. We can do this hard thing, we can make it through.
I am committed to continue posting on this subject, so reach out if there is anything you want to know more about! I want to support you in your own journey, and as you support the ones you love!! Please feel free to comment/share/message because by getting more truth out there, we can change things and we can make a difference. we can save lives.
*Please remember: if you are in trouble, and thinking about suicide, don’t wait, reach out. Here call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255 or go to their website here.