I've always been open & vocal about my eating disorder history. But I've also suffered from severe depression and PTSD. Today's Tuesday Ten isn't about Pure Barre but what real life recovery from mental health issues can look like. I still throw in some comedy gems so don't worry, you'll still get some lolz.
1. Talking (And Writing) Is Therapeutic
Everyone has their own way of healing. My illnesses love secrecy. I was hesitant to share my experiences at first because I felt like I would be stigmatized. But articulating your thoughts and issues can help. It can help yourself and more importantly, others.
I have depression. Some days I would wake up crying and couldn't stop. Other days I was perfectly fine. Some days I had all the motivation, others days I would lay in bed until 1:00pm unable to even sit up.
I was physically abused. That explains to some of you why I don't like hugs or I flinch a lot. I have worked on both of those things a lot this year.
I've been sexually assaulted. It took me a very long time to even open up about that to my therapist. I felt broken. It affected relationships. I had night terrors and would wake up screaming in my bed or at the front door. I still get triggered sometimes and I've cried in moments I "shouldn't have". But again, this too has improved considerably.
Dialogue can save lives. Talk when you are ready.
2. Medication Isn't Your Enemy
When I started regular, consistent therapy in May after struggling from severe depression and PTSD, I fought hard against medicine. I utilized behavioral and cognitive therapy but things weren't improving. Eventually I gave it a try and my life began again. Without getting into too much detail I realized, with the help of multiple doctors and friends, "Hey Amber. You really aren't insane. It's a chemical imbalance. Try it." I'm glad I did.
3. Animals Totally Help
I may be biased but my catdog helped me out tremendously. Having a pet forces you, hopefully, to get out of bed. Care about something. And the cuddles are awesome. Their love is unconditional and when you feel like you're surrounded by dark clouds, some days they can be the only light you see.
4. It Won't Happen Overnight
No spoiler alert there right? If you're like me you want everything done, or fixed, NOW. Patience is not my forte even if it is a virtue. Healing is a slow process. I'm still working on it.
5. You're Probably Going To Relapse
Debbie Downer, right? The world isn't sunshine and rainbows. Some days those dark thoughts, or dark urges, will creep up on you. You may not give in to them but you might. Does that make you a POS? HECK NO! You're human. The perfectionist in me had/has a hard time with this but my mantra has been, "Progress not perfection". Just get back on the horse. It's not over. It's never over.
6. There Is Still Stigma Attached To It
Should there be one? No. But there is, especially if you are dealing with a Mental Health issue. So much so that it can hinder recovery; some people refuse to seek treatment. I hung the phone up three times before finally making my first appointment. Don't be like me.
When you're ready, if ever, talk about your struggles with friends or family. It makes these issues more relevant and personal to that person thereby helping to eradicate that stigma.
7. Relationships Can Be Hard
Whether you were in one prior or if you start one after (or during) treatment. Personally, I felt the need to list my "problems" early on. I did it because I felt insecure. Eventually I realized the right person wouldn't see it as a "problem". After all, I was actively getting help. And eventually someone proved me right.
8. Pinterest Can Help
What a basic thing to say, right? But pinning on boards and seeing what other people had to say helped me. You can access my Recovery and Mindfulness Tools boards anytime you want. Most of the things I pinned can be used for many different disorders.
9. Don't Alienate Your Friends
Some days you want to curl into a ball and stay there. But try to keep your close friends at least informed. They care about you. They want to help. They may even make you laugh. They mean well and will understand. If they don't, then say "Bye Felicia".
10. It Gets Better
Is this cliche enough? But it is true.
I had some points where I thought if I died it would be better than what I was suffering through (I don't think this way anymore so don't blow my phone up). When things were very dark I cancelled all of my plans I ever made. I didn't even like the gym anymore. I cried in the bathroom and I cried between sets because I didn't feel anything but numb. Something I once loved so much and I felt absolutely nothing. I felt like a worthless failure because I quit a job and that just wasn't "Amber"; Amber never quits.
But I needed to take care of myself for the first time in my life. Really take care of myself. And I did so for six months were all I did was "recover". Seriously: I made that my job. Fortunately I had quite a bit of savings to help me get by (but I still stressed out about it every single day) and I know not everyone can do that. But I'm a workhorse---had I kept a full time job I never would have allowed myself the time to recover and get the help I needed.
Quite honestly I needed routine therapy (behavioral and cognitive). I needed those 45 minute nature walks by myself. I needed nutritional help. I needed group therapy. I needed to cry and express how I felt. I needed to face what had happened to me. I needed medicine.
I promise that while treatment and recovery isn't easy, it IS worth it. My self esteem now is the highest and best it has ever been my entire life. I had to hit rock bottom and crawl, scratch, and climb back up. It was so hard. But I did it.
Have you ever suffered from an illness or during your recovery process? What was the hardest thing you faced? Share your story below to help fight against Mental Health & Substance Abuse Stigma.
If you or a loved one needs help please seek out trained professionals. A good place to start is the National Alliance of Mental Illness. I'm always here to listen as well (but bear in mind I am not a licensed therapist or trained professional).