One thing life guarantees is that there will be changes in recovery. As fall rolls in, I've reflected on all the changes that come with a new season (temperature, holidays, sunlight, etc.) Life is full of changes, whether environmental (like the seasons), personal, or professional. Changes are difficult for anyone but can be especially difficult for those recovering from a mental illness. So, during change, I ask myself, "What can I do to find a sense of stability and handle my anxiety?"
Creating a morning routine matters. Mornings can be tough when you have a mental illness. Warm covers, an hour of scrolling, and total denial of responsibilities used to be my go-to routine. While indulging in my escapism, I unknowingly set myself up for an unbalanced day. Now I've realized it's much harder to have a bad day when I've had a good morning, so building a healthy morning routine that helps my mental health has been essential in my recovery journey.
Goodbyes suck. I suck at giving goodbyes. There are times I’m more likely to fade away than give a proper goodbye. But, in this case, I’m here to give a proper goodbye to HealthyPlace. As much as I don’t want to say goodbye, it feels like it’s time for me to move along.
One concept that’s helped me a lot in recovery from mental illness is this: recovery is not linear. It seems simple, but understanding this helps me be aware that the recovery process may have peaks and valleys. It also helps me be aware of the changes that bring on peaks and valleys, like big life changes.
No matter how much coffee I drink, I am exhausted all the time, and it's because of my mental illness. Recovery is hard, but sometimes it's not even about recovery, it's just about getting through the day, and that's where I'm at right now. I have to fight to do anything; even getting dressed in the morning is a battle. As I sit typing this, my hands feel heavy, and with every breath, I want to quit and go back to bed.
I learned the hard way that mental health recovery burnout is a real thing. It turns out, recovery isn't something you can work tirelessly toward and eventually achieve, like an award. Instead, it's more like something you slowly chip away at until one day you realize the work is a lot easier than it used to be. But recovery is never really over or complete, at least not in my case, which means working frantically to recover will only lead to one thing: burnout.
For most of my childhood, I used reading to cope with trauma. This might not sound like a bad thing, and it wasn't entirely, but it came with a couple of big problems. Coping mechanisms develop as a way for us to protect ourselves, to survive despite threats to our wellbeing or identity. However, these coping mechanisms can get in the way of real connection.
If you're finding yourself needing more rest -- taking more naps or going to bed earlier than you used to ever since you started your journey toward recovery -- don't worry. It's normal. The truth is, most people need more rest in recovery because emotional work is hard work, and it tires us out.
Recovering from mental illness is a lot of work all on its own, but lately, those of us in recovery have been handling another major mental health issue: pandemic fatigue. I'm calling pandemic fatigue the sense of weariness and hopelessness that comes from social distancing and missing out on big events as the world battles COVID-19. Lately, pandemic fatigue has been making it much harder for me to focus on my mental health recovery because I've had to go without my usual coping mechanisms for months now.
For the last year or so, I have been doing a lot of work to process my childhood trauma. I've been in therapy, I've been taking psychiatric medication, I've been doing outside reading, and my therapist and I even found a way to work one of my favorite TV shows into my trauma work. In general, I think it's going really well, except for one problem: parenting. I don't know how to avoid causing my son the same trauma that happened to me.