What does recovery mean to you?
I recently had a conversation about recovery with my therapist. I asked her what that meant, because I feel like I’m striving for this unidentified, unquantifiable, invisible and all around “squishy” goal. What does it mean? How do I get there? How do I know I’ve gotten there? She explained that recovery isn’t a place or a time or a feeling. I will forever be “in recovery” because there is no cure. OCD will continue to reside inside my head for the remainder of my life. Recovery will be whether or not I let it come out and play. She said that relapse is always a concern and that I will forever have bad days. What counts is the space between those bad days. Recovery isn’t a place, it’s a constant. Just like an alcoholic is forever an alcoholic, they’re just a recovering alcoholic. I will forever be fighting my own demons in my head. Now, I know that sounds depressing, but here’s the interesting part. I’m a perfectionist, it’s a manifestation of my OCD, and I will never be rid of this, never be healed, and never be perfect. OCD has been making me strive for the very thing that it makes unavailable, and I find that quite ridiculous and rather funny. So all of that to say this:
Recovery is taking life one day at a time, remembering to always fight against the Monster, vowing to never give up or to at least try again tomorrow. Recovery is stumbling then standing, enjoying the twists and turns and sometimes bumps in the road. Recovery is having more good days than bad days, and forgetting what the bad days feel like anyway. Recovery is remembering that it’s okay to fail, as long as you try again. Recovery is doing your best, even when you feel your worst. Recovery is never giving up. Ever.
And with that, I’ll leave you with 3 of my favorite quotes from the brilliant Sir Winston Churchill and one from my favorite US President FDR:
“Success is not final, failure is not fatal, it is the courage to continue that counts.”
“If you’re going through hell, keep going.”
“If you’re at the end of your rope, tie a knot and hang on.”
“Never, never, never give up.”
What are a few of your goals regarding your mental health?
Because of my perfectionism, I’ve tried to refrain from making goals in regard to my mental health. I just strive to get better every day and do the best I can. It’s not a hard and fast rule, just more of a guideline for me. However, there are a few things I’d like to accomplish with my life, especially now that I have a new outlook on the future, thanks to my therapy.
1. Earn my Master’s Degree – As long as everything goes well this summer, I’ll be starting grad school in the Fall to accomplish this goal. I’m very excited to start this next step in my recovery.
2. Travel Even More (and see more exotic places) – Obviously, it’s not a secret that I love to travel. It’s one of the few areas that OCD has left more or less alone. My therapist says that my OCD takes a vacation with me, and perhaps that’s why I enjoy getting away so much; it’s a vacation from my OCD as well. I’m more adventurous and willing to try new things and new experiences when I travel. However, push my limits too far and I have been known to have a breakdown while in a foreign country.
3. Become a Leader at Work – I’ve always been a natural-born leader, but my OCD has held me back from realizing my full potential in regard to taking charge. I’m both aggressive and passive, and OCD magnifies these extremes. I want to work my way into upper management at my company and I feel like I’m positioning myself well to succeed in the future. This is more of a long term goal, and it’s something that I have to learn to have patience with, and patience is not my best feature.
4. Be Fearless – So this is very broad, but it encompasses things like: traveling to weird places, eating weird foods, meeting new people, putting myself out there, getting a tattoo or riding a motorcycle. I want to make choices without the days/weeks of agonizing over the decision before finally choosing the safe option. I want to not be afraid to take the risk.
5. Be Imperfect – I want to fail. That sounds awful, I know. But sometimes you need to fail to remember that you’re human and you’re not perfect. No one is perfect. Perfection is an opinion, not a fact. And it’s completely unattainable. Strive for your best? Absolutely. But remember that it’s okay to fail.
6. Learn to Forgive – This is a really hard one for me. I have a hard time forgiving others for their transgressions, especially if they show no remorse. I have a hard time forgiving those who aren’t even in my life anymore, but that I feel I never had the opportunity to end things with cleanly. I want to learn to forgive, truly forgive, and move on.
7. Love Myself – I am my own worst enemy and my own worst critic. I beat myself up a lot over things that I say or do, the way I act, the way I dress, the way I carry myself, etc. I’m harder on myself than I am on anyone else. I need to learn to love myself, and more importantly, respect myself because I am my own best advocate. If others spoke to me the way I spoke to myself, I would never speak to them again. So why do I allow my OCD to speak to me that way?
These are things that I never really thought much of before seeking treatment. I’ve made a lot of progress over the last 15 months and I’m really proud of that. It’s given me a whole new outlook on life and I’m so excited about the endless possibilities. I’m tired of living my life by a set of arbitrary rules that my brain set to control me. I’ve lived 25 years under the Monster’s control and I finally feel like a free woman. I feel like I can do anything I want, be anything I want, and I can be truly happy. Here’s to a new, exciting, OCD-free life – Cheers! 🙂
Explain a “bad” day
A bad day is when:
I lose the fight
I give up and give in to my OCD
My anxiety keeps me from enjoying things
I don’t want to eat/have a hard time handling moves
I let myself get anxious to the point of shutting down
I give in to my rituals
I’m angry/upset and don’t know why
I worry about every little thing
I check and double check and triple check
I straighten and align everything so it’s “just right”
I can’t let go
It’s hard to describe a bad day, mostly because I haven’t had many lately (which is awesome!) and because it’s hard to put into words a feeling that I don’t fully comprehend. It’s very confusing, but it’s a lot like the anxious feeling you get when you know something bad is going to happen. If I feel like that, I’ve already lost the battle. I am incredibly thankful that I don’t see nearly as many of these bad days as I used to. I’m quite content to not remember what they feel like.
Trying to catch up on my 30 day Mental Illness Challenge! I’m a little slow, obviously, but I am determined to finish.
Day 27: Explain a “good” day.
A “good” day for me is when:
I fight the Monster and win
I feel the fear and do it anyway
I get a victory – no matter how small
Lunch and/or dinner isn’t stressful
I make a mistake and don’t dwell on it for the next 15 years
I see the messy/untidy house and don’t feel the need to put everything away
I roll with the punches, be flexible, or just go with the flow
I try something new
I sleep the whole night through and wake up decently refreshed
My husband tells me he’s proud of me for doing something to fight the Monster
My nephew isn’t afraid of me and gives me love
I can make a decision without the nagging feelings of potential regret
I don’t analyze every move or every outcome, but instead do my best and hope for the best
I think that about covers it for today! Thanks for reading
Day 26: How is your day-to-day life effected by your mental illness(es)?
This may end up being pretty long so I’ll sum up here – Everything is impacted by my OCD. Everything.
When I wake up in the morning, my mind goes immediately to the day ahead and what I need to do. I check the weather so I can choose the proper clothes and make sure I have an umbrella/jacket/boots/etc. I get up, take a shower in a certain order, dry off in a certain order, and get dressed. I struggle to choose clothes because I feel like people will judge me/make fun of me/perceive that I am imperfect/unprofessional by my clothing choice. I do my hair and makeup (I’ve gotten better about this!). As I walk out the door for work, I do my checks: Closet door closed? Everything picked up off the floor? Straightener unplugged? Lights off? Dog has food and water? Badge, notebook, phone charger, phone, sunglasses, jacket? As I pull out of the driveway, watch to make sure the garage door closes completely. Usually I ride to work with my husband because we work near each other. He drives most days because driving gives me anxiety. I usually try to play on my phone, read my email, etc so that I don’t have to pay attention to what is going on around me. I get to work and the rituals begin. I sit down, start my computer, read my email, go downstairs and get breakfast from the cafeteria. Come back upstairs, update my tools and start my day. My job is very ritualized so that probably doesn’t help either. I hate lunch because of the anxiety it gives me. I covered this in my food related triggers post. I worry about what others think of me at work and if they find me unprofessional/unintelligent/etc. I ride home with my husband, again paying more attention to my phone because of the anxiety that being on the road gives me. I get home, check the mail, let the dog out, watch him to make sure he doesn’t run out in the road. My husband cooks dinner, usually after a long battle over what to eat because I hate eating. After dinner, I usually watch TV, work on my blog, work on my computer, play with the dog, etc. I go to bed. I used to have to hard time going to sleep at night. I’ve been much better about it the last 6 months. I used to just lie there and if I did fall asleep, I woke up several times a night. I was perpetually exhausted. Now, I fall asleep pretty quickly and stay asleep most nights – a definite improvement. I have weird dreams sometimes, but that is mostly because I took my medication too late at night. So that’s a typical day for me. But the thing is, most of that is what you can see. Literally 24/7, my brain doesn’t stop. It’s a constant string of thoughts/planning/worst case scenarios/fears/rituals/anxiety/worries/processing/solving problems that don’t exist/defining “perfection” and “just right” to a ridiculous standard/analyzing every move, every word, every detail to try to figure out what others think of me. I spend the vast majority of my day analyzing things that are nonessential, unimportant, and sometimes complete nonsense. My brain never shuts off – I never get a break. I’m learning how to go easier on myself, to quit beating myself up so much. I am my own worst enemy and my own worst critic. I don’t love myself, and I certainly don’t respect myself. But I’m learning. I learning how to be an advocate for myself, instead of an aggressor. I’m learning to separate myself from my OCD instead of pretending it doesn’t exist. I’m learning how to love myself for my talents and for my flaws. I’m learning to accept that “perfect” is an opinion, not a destination. I’m learning that failure is not fatal (as Sir Winston Churchill said). I’m learning that as long as I do my best, I will be okay. But one thing I’ve already learned so far? I am so much stronger than I give myself credit for. I have been through so much in the last 9 months, and when I think back to what my life was like just 9 short months ago, it seems like forever ago. It seems like someone else’s life, someone else’s story. But I changed my story, and it was the best decision I ever made. Thanks for reading.
Day 25: What is your opinion on forced/coercion in mental health treatment? Can be legal (law enforcement or psychiatric holds) or a “helping” friend/family member.
I have thought about this a lot lately, considering what is happening in the country with the debates on mental health. I hear/read often that people blame President Reagan for “shutting down the institutions and letting the crazies walk among us.” Well, there were just as many people wrongfully institutionalized as there were those who probably should have been. But that’s another story.
As a person with a mental illness, I don’t want to be forced into doing anything, especially into an institution. I don’t want to be held by law enforcement. I’m not a danger to myself or anyone else. I just want to keep on living my life without intrusion. So when I think about people being forced into treatment, I try to put myself in their shoes. Now, if someone is having a psychotic episode, trying to harm themselves or others, or has a repeated history of criminal/deviant behavior, I’m all for a law enforcement or psychiatric hold for a determined amount of time. I feel that the family should get a say, but I also feel like the patient needs a larger say. They are a human being, with civil rights and it is not my place of yours to take those away without a true, just cause.
Now, when it comes to coercion, I can understand that from an intervention-type standpoint. Sometimes, I person has to hit rock bottom and confronted with the damage they are doing to themselves and others before they realize that treatment is necessary. Is it possible for them to resist? Absolutely. But again, that person has rights and you can’t just institutionalize them because they aren’t doing what you want for them to do. This is something that I struggle with – I want for people to get the help that they need. But if they aren’t a danger to themselves or others, and they are resisting treatment, I can’t force them into doing anything, especially if they are an adult. I can’t say, “you have to start treatment or I’m not going to talk to you.” It can’t and it shouldn’t work like that. Making someone feel guilty in order to make them do something isn’t fair, and they will resent you later on for making them do something that they didn’t want to do. You do have a choice: You can either accept them and love them for who they are at this place in their lives and be encouraging and supportive to them, or you can cut them off and be petty because you aren’t getting your way.
So in conclusion, this is a tricky situation. You have to tread very carefully when you begin talking about taking away another person’s rights or guilting them into doing something.
Day 24: What is your opinion on alternative treatments or treatments that aren’t commonly used? (Some examples are: EMDR, hypnotherapy, herbal or vitamin supplements, acupuncture, massage therapy, art, music, or recreational therapy,ECT, VNS, TMS, DBS)
Obviously, we are working with issues of the mind here. And the mind is a powerful thing. You can see this when testing drugs for any type of illness – placebo effect. If taking vitamins, getting a massage, writing, dancing, or whatever helps you feel better, make progress and work towards recovery, I’m all for it. In all of the years of searching for a cure for my chronic migraines, I have often said, “If you want to do a voo doo dance around my bed and have me stand on my head for an hour a day, I’ll do it, as long as I feel better!” And I mean that. I will try just about anything to get better, get rid of the pain, escape the fear, etc. And if somebody thinks what you are doing isn’t helping or isn’t worth it, tell them what Eric Cartman would tell them – “Whatever, whatever, I DO WHAT I WANT!” 🙂