Recovery is hard. It’s hard when I feel sick, kind the kind of sick that used to send me to the hospital. I have the skills to keep myself safe and I’ve been in recovery without needing psychiatric hospitalization for almost a year. Taking things only one day at a time is relatively easy at this point. Even so, I still have plenty of bad days where I don’t feel safe and I’ve gone to the ER a few times to seek that extra help. Does that mean I’m not in recovery?
I feel like because I went to Rogers, I have to be in recovery. I have completed a myriad of therapies, and most of the time I have all the tools I need to get better. When I find myself in crisis, I usually know what to do. There are still some times where I’m at a loss, or just too stressed out to know how to best help myself. Asking for help when I’m in this stage of recovery is hard because most of the time people just tell me that I should be able to do it on my own and then they refer me back to my skills. Because of this, I feel foolish asking for help from professionals nowadays. It’s a cause of embarrassment for me. I fear judgment for not being able to do it on my own because I have a history of being able to do it on my own. I fear my strength will be called into question and I’ll be perceived as weak. I fear being reprimanded and told that I’m wasting resources of those who “really need it” because they aren’t in recovery/ don’t have all the tools that I have. These fears aren’t just fabricated in my mind. I’ve had doctors, nurses, and crisis volunteers tell me these things. Being in recovery has its own stigma, on top of the stigma our society has placed around being mentally ill in the first place.
Recovery, like most things in life, isn’t a straight line. Being in recovery doesn’t mean you’re perfect, but that you’re learning. Going into the hospital because I’m not sure if I can keep myself safe doesn’t mean I’ve failed. It means that I am smart enough to know that I need help. If I wasn’t in recovery, I would refuse to go to the hospital and stay home, putting myself in danger. Recovery for me is any positive step or effort put towards getting better.
Just because I’m in recovery doesn’t mean my mental illness is cured. Illnesses like bipolar disorder can never be cured, only managed. Often I worry that once I reach a certain level of managing my mental health, or once a certain amount of time has passed, people will no longer allow my mental health conditions to be a part of me. For example, not accepting that when I say “I can’t drive right now because I’m manic” as a reason for not going to a party. My fear is that people will begin responding with statements like “it’s been 4 years, you’re not even trying to get better anymore” or “now you’re just using it as an excuse”. I fear that when I reach a certain level of independence from my disability, I won’t be able to receive the same support that I do now. What if people no longer let me struggle in my recovery? What if I lose my support?
I’ll be honest, I’m scared to recover. I’m scared my value will change or that I’ll be forgotten. I’m scared to be able to live a more outwardly normal life. Right now I’m focusing on knowing that it’s okay to recover and that I’m going to be just fine 🙂