Looking back over 2017, I know I could have looked after my physical health better. I’ve put on lots of weight this year, and I’m sure that’s contributed to the back problems I’ve been experiencing recently. I don’t walk nearly as much now that I’m able to drive again, plus, as a lifelong comfort eater, I’ve not been closely watching what I eat. I’m not going to beat myself up about it though. 2017 has been about looking after my mental health. 2018 will be about looking after my physical health too.
I’ve learned not to view my recovery in terms of success or failure. I now look on every challenge I face as an opportunity to learn and grow. It’s become a cliche to say that recovery is a journey, but I don’t care! Recovery IS a journey, not a destination. There are clear roads an traffic jams, smooth streets and pot holes, tree-lined avenues and grotty cul-de-sacs. My goal is to pay attention to the sign-posts and navigate my way through life the best I can.
In the words of Bill Anthony:
Recovery is a deeply personal, unique process of changing one’s attitudes, values, feelings, goals, skills and/or roles. It is a way of living a satisfying, hopeful, and contributing life even with limitations caused by the illness. Recovery involves the development of new meaning and purpose in one’s life as one grows beyond the catastrophic effects of mental illness. Recovery from mental illness involves much more than recovery from the illness itself.
This year, I’ve spent a lot of time resting, catching up on lost sleep and generally taking things easy. I think I became so ill last year, partly because I was was doing too much and living too fast. I was designed for the slow life, so from now on, that’s what I’m going to live. No more trying to pour myself into the wrong-shaped mold. The world needs all sorts of people; it’s OK for me to be me.
This year, I have rediscovered my creativity. It started when I was in hospital. I sat with the other patients and coloured in lots of pages in those adult colouring books. This led me to try zentangling again and that in turn led me to start playing with my watercolours again. And now, I’m splashing about with all sorts of media. Rediscovering my creativity has played a huge part in my recovery. It has given me a sense of hope and purpose and is opening all sorts of interesting doors.
The biggest challenge I’ve faced has been learning to trust again; to trust those supporting me, to trust their perception of reality, to trust in my recovery, and to trust myself – my thoughts, my feelings, my instincts. Mental illness stripped trust from me, but I’ve been slowly and gently putting it back on. Another big challenge has been to accept that I can’t control the chaos of life. Stuff happens. Sometimes the best thing to do is nothing – just ride it out.
My biggest accomplishment of 2017 has to be recovering from mental illness. I have a lot of people to thank for helping me along the way: my family and friends, my doctor, the hospital staff, the community team, the recovery college staff, my church and, of course, my God. It really has been a team effort. I wouldn’t have come as far as I have without everyone’s love, care and support. I am eternally grateful.
Every October half-term, we go to Swanage for a few days’ holiday. It’s such a beautiful place, even when the weather’s bad. In 2016 we had a wonderful time there, taking long walks, eating out, playing on the tuppenny shoves in the arcades. I was on top of the world! It was when we returned home, though, that my mental health started to go downhill, but since February this year, I’ve been in recovery, so by the time October half-term rolled around, I was in a much better place mentally, but I was dreading going to Swanage again. It was bringing back the worst memories of the last year as well as all the things I’d been anxious about. I knew, though, that I had to go so that I could face down my fears.
In the run up to the day of our trip and all the way down there in the car, I employed all the mindfulness and relaxation techniques I’d learned, so when we got there, I was actually okay. We did all the things we’d normally do – go for bacon butties in our favourite cafe, walk around the country park, hunt for treasure on the beach – and you know what? I had a fantastic time. I faced down my fears, the weather was great, the scenery was stunning, the food was delicious, and we found loads of sea glass, which is now sitting in the jar on my windowsill with all the other bits I’ve collected this year.
I love sea glass. I think it’s the fact that it starts off as sharp, jagged shards of broken glass, but after it’s been tumbled around in the sea for a while, it ends up as smoother, prettier and beautifully rounded. Make of that what you will …
Despite 2017 getting off to an awful start, I’m choosing hope, agency and opportunity as my three words to sum up the year as a whole. These are the three strands that run through the Recovery College courses I’ve been attending since April. I can’t tell you how much these courses have changed my life. They’ve given me the language and tools to discover wellness rather than just manage illness. I’m now living the life I want to live in spite of the limitations that mental illness has put on me this last year.
This month, I’m doing the #BohoBerryChallenge, organised by Kara Benz. It’s a daily journaling challenge in which participants carry out a year-end review. The prompts are in the pic. This challenge is perfect for me as 2017 has been a rather dramatic year. As you might know (You should do … I talk about it enough!), over the course of January and February, I spent nearly six weeks in hospital being treated for severe depression and anxiety. Between then and now, I’ve been under the care of the Community Team, but they have just discharged me from their care, back to the care of my G.P. I’m very happy about, and definitely ready for, this. So, with all that in mind, I’ll be blogging every day this month, mostly about my recovery over the last year, but also about how I plan to further my recovery during 2018. That’s the plan anyway!
I’ll be posting my challenge responses as @crafting.out.loud on Instagram if you want to follow along there too.