Four years ago today, I had a mental health emergency. I won’t go into the nitty-gritty of my symptoms, but on the 11th of January 2017, my husband drove me to A&E where I was assessed by a doctor, who decided I should spend the night in hospital. The next day, I was reassessed by the mental health team who decided I was ill enough to need in-patient treatment and found me a place in a nearby mental health hospital, where I spent nearly six weeks. I’m sure you know that places in mental health hospitals are extremely hard to come by, so that should tell you how ill I was.
Four years later, I am doing well. I’m still taking the meds, and, although I have ups and downs, I’ve not experienced anything like the depression and anxiety that necessitated my stay in hospital. Over the course of my recovery, I’ve been supported by lots of people – family, friends, doctors, health care workers, recovery college – all of whom I’m infinitely grateful to. I literally wouldn’t be here without them. And I’ve learned a lot – about mental health, about recovery and about myself – so I thought I’d share some of that today in case it helps anyone else. In no particular order:
- Don’t ignore low level depression or anxiety. In the long term, they can lead to more serious levels, which in turn can lead to emergencies.
- It’s not ‘all in your head’. Mental illness can overwhelm the body as much as it overwhelms the brain. Its effects can be both mentally and physically catastrophic.
- My body and brain aren’t battlegrounds upon which wars for my health are fought. My body and brain respond to gentleness, kindness, patience, love. They need to be nurtured and nourished back to health.
- Mental illness isn’t necessarily something that can be cured. But wellness is something that can be discovered.
- Hope is fundamental to recovery. But it is not looking on the bright side or thinking positive. It’s much bigger than that. Hope looks squarely at reality while remaining aware of possibility.
- When you have no hope, it’s important that those supporting you hold the hope for you, gently nudging you to see what’s possible, while sincerely acknowledging the very dark place you’re in.
- A sense of agency, of control, is also fundamental to recovery. Having people decide things for you, even little things, can erode what self-worth you have left. Decision-making can feel impossible, but taking small, supported steps toward independence can help.
- At the right time, opportunities to contribute to the world make the world of difference. They can boost your sense of self-worth and make you feel part of something bigger than yourself. They also provide mental and physical distractions, giving your brain and body respite from the ravages of mental illness.
- It might not seem like it at the moment, but recovery is possible.
Love and best wishes