Recovery from a period of mental illness is a remarkable feat. To have pulled yourself through the seven circles of hell smacks of courage, persistence, self-control and resilience. The transition into optimism and positivity is edifying, but in truth to remain mentally healthy on a long-term basis is a daily undertaking.
Think of your self-esteem as a wall. In the midst of crisis, this wall is trampled to the ground. The few bricks that remain are what you have to rely upon to pull you through. To stand back in these periods and survey the wall, at times it may seem like an impossible feat to construct a towering wall that represents an infallible sense of self-esteem.
But once you are recovering, the wall may have a little more solidity to it. It is then your job, with the help from friends and family, to every day add a brick to the wall. The trick here is to think creatively – try something different as often as possible. As recovery was only possible due to a deep-seated persistent dedication, every day you must be proactive. The moment you drop your guard is the moment you start to slip.
One of the things that has really helped my most recent recovery from illness has been rather simple in essence. For years, I have conferred victimhood upon myself and spent hours and hours thinking ‘why me?’. I’ve never really come close to an answer, and a lot of guilt has accompanied these thoughts. I have thought that my struggle with mental illness was entirely of my own making.
Whilst it may be true that a significant proportion of the guilt may lie with myself and my negative thought patterns, there are other causational factors. There is a history of mental illness with my family, and in a recent conversation with a family member regarding this history, I came to the sudden realisation that some of my guilt was unfounded. There was a degree of inevitability to my illness. Someone in the family was highly likely to become unwell, and unfortunately that was me (although of course, I would not wish it on any of my other family members).
This sudden realisation that I wasn’t totally responsible has realigned my perspective on my illness. My illness is not a punitive consequence of the way I think. The bricks do not always fall down because of my negligence. Sometimes, I might get ill despite trying my hardest to stay well. But that doesn’t mean I shouldn’t try to keep mentally well.
The unburdening has bought with it a sense of empowerment that so often comes with a good recovery from illness. I am looking everywhere for sources of inspiration for positive mental health, and believe me there is a lot out there, especially online. I have also introduced a daily routine of reading over a list of affirmations, and these have helped greatly. Affirmations are positive statements designed to lift the spirit of the reader. They also help you to identify where you might have gone wrong in the day, or if you do them earlier in the day, they prepare you well to have a cheerful day.
I hope that in the future, I will be able to stand back and admire the wall that I have built. The encouraging thing is that each day, I am getting a sense of achievement in my efforts to stay on track. I would encourage everyone out there ill, recovering or otherwise that the road is long and arduous, but the more you do to lighten the load, the more you will get out of the journey.