Let’s talk about recovery. What is it and how does it show in your day-to-day life. Because I feel like that is what it is, a constant trying to keep balance and to make progress without that being the utter and only goal. I need to have goals and I need to watch how many stress I take on board. That would be exercise number one for me, to keep that balance.
Note: Further reads are indicated with a * and you find them all at the end of the post.
What I used to do was to write down a ‘to-do list’ for the day or to find a ‘bigger’ goal (like going to the fitness twice a week, yoga class once a week, cleaning my whole house and so on) and just work ‘till I reached that goal. I would try to reach my goal faster and to become better at it. There was always room for improvement and sometimes I lost track of fun in the process. I decided that ‘Lists can’t make me happy’*. So with recovery another method needed to be implemented. I researched theories about recovery and found out that there are five domains that are taken into consideration. The first one was to manage your symptoms, to learn to recognize them and to make an action plan. I wrote about this in ‘Is depression always around and why does it play hide and seek?’*
I intend to return to those domains from time to time to evaluate how am I doing. I still like to have goals for myself but they became more flexible with time. I wrote ‘When talking about recovery, what are we talking about?’* which explains the 5 domains more in-depth on the 10th of March. So I’ll reflect over a period of about 3 months now. As recovery is such a broad term and I generally feel ‘better’ it’s difficult to notice some of the changes because they flow through everyday life. Some seems small from the outside but mean a world of difference to me and some are really a big step and I just don’t notice. Hence this post.
1 Managing symptoms. I keep on working with my thoughts, I correct them when I notice thinking errors and I became better in stepping out of rumination* mode. Having some energy to take action helps tremendously. And so we arrived at my biggest symptom that I encounter -but not welcome- every day, fatigue*. Bad brain days, trouble concentrating and remembering remain also but it becomes better very gradually. My doctor told me that cognitive impairments recover the last. In terms of fatigue I’m better at recognizing it before I’m totally depleted of energy. I try to manage my appointments in a way that is do-able for me. Sometimes this can’t be done. I have a low tolerance for stress and when something occurs I can go into true panic mode. Sometimes over what may seem relatively small like using public transport. Although COVID plays a role here as it not totally chill these days.
2. Functional recovery refers to participation in everyday and valued social roles which are often taken for granted by people who have not experienced mental illness. Since March things happened. Besides lockdown and COVID-19 worries, I’ve done things believe it or not. I’ve moved in with Pierre. A huge step for me which came with needed adaption time. I do participate more in ‘normal’ activities like cooking, doing dishes and laundry. Those are the things I like to do in the house and keep me going on a daily/weekly basis. Although I’m not able to cook from scratch every day, I’ve come a long way since eating sweet potato wedges* every day.
3. Physical recovery. I feel that this segment is the one that I am working the most on currently. As I started out to research self-care* and self-compassion*, I try to keep that focus. I notice that I do have the tendency to do everything else before attending to my needs. But I’m better in turning this around, I keep on searching to find my space and balance.
In terms of basic hygiene I’m capable of taking a bad or shower more often. Maybe not every day but every 3 to 4 days. I brush my teeth (almost daily) and my hairdresser came to give me a new haircut. I went to the dentist to obtain a mouth guard, which helps me sleep more relaxed and stops clenching my teeth. Waking up early is still present and sometimes I do struggle with shortage of sleep and feeling too tense to sleep.
Living together also means that I (almost) don’t skip meals anymore because I don’t need to think about that. I eat when Pierre is hungry. Easy! Downside to this is that I gained a few kilos (!). I try not to worry too much about it as I don’t have the energy to do that.
On the 16th of May we welcomed Churro, our new family member. He makes me smile and I love taking care of him and teaching him new things. He helps me tremendously with recovery in the physical area. The first week he needed to get to know his new home and we were told by the adoption agency that he shouldn’t go out for a walk, so we played in the garden. After 7 days we made our way out. First with Pierre but after a week I went out alone (!) for the first time in my new village. I managed to do a 40’ walk and was exhausted for 2 days. Now I can do an hour walk and I aim for 3 times a week (this doesn’t always play out as I want it to do). In the weekends we go with Pierre and the other days I make smaller walks. Some days do occur when I can’t put one foot in front of the other and Pierre takes over his walks then.
I managed to start reading and I enjoy it a lot. And because of this I feel like I can beat anhedonia* a little, which I know it’s not completely true but reading is a big tool in my toolbox of living with mental illness. To be able to concentrate sometimes without worries bouncing around in my head or my Inner Critic* interfering is a wonderful gift. I value it a lot, it is a big stepping stone for me.
4. Social recovery. This is still a contained domain when we speak in terms of real life. I’ve found a loving community in the blogging world. I was welcomed without judgement and I don’t feel like the odd one out. I’ve found a lot of common ground with fellow bloggers struggling with same kind of things or totally other things. I’ve learned a lot doing research for my blog. I’m very proud of that. Now I feel like the cards are dealt differently. I feel guilty because I’m feeling better and some of my friends don’t. I feel like a sell out blogging about depression while I’m not in that black hole where I was a year ago. I feel like I’m betraying them. So in terms of blogging it doesn’t go that smoothly.
In real life it’s not that smooth either. Due to lockdown and social distancing with all its regulations, social traffic became complicated. My friends live scattered around the country, public transportation isn’t recommended and fun shopping, eating out and dancing are the activities me and my friends like to do. We usually enjoy being together and talk but somehow we need that excuses of be doing ‘something’.
Living much much closer to Pierre’s family I feel more of a bond with my in-laws who are really the sweetest people ever! I do visit my parents-in-law more often because of Churro. He needs to learn ‘to play nice’ with Pepper; their very big Labrador and Churro isn’t keen on doing that. So we need to introduce them to each other as much as possible. Of course I see Pierre every day too!
5. Existential recovery. ‘To find meaning and purpose through different means as employment and social relationships’, says the definition. I feel that I’m building myself up again from the debris that is left at the moment. Some time ago I was sad when I looked around and all I could see were broken pieces of me. I wanted to mend ‘me’, to make ‘me’ whole again. Somehow I managed to have a closer look at the debris, to look behind the sadness. I discovered some larger pieces! Pieces that are easier to work with. I’ve learned about Kintsugi, what is ‘the Japanese art of repairing broken pottery by mending the areas of breakage with lacquer dusted or mixed with powdered gold, silver, or platinum, a method similar to the maki-e technique. As a philosophy, it treats breakage and repair as part of the history of an object, rather than something to disguise’. This is the road I want to travel.
As I typed this all down, I felt a sense of accomplishment. I’m proud of me and actually astonished about all the steps I took already. It gives me hope*.
Are you in recovery too? Do you struggle too find some kind of overview or how do you keep track of your progress? Do you find those five domains helpful to get a better understanding of where you are? Do you use another model or method? What do you think about recovery in general? Tell me what you think in the comments, I read them all!
For clarification and broader context I would like to add that I fell ill in the summer of 2018, was diagnosed with depression in spring of 2019 and have been on medication since.
Further reads*, notes and references.
4. On goals and flexibility: Why perfectionists become depressed.
Picture 1 credits click here.