None of us ask for mental health issues, I think it’s fair to say that we don’t exactly go seeking it out. The diagnosis or various labels stuck onto us may also be quite unwelcome and often, we’d do just about anything to shake them off.
What we can all choose to strive for once we’re aware of the issue, is recovering fully and living life free of the illness.
Of course, it doesn’t just go away, let’s remember that it didn’t just arise overnight, so it takes a pretty hard grind to get rid of. With the mind being the core solution to helping ourselves out and ironically where our negativity has also taken prime place, we have a significant task ahead to change old thinking patterns and replace them with new positive perspectives.
So it’s a journey, a unique, challenging and transformative journey.
And it can be a pain in the ass. It can be tough, overwhelming and irritatingly slow. The roots of the problem are deep and they’ve taken a hold, so we need to both uproot them and plant new seeds whether we like gardening or not.
Getting started with recovery is a scary and exciting time, but that initial enthusiasm can start to wane when we realise how much we actually have to do. We get told of all the many wonderful benefits of seeing it through, but the journey itself can start to feel like a bit of a drag.
I want to tell you that it doesn’t have to be. You can, and I have found ways to enjoy the process. It’s not just rewarding at the very end, it can be an enjoyable process throughout.
Here’s some suggestions I’ve found helpful in my recovery:
1. See it as a journey. How we view it is very helpful. If it’s a pressure, an inconvenience or just a means of becoming ‘normal’, it’s not exactly set up in our heads as something fun is it? But it is a journey, it’s an exploration, a beginning of discovery, the path to change. You know how people like taking road trips or going travelling? It’s not all about the final destination, it’s about what you’re seeing along the way. This is the same so stick your head out of the window and feel the rush of air, life is happening here and now.
2. Let go of shame. This is not an embarrassing process, there’s no shame in it at all. Deciding to recover from a mental illness and sticking to that decision is admirable, courageous and worth being proud of. Take pride in what you’re doing for yourself. Embrace the new learnings and let go of any guilt. Shame keeps us stuck, courage sets us free.
3. Take actions. One of my favourite parts of my recovery has been challenging my fears and stepping outside of my comfort zone. Taking actions that challenge our negative thinking are crucial and so much fun. I’ve been to gigs, movies, shows, on my own and otherwise, I’ve started new classes, I’ve gone to new places, I’ve tried new things and I’ve discovered a newfound love for so many of life’s little pleasures. And I used to refuse to leave the house! Putting yourself out there means breaking out of the bubble of fear and negativity that we can get stuck in. Pop that bubble and step on out into the world, that’s where the real fun begins.
4. Embrace Personal Development. This is essentially a journey of personal development and growth. I really and truly enjoyed this aspect of it too because there is so much to each and every one of us that we don’t even realise. We’re way more than a label or illness. Our identities are incredible intricate stories about ourselves that we get to delve into line by line. And do you know what you get to do when you find out what you like and who you are? You get to nurture that person and fill your life with all the good stuff that you, the person, actually want. The diagnosis can’t compete with that, this stuff is real and substantial and oh so satisfying.
5. See Yourself Grow. There isn’t just one magical moment at the end of this process where everything is suddenly okay, and that’s a brilliant fact. Because that means that there are loads of magical moments. When you start to notice the change in yourself, regardless how small, it’s a really uplifting experience. You can look back and see how much easier life is now or see how you’ve changed some part of your own life. Looking back for me now is fun too because I can see the distorted and irrational things I thought and did and take such pleasure in the fact that that’s all in the past now. That’s enjoyment, that is satisfaction and that is part of the journey.
6. Becoming Aware. Going through this process kind of forces us to wake up a little. We get out of own little worlds and into the real world. It’s hard to put a word on how much joy I have taken from becoming aware of the world around me. My world used to be confined to my mind, or the four walls of my room. I didn’t want to go anywhere, do anything or look around. Bit by bit throughout the journey, I’ve fallen in love with sunsets, flowers, nature, and the beauty that is everywhere that I ignored before. I’ve become aware of the great people, experiences and sights in the world that are open to everyone. When you’re training your mind to look for the good, it’s pretty pleasing to the eyes and your environment quickly becomes full of it.
7. Building Self Esteem. A great part of the journey for me was learning to take compliments and give myself credit. In typical Irish fashion, compliments were brushed off, my achievements were never enough and I’d quickly try to change the subject if anyone tried be nice to me. But along the way, I had to learn first to notice and then to take compliments. I had a little notebook to write them down and all. It might sound weird but making a point of accepting the nice things people say to us, is really enjoyable. That’s probably why people say them in the first place because they’re not deluded or wrong or anything, they’re just sound. Giving myself credit now and taking it where it’s due just makes everyday tasks more enjoyable. It’s rewarding and it’s enough. I can notice that what I’m doing counts and give myself a pat on the back.
There are so many parts of the journey that make me smile. There’s so much that I’ve done, learned and challenged that made it enjoyable. It’s not a tick the box process, it’s one we need to live, breathe and own.
The fact that you want to do this means you’re determined, don’t let apprehension deter you, there can be fun along the way. It's not all the time (cos that’d just be to easy for someone so determined ;) ) but it definitely doesn’t have to be a struggle the whole way.
This list isn’t extensive, it’s just some of the top ones I thought of, but everyone’s journey is different so seek to find your own source of fun and enjoyment. There’s plenty there, we just need to look for it.