As I continue with therapy and better understand various coping mechanisms, it seems that journaling and writing my thoughts remain my preferred method of processing my feelings. So, here’s where I am today… I'm still early in the recovery and investigation phase of my suffering and mental illness.
It's a slow process, much slower than I'd like. I underestimated how hard it would be on me and how hard it would be on those around me. I underestimated how intense the feelings would be that I had been ignoring for so long.
New to me are the feelings of shame, worthlessness, and insecurity about asking for help, and for the burden it puts on my loved ones. I’m not sure the feelings are actually new, but it’s new to admit that I have them and it’s also new to ask for help.
Once I started admitting to myself that I needed help, it's been a rush of terrible feelings. There was a short period of "up" when I felt really positive, but it was soon followed by a steady downward trend. I still have many questions and want answers so quickly, it can be frustrating and a bit confusing at times. My questions are not only about my specific situation, but also about mental wellness in general.
While I haven't resolved everything I've written about in my previous blogs, I feel like I am making substantial progress toward healing and recovery. For example, I have become more comfortable with using words like trauma, suffering, and mental illness.
I have been participating in an Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP) which meets three days per week, for five hours per day. It’s a structured opportunity to share feelings and ask questions in a group setting, while getting feedback from other participants and the counselor who leads the group.
There are specific topics the counselor discusses during ‘skills building’ sessions. For instance, we discuss recognizing triggers that cause depression, anxiety, intrusive thoughts, and other negative feelings that lead to malbehavior. We also discuss coping mechanisms that can counter negative feelings and help us respond with more appropriate, healthy behavior.
For me, this has been a great opportunity to practice sharing my feelings and concerns in a safe space. In group, I receive helpful feedback from other participants and the counselor on how to cope and deal with hard situations and my negative feelings.
It has been comforting, in a strange way, to see others from various backgrounds – men and women, young and old – all struggling in their own ways to overcome mental illness and addictions. It’s been surprising how much I relate to those in my group with addictions. It seems like we all share a common struggle of finding healthier ways of coping instead of isolation, emotional distancing, substance abuse, or whatever unhealthy choices we each made to avoid our uncomfortable emotions.
Overall, the process seems too slow for me. I've read a lot about these topics and have a solid understanding on triggers and coping mechanisms. I need help with putting those ideas into action instead of just freezing up and resorting to malbehaviors. Most of all, I want to understand what has happened to get me here. But, I’m not sure my desire for more advanced topics and more new material is what’s truly best for me right now.
One very important thing I have learned is that I can’t always trust my own thoughts or believe my own feelings during an episode of negative thinking. Similar to how others describe stopping their medications because they feel good (they shouldn’t go off their meds), I think my desire to skip ahead, and similar thoughts are misleading me. Moving too quickly is similar to my past behavior of ‘rugged individualism’ and trying to handle things on my own.
The healthy part of me knows that I need to be patient, persistent, open-minded, vulnerable, and advocate for my own care. I need to keep listening to the professionals who are doing their best to help me. As hard as it is, I must be honest with myself and everyone trying to help me.
Today, I am not ready to deal with my mental illness without help or guidance. I don’t think I am ready for more advanced topics, and I don’t think I should skip any steps in the process.
In summary, here’s the good part and the bad part about where I am. The good part is that I am getting better at speaking my feelings sooner rather than later. The bad part is I’ve only tried it with Beth, who is the safest person I know. It’s still a little scary to think about doing it with anyone else.
It’s a lot of work to recover from any type of illness – no matter physical or mental. These days we all hear “everyone is going through something, so be kind and patient.” Whatever your challenge might be today, your pain deserves love and comfort – most of all from yourself first.We are each on our own journey and should be supportive and compassionate toward everyone who is struggling. Wherever you are on your journey, know that you aren't alone and there are people who can help. You just have to ask.
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