Up to this point in my life, addressing my mental health struggles and seeking recovery has been personal work, and I've never been to therapy to help with mental health conditions. I’ve learned about my illnesses and done self-reflection and soul-searching. It’s been by myself, except for a stint of attending peer support groups and being a part of online peer support groups. During all this time, I’ve wondered, would I benefit from therapy for my mental health?
Self-Improvement - Recovering from Mental Illness
Self-help books have been immensely helpful in my journey to recover from mental illness and generally improve my self-worth, but despite their usefulness, I'm often ashamed to admit how many self-help books I read. In my family, I'm known as the "self-help junkie" and teased as if that is a bad thing.
I've come up with many different mantras for recovery in the past few years, and even though it might feel like they're just words, I've noticed that they actually make a huge difference in how I feel about myself and my recovery journey. Today I want to share some of those mantras with you, and I hope at least one of them strikes a chord with you. If you find one you like, try repeating it to yourself any time your recovery is challenged, or even just when you get up in the morning and go to bed at night. These mantras for recovery are now yours; use them however you need.
Limitations in mental health recovery are real; but lately, I've been doing everything in my power to ignore my increasingly obvious limitations. I just don't want to be mentally ill anymore. I want it to go away so I can read and write and be a good wife and mother without a herculean effort. Even though I've been in recovery for years now, part of me still believes that if I just ignore my limitations and shame myself for having them in the first place, I'll be able to just breeze past them. Every time, this leads to a complete meltdown that forces me to honor my limitations, so you'd think I would know better by now, but here I am again, in meltdown mode.
Health anxiety used to be called hypochondria, and it's a highly stigmatized mental health condition. Instead of being taken seriously, health anxiety is often reduced to being "dramatic." I have dealt with health anxiety on and off for the last seven years, and I want to share my experience so others won't have to feel as alone as I have.
Behavioral change isn't the only change needed in recovery from mental illness, but it is a key part of feeling better and living the life you want to live. But it is so incredibly hard. I recently had a frustrating, but productive, conversation with my therapist about how I need to start making behavioral changes if I want to keep improving my mental health, and the reason it was so frustrating is because I have never known how to change my behavior.
I've been in recovery from mental illness for several years now because recovery is a slow, and often lifelong, process. There are many aspects of recovery that I have a pretty good handle on at this point, like opening up in therapy and sharing my experiences with others to make all of us feel a little less alone, but one part that still throws me for a loop every time is the "random" breakdowns in mental health recovery.
One of the most important things I've learned throughout my recovery is that I'm not just recovering from depression and anxiety; I am recovering from negative core beliefs about myself. Now that I have my depression and anxiety managed through medication and cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), it's time to start changing those negative core beliefs and healing from the damage they cause.
These first 25 years of my life have been defined by shame; but, for a long time, I thought what I was feeling was guilt, which is a very different emotion. Guilt is a signal from our minds and bodies telling us that something we've done does not line up with our internal moral code. It is focused on our actions, and it can be used to help us grow and become people who act in accordance with our standards. Shame, on the other hand, is a totally different beast.
Making therapy goals is an important part of recovering from mental illness and getting the most out of your therapy experience; but, for a long time, my goals were pretty simple. I just wanted to improve my functioning and reduce my mental illness symptoms. It took a long time and a lot of work, but I'm finally in a place where my functioning level works for my life, and my symptoms of anxiety and depression only pop up every now and again rather than all day, every day. This means now I need to set new therapy goals.