Bee’s #myunpolishedjourney Story

#myunpolishedjourney stories are stories individuals share about their journey with mental illness and recovery. Interested in sharing? Email us at info@unpolishedjourney.org.

Tell me a little about yourself. 

My name is Bee, and I am 21 years old. I am hoping to return to education in September to study Psychology after taking some time off to focus on my mental health and to truly start to put my all into recovery. I love reading, writing poetry, spending time with the people I love, and spending time advocating and talking about what I am passionate about (which is a big part of @madetobebee). I’ve also recently started doing yoga and incorporating more activity and exercise into my life, which I am doing gradually and carefully due to living with chronic illness (fibromyalgia). But so far, I am enjoying it!

What has your mental health journey been like?

I was trying to find one word to sum up my mental health journey, but it’s not possible. I have felt the most shattering depression and hopelessness imaginable, but also the most overwhelming happiness and joy that I would not trade for anything. I first started experiencing mental health difficulties when I was 11 years old and just starting secondary school. I remember feeling all of these heightened, intense emotions and not knowing how to deal with them or what to call them. It wouldn’t be until 8 years later that I would be diagnosed with Emotionally Unstable Personality Disorder. And so I turned to self-harm, which became my coping mechanism when all of the emotions became too much – that is, until last year.

For around a year now, I have been clean from those kinds of behaviours as my emotions and moods have become much more regulated by taking a break from education and focusing on my mental health. Leaving University was an incredibly hard decision for me, and one that I was pretty much forced to make; I was in a dark, dark place and was phoning crisis numbers practically every other day. I was holding on as hard as I could for the people around me – but I was falling, deep and fast.

I ended up coming home for Christmas break early and was put under Home Treatment care with a crisis team, as an alternative to hospitalisation. At first, nurses were coming out to see me every day or every other day to make sure I was still here and to monitor my mental health. This saved my life. I’m here now, and I aim to do my best to help others in similar places because I want to show them that living with a mental illness is entirely possible.

What is the biggest obstacle you’ve faced in pursuing recovery?

I’ve always compared myself to other people – which isn’t a surprise, considering that’s what we are all encouraged to do. We’re never good enough, pretty enough, funny enough, thin enough. We’re never enough – we are always told we have to strive for more. This has been one of the hardest things for me to overcome; in fact, I’m still learning how to. It’s a process, and that’s okay. At the start of my recovery, I was constantly comparing myself to my friends and the people around me. “They’ve all nearly finished university, and now I’m a dropout. I have no job, I have nothing. I’m a failure.”

But now I know that’s not true. Sometimes my mind tricks me into believing it’s true. But most of the time, I can talk myself down from it. I left education to focus on myself and my mental health. I’ve come so far in my own mental health journey and recovery, which you might not be able to see on paper, but that’s not important. What’s important is how I feel, and the progress I’m making. I’m hopefully returning to education later this year, which, yes, is later than my friends. But that’s not important either. We shouldn’t compare our journey’s to others. All lives and all journies look different: that’s the beautiful thing about them. I’m not a failure, I did what is best for me – and that self-awareness is something I’m incredibly thankful to have developed and will continue to use to my advantage. I will access the help I am deserving of instead of believing I am not worthy, I will pace myself and take breaks when I need to, and, most of all, I will be kind to myself. And if I do not achieve this all of the time, that’s okay. We are doing our best, and that’s all that we can ever do.

What helps you maintain recovery?

Writing has been a massive help to me. I love poetry; listening to spoken word, reading poetry, and writing it. It helps me release a lot of emotions I may have been suppressing, and I can come to terms with them in a way that I find productive and helpful. Listening to and reading poetry also reminds me that I am not alone in my pain, or my struggles, because it helps unite me with others that are experiencing similar things in words. Using our energy for things that make us feel whole and happy is something we should always make time for.

What advice do you have for someone in the early stages of recovery?

I know that this is difficult, and believing that things can possibly be different is harder than anyone can ever imagine. I know that sometimes it is easier to live in darkness than to risk finding light and losing it. But you are worthy of living a life of love, and hope, and happiness, and joy with meaningful relationships. One with the kind of good moments that make things worth holding on to. Yes, there will be sadness too. But the love, the hope, the good moments we bank, we can use them. We can hold on to them. So know that it’s okay to feel and express all of the feelings. Recovery and healing are not linear. There is no right or wrong way to heal. Go at your own pace – it isn’t a race. Take as much time as you need to focus on yourself, on your mental health and wellbeing. Prioritise it. Don’t ever feel guilty for learning to put it, and yourself, first. You are important, you always have been and will continue to be. It’s time you know that.

Baylee’s #myunpolishedjourney Story

#myunpolishedjourney stories are stories individuals share about their journey with mental illness and recovery.  Interested in sharing?  Email us at info@unpolishedjourney.org.  

Tell us a little about yourself.

Hello hello! I’m Baylee, and I am 27 years old. I grew up in a friendly suburban town just outside of Chicago up until my early twenties; I then made the big move to the city with my dad. Five years later and I’m happily still living here with my boyfriend and my 15-year-old dog. I enjoy arts and crafts, trivia, outdoor patios with friends, thrifting, collecting mugs, and anything nature-related!

Currently, my life is very quiet, very simple. I like to start my day by arriving; even if it’s just a mental reminder that I am here and that I am present. My day-to-day is being a mental health advocate; practicing self-care, writing, storytelling, collaborating with like-minded/hearted people and strengthening the light that’s being shed on mental illness. My life today looks very different than it did six months ago before I left my 9 to 5 full-time career, but I know that I am exactly where I’m supposed to be; helping, sharing and giving mental illness the transparency it deserves.

What has your mental health journey been like?

My mental health journey has been a beautiful messy scribble of loops, zig-zags, twists, turns, dips and peaks. I was 20 years old when I first experienced symptoms related to an anxiety disorder. I went to every doctor I could, trying to find out what was “wrong” with me and what was causing these strange sensations, thoughts and feelings. I was told by a mental health professional that I had an anxiety disorder, but I was so resistant to a mental illness diagnosis. I couldn’t accept that my mind was causing my body to respond – it just didn’t make sense to me. It didn’t make sense that I was just a girl going into her senior year of college and now was a housebound agoraphobic who couldn’t leave her home without having a crippling panic attack.

I don’t blame myself for the fear. My whole life had been turned upside down and all I wanted was to be right side up again, but that resistance was prolonging a very necessary journey of unearthing long-since buried feelings and a painful past. The day I finally waved the white flag and accepted the fact that I had anxiety was the day my healing journey began. That was seven years ago. Since then my life has become about learning; who I am, what I’m capable of, how to take care of myself, how to advocate for myself, how to say no, when to say yes and managing a mental illness before it tries to manage me. I’ve established this deep connection with myself and an understanding of what it means to show up to each moment as you are. I’m still learning, I’ll always be learning.

What is the biggest obstacle you’ve faced in pursuing recovery?

The biggest obstacle in my recovery is and probably will always be trying to stay hopeful when I have a string of bad days or even weeks. Every dip feels like the first. Every pause feels like eternity. It’s hard to think outside of a painful moment and remember a time when you didn’t feel uncomfortable or anxious or sad. It’s hard to instill faith that it will pass and the hard moment won’t last a lifetime, even when it feels like it may. The hard moments are where the growth happens, the appreciation is reborn and the strength that sits silently on our shoulder steps in and carries you through. It’s all a part of the process but believing that truth can be very difficult when you’re so deep in it.

What helps you maintain recovery?

What helps me maintain recovery are words; whether spoken or written. Talking to my therapist, my boyfriend, my family or friends has saved me countless times. Living with OCD can at times make sitting with myself a very scary and lonely place. Reaching out and asking for support or to be heard has been instrumental in my recovery. Writing has always been that independent outlet for me. Absolving my thoughts onto paper or into my Instagram, @anxietysupport, has always been so therapeutic for me. It’s two-fold in that I’m no longer holding onto everything internally, and I’m also able to hopefully help others who read what I say and can relate. It’s that beauty in sharing that I love so much. I’ve had a connection with words since I was little and without them, there would be only silence. Filling that silence with raw, authentic moments has been crucial in my recovery.

What advice do you have for someone in the early stages of recovery?

My advice for someone in the early stages of recovery is just to be. Be still. Be you. Be sad. Be happy. Be anxious. Be anything that you are feeling. Don’t get caught up in the doing or the fixing; just be. Healing comes in the absence of resistance. Remember that you are exactly where you need to be; even if it’s painful and confusing. Nothing is expected of you except to show up as you are. Never hesitate to reach out to your people. Never underestimate the power of a good cry, some nachos and your couch. Never underestimate you! Self-care over everything.

Imade’s #myunpolishedjourney Story

Tell us a little about yourself.

I’m Imade, (pronounced ee-MAH-day), a 30-year-old black woman who deals with severe depression. I grew up in Greensboro, North Carolina.

I’m a writer. After ignoring this for years, I realize writing is the primary way I process my experiences and share them with the world.

I also have a passion for mental health and centering African-American narratives. The black community is often left out by the mental health system through expensive and overly complicated health insurance, insensitive mental health advice, and criminalization as well as mass incarceration.

Personally, I’ve gone through so much pain trying to fit into what a black person is supposed to be. I don’t want anyone else to go through that. I hope my platform, Depressed While Black, liberates black people to be their most authentic selves, even in their mental health life.

What has your mental health journey been like?

My mental health journey has been really hard and it is still hard. I had the toughest winter of my life this last season in experiencing the loss of relationships, the loss of my grandma, and some pretty significant work stress that exacerbated my depression. I was in a really dark place.

Since then, I’ve tried to change my life to make my life worth living. I’m investing in self-care which for me, looks like weightlifting and building skills in areas I want to grow in. It also looks like leaving my job and searching for a career change in a field that is more sustainable for my mental wellness.

So my mental health journey looks like a lot of tinkering, a lot of falls, a lot of mistakes, but also a lot of recovery as well. It’s messy and non-linear. I have not overcome depression at all. And I feel that is my strength as a mental health advocate: to reveal what ongoing mental illness is like as a black person.

What is the biggest obstacle you’ve faced in pursuing recovery?

Institutional racism to be honest. And it’s not always in your face. Institutional racism can look like a psychiatrist telling you that you’re bipolar because you write in your notebook. That happened to me. This made me wonder if my psychiatrist, who was a woman of color but not black, was unable to perceive my black intellect because she didn’t see black people as being capable of having intellect.

I’ve had therapists ignore the cultural context that I live in. I was told to leave school without them knowing what my home life is first.

There are so many blind spots in the mental health system that ignores what black people go through. That feeling of being invisible when you need to be seen is so painful. I’m so glad for mental health resources like Therapy For Black Girls that connect black people with mental health professionals that see them and affirm them.

What helps you maintain recovery?

I’m in a period of transition right now, but I’m hoping to get a therapist once I move. I need a long-term therapist and some stability because it’s been tough bouncing from therapist to therapist.

I enjoy taking voice lessons. It’s nerve-wracking and weird but when you feel you progressed, it’s an incredible feeling.

Since I’m a writer, I have a difficult relationship with writing as self-care because writing is my job. But I hope to journal more, and in a non-judgmental way. That’s really hard for me but I want to do this.

What advice do you have for someone in the early stages of recovery?

I would say to not be afraid of your rock bottom because you can get through it. The fear of my lowest point made me do a lot of harmful things like act impulsively in my personal decisions. Sometimes you just need to be patient with yourself and realize you can’t always speed up your recovery. Sometimes you just need to do the same small, empowering steps you did yesterday. And with that repetition, you get better. There really isn’t a magic pill for mental illness. Recovery often comes from the mundane things.

Rediscovering Trust in Eating Disorder Recovery

Written by: Zoe Speirs, contributing writer.  Follow more of her journey on her Instagram, @boporecoverywarrior.   

“None of us knows what might happen even the next minute, yet still we go forward. Because we trust. Because we have Faith.”

– Paulo Coelho

When I first embarked on my recovery from an eating disorder, I remember thinking I could never trust myself around food: to know when to eat, when to stop, how much to have, what to eat, what times to eat, and so on. The constant torment that I no longer knew how to do something so many knew how to innately terrified me. I wanted to rewind to when I was a child and could fully trust my body to know what it needed and when. I was terrified that I would never get back to that. That even in recovery, I would always have one foot stuck in this need to control, never knowing if I could trust my body again.

Sound familiar?

It can feel impossible to actually let yourself trust your body and trust yourself around food. I KNOW how hard it is. It can feel like you’re stuck in this cycle of not being able to let go of the control. So here are three tips that have helped me rebuild my relationship with food and rediscover my brain-body connection:

1. No food is out of bounds. You need to break down those rigid rules that your eating disorder had in place for you. There is no such thing as ‘good’ and ‘bad’ food – food holds no moral value. It doesn’t dictate whether you’re a good person or worthy purely because you ate kale. Nothing bad will happen to you if you let yourself enjoy all food groups. Yes, that includes those homemade cookies your eating disorder has deprived you of.

2. Once you’ve established that you can eat anything, you might feel the need to eat everything you’ve deprived yourself of for so long. I honestly thought I would never stop having the urge to eat peanut butter and brownies. But if you let yourself eat what you crave and however much you need, these intense cravings will start to die down, and you’ll start craving things like broccoli too! You’ve spent so long denying yourself of what you want and need, that your body is trying to get everything it’s not allowed before it’s taken away again. It takes time for your body to realise that these foods won’t be denied anymore. This part is scary, and I completely understand. I was terrified. But if you trust yourself enough to let your brain-body connection rebuild, I promise you things will settle.

3.  So you’ve started rebuilding your relationship with food and letting the brain-body connection re-establish. But what about your weight? This can be really scary, especially in eating disorder recovery. I urge you to throw away your scales and just let your body do what it needs to do. Your weight will settle at your set point – it will be exactly where it needs to be. Here’s one of my favourite affirmations that helped me accept changes in my weight: ‘My body may become bigger in the future, and it may become smaller, but whatever it is right now, is exactly how it has to be’. Your body is just a vessel to carry you, so let it decide what’s best for it.

Trusting yourself around food is hard, but it is so worth it to finally let go and be able to live. However, it’s important to remember that with all this in mind, you need to trust that you are capable of recovery. That although recovery is hard, scary and will involve a lot of hard work, that you are worthy of it. You are worthy of reclaiming your life. You are worthy of practising self-care and setting boundaries to help you through these tough times (and any time really!). Trust yourself to do what’s right for you.

Look after yourselves beautiful people – the road might be bumpy, but with trust, we can move forward.

 

Featured Image Source

A Grateful Heart

Written by: Marcela Sabía, contributing writer.  Follow more of her journey at marcelailustra.com, or on her Instagram, @marcelailustra.

The other day I posted on my Instagram story, welcoming hundreds of new followers. I was moved and inspired. Three years ago I had less than 1,000 followers and was starting over in nearly every area of my life. I no longer had a relationship, my business, or the stability I was accustomed to. Going to therapy in the midst of this uncertainty allowed me to reconnect with an old hobby: drawing. This reconnection led me to the decision to share and invest in my art.  When I first chose an illustration to post on my Instagram, I wondered if anyone would like my artwork or would even consider paying for any of my pieces. When people asked me what my job was, I stuttered – illustrator? With insecurity mounting, I couldn’t bring myself to believe I had the talent or experience to consider myself a professional.

Today, as I write this post and reflect on the number of people who follow along with my journey and the countless clients I have worked for, my heart is flooded with gratitude. Gratitude for life, for my love of art, for my ability to share and connect with others, for having met so many wonderful people who saw in me some kind of inspiration and supported the work I do with such dedication. After a lot of difficulties and uncertainties, I shared and achieved and dared to be vulnerable. Now, I am able to use my illustrations to inspire and connect.  For all this, I will be eternally grateful.

And while I am grateful for this part of my journey, I also believe gratitude must be present in our daily actions, in the little things. Even though we have not yet arrived where we want to be, we need to appreciate all the hands that are extended to us and all the little joys we find along the way. We always have reasons to be grateful, and it is an exercise rooted in happiness and self-love.

Thank you universe – for what has already passed and for what is yet to come.

 

To check out Marcela’s artwork, visit her website at marcelailustra.com.  

Featured image source.

Change Your Attitude by Choosing Gratitude

Written by: Megan Lawrence, contributing writer.  Follow more of her journey at HealingHopefuls.com or on her Instagram, @in.my.own.words.  

There is no such thing as recovery without gratitude, and if there was, it would be hard to maintain. While gratitude is not required to start your recovery journey, I want to ask you to just think about it for a second. Gratitude most certainly helps when it comes to accepting yourself, your circumstances, and your decision to pursue recovery in the first place. It may seem impossible at first – the whole idea of being thankful for the things that were destroying us – but when we change our mindset, we begin to see how beneficial, and quite frankly, how necessary gratitude is in recovery. Regardless of what you are recovering from, the journey will be a lot smoother if you’re able to be thankful for the journey traveled up until this point – both the good and the bad.

Gratitude Begins & Ends with a Positive Mindset!

So much of our ability to make it through this journey alive begins with the mindset we choose each day. You have two choices: seek the light or keep yourself in the dark. The latter is the easier of the two choices, but what kind of life would it be if we didn’t at least try to see the bright side of things? When we are intentional about practicing gratitude, and I mean honestly giving it a chance to change the way we look at the world, we often find out that our situation was not the only thing that was making life seem hard but our perspective, too.  We find that the way we choose to perceive our circumstances is what will heal or hurt us the most. Do not underestimate the power of your thoughts. By being grateful for the life you have been given, you will be able to make the most of what you’ve got, instead of focusing on what could be. So often we get caught up with wanting our life to be better than it is that we can’t even appreciate what is. A positive outlook reminds us to be grateful for what we DO have so that it’s a little easier to handle the bad days when they come our way.

Start a Gratitude Journal!

Is it hard for you to be actively grateful on a daily basis? Start a journal to track your progress, and monitor the days where your recovery seems a bit harder. When we start to write down our goals and hold ourselves accountable, eventually practicing gratitude will come automatically, and with much less struggle. Sometimes, just by writing down what we are grateful for, we often discover parts of ourselves that we weren’t even acknowledging before. While recovery may convince you that something is wrong with you, a gratitude journal can correct this truth by reminding you that recovery is a part of your story – that alone is something to be thankful for. You are stronger because of your journey with mental illness, and you will continue to get stronger the more you choose to put one foot in front of the other. Challenge yourself this next week! Wake up each morning and write down three things that you are grateful for. They do not have to be big, monumental parts of your life. Instead, think of meaningful reminders for yourself that recovery is worth it, and ultimately, something to get grateful for.  

This is YOUR Journey! Own it! Love it! Be Grateful because of it!

Who we are today is partly due to the person we may have disliked in the past. The rock bottoms, the moments of despair, and the feelings of inadequacy – they were all a piece of something much bigger. Your story and the person you have been thus far is NOT who you will be in the future. And who is that person? Well, that’s up to you. Instead of ruminating on the negatives in your life, try to focus on the exciting journey ahead of you that exists in recovery. Getting your life back, and taking control of who YOU want to become, and be known for, is always your choice! How awesome is that? We always have a say in who we are yesterday, today, and tomorrow. I hope after reading this you begin to see that approaching your struggles and your past with a grateful heart will ALWAYS take you further than regret or disappointment for who you have once been. That person was necessary to become the person you are today and the person you will become. This is your journey to living to the best of your abilities. Don’t get stuck in a chapter that is no longer who you are.

Keep writing your story, beautiful, and be grateful each step of the way. You are headed exactly where you are supposed to – home to yourself.  

 

Featured image by Johnathan Sautter

Putting Patience into Practice

Written by: Megan Lawrence, contributing writer.  Follow more of her journey at HealingHopefuls.com or on her Instagram, @in.my.own.words.   

Image source

Patience is a skill that most people struggle with.  Next time you are sitting in traffic, just look at the people around you and take note of the ones that are visibly upset at something that is ultimately out of their control.  When we find ourselves in a situation where we cannot change the outcome, we tend to get uncomfortable – it is only human nature to look for the quickest way out of what is causing us discomfort.  Patience requires effort and intentionality – it is a skill that does not come easily.

The purpose of this word took on a whole new level of meaning for me once I found myself in recovery. It has been through nearly three years of intense introspection that I have been able to recognize when I am overwhelmed by what is out of my control and which moments I need to focus on being patient the most. It is through self-awareness that we can identify times where we need to put patience into practice, and by doing so, we can begin to change the way we react to specific situations.

For me, being patient with myself has allowed me to forgive the mistakes I have made, accept the cards I have been dealt, and focus on what is most important to move forward. It is crucial to understand that we are only able to do so much at one time and to expect so much from ourselves can be detrimental to our growth as a person. By taking a step back, and realizing when we are reacting out of frustration, we are able to address an area or a situation that causes us to feel overwhelmed. To be patient with ourselves, we must know that we are going to be faced with challenges, but how we choose to be impacted by those challenges is our choice to make.

As humans, we are a constant work in progress, constantly having to seek ways to improve ourselves, because that is just one of the many responsibilities we are given. It is also a responsibility that we should be okay with. We should always want to get better, especially since there is no “finish line” when it comes to being the best that we can be. There is always room to strive for more, and that is why patience is so important. We cannot be so unwilling to wait for what is to come, because, at the end of the day, we have no say in how quickly we progress in this life; we only have control over how hard we work to get to where we want to be. To be patient with the world, we must first be patient with ourselves.

Practice! Practice! Practice! No one ever became a bad person from having too much patience. When we stop giving power to circumstances out of our hands, we can focus our energy on much more productive tasks and positive thoughts. Do not get me wrong, there have many times where I want to throw my arms up and hope for easier times, and straighter paths, but nine times out of ten, we hit speed bumps and take detours. The sooner we are able to appreciate the slowness of our true progress, we can begin to find the beauty of patience and appreciate the lessons that this skill is teaching us along the way.

Thank you for reading.  I appreciate you.

Life is a Process

Written by: Marcela Sabía, contributing writer.  Follow more of her journey on her Instagram, @marcelailustra.

Image source

Recently I was deeply saddened by something that happened and decided that I needed a change in my life once and for all. My problem was that I was living in a desperate search for total control in my life, and I needed to accept that this was an illusion – we have no control over anything except our attitudes. I needed to accept that my need was bringing me pain and frustration. I needed to start building new thoughts inside of me.

Since then patience has been a key word in my life. I have exercised daily the act of being patient with life, with people and especially with myself – which has proved to be one of the most difficult things. Most of us tend to be very hard on ourselves and I am no different, as I have always been in the habit of speaking to myself negatively. Changing this inner dialogue is something that requires much self-love and understanding. I say that because we are human, and we are going to fail. We are going to mess up, go back to the old habits, be angry with ourselves and doubt our own capacity – but even with all this, love and patience will not let us give up.

The sooner we understand that everything in life is a process, the more patient we are, especially with ourselves. To change, overcome, conquer, forget, learn or anything else you want: it takes time.

And the change will hardly be linear, we will always have ups and downs in search of what we want. So be patient with yourself, live one day at a time, cherish every little victory and everything will be lighter. One step and we are no longer in the same place.

 


 

As a suggestion, something that has helped me be more patient with myself was watching the new version of Queer Eye.  Even though the show is about turning men into their best versions, the advice is valid for all of us and the five boys on the show teach precious lessons that include being patient with yourself. It’s very therapeutic for me.  For those interested, it’s available on Netflix.

Not a Narrative

Written by: Madeline McCallum, contributing writer and blogger at http://madelinesmusing.blogspot.com/?m=1

Image source

“So a continual and deep risk for us, if we are to feel the presence and friendship of all there is, is to humbly lift the veils we drape ourselves in, the veils that insulate us as the self-creators of everything we experience.

“Whether we accept it or not, we are asked to let life, in all its unseeable elements, touch us.”

-Mark Nepo from “The Exquisite Risk: Daring to Live an Authentic Life

I feel really frustrated when I wake up and find myself in a Bad Day again.

I would actually consider myself pretty in line with social researcher Hugh Mackay’s concept of happiness – or, rather, his attack on the concept. He says that “the idea that everything we do is part of the pursuit of happiness” has led to a “contemporary disease in Western society, which is fear of sadness.” If there is one thing I am not afraid of anymore, it is my range of emotions. I think that my capacity for deep feelings, for sentiments strong enough to carve ravines into the canyons of my memory, is actually a beautiful thing that makes me uniquely me. Not everyone has access to such a wide spectrum of being – and I’ve grown to appreciate it as a gift.

However, when it comes to recovery and those feelings and urges that don’t have an explanation and don’t make any sense, I still get taken aback when they seem to crop up out of nowhere.

And this isn’t just waking up on the wrong side of the bed.

This is like somehow I managed to crawl inside one of my night terrors while I was sleeping and when I woke up I didn’t blink out of it – instead I see darkness, I feel heavy, my brain is like smog and my heart is drowning and I want to press the Off button and hope that tomorrow I can reboot.

I struggle to see how the presence of this kind of experience in my life can still mean that I am on some sort of road to recovery.

And as I write that, I am thinking that maybe it isn’t about a road to recovery, or really a road at all. A road seems to imply an end, a final destination. But maybe recovery is really just a wave, a tide that ebbs and flows but always feeds back out into the vast ocean of self.

I recently came across a Margaret Atwood quote that I think captures the essence of this wonderfully:

“When you are in the middle of a story, it isn’t a story at all, but only a confusion; a dark roaring, a blindness, a wreckage of shattered glass and splintered wood; like a house in a whirlwind, or else a boat crushed by the icebergs or swept over the rapids, and all aboard powerless to stop it. It’s only afterwards that it becomes anything like a story at all. When you are telling it, to yourself or someone else.”

The story of my journey isn’t a story yet – it can’t be neatly tied up into a beginning, middle, and end. And thank goodness for that, really – that gives me room to grow, to experiment, to fail, to try again.

Recovery means staying On even through the Bad Days. Just that, just the getting through, is recovery. It’s been crucial for me to recognize that there isn’t an alternate universe that I’m striving for where every day is full of happiness and fulfilment and great strides forward.

My day to day life is full of so much glory that I am constantly floored by the magic and mystery of it all, and it is also full of dips and clouds and moments when I feel like a puddle on the floor.

Being patient with myself means recognizing that all of me, the night terrors and the wonder, the eyes that see beauty in every crack and crevice as well as the soul that stores pain like throbbing wounds in the muscles between my shoulder blades, is part of my story. Even if it’s not clear to me yet, even if it never will be clear. It is valid and it is my truth.

Maybe I Don’t Know

Written by: Emily Blair, Director of Operations

Image source

Riding home on the L from my karate class this week, Jon Bellion’s song “Maybe IDK” came on shuffle.  The song states a variety of “I wonder why statements…”. Here are some that Bellion mentions in the song:

I wonder why I say yes to everyone in my life.

I wonder why I can’t run that fast in my dreams.

I wonder why I miss everyone and I still don’t call.

As I sat listening to the song on the train, I thought about how I would finish those “I wonder why…” statements.  The theme of the song touches on questioning why something is the way that it is or why something happened – something we all have probably done.  Sitting on the train car, I started to think of my mental health journey and started to finish those “I wonder why” statements in this framework.

I wonder why I still get anxious when I go to karate.

I wonder why I still have difficulty setting boundaries and saying no.

I wonder why my depression still creeps in.

I wonder why I’m not as bold and confident and sure of myself as her.

I wonder why I put up walls when I know vulnerability is so important.

I wonder why I even struggle with anxiety, depression, and body image issues in the first place.

This list could go on and on and on and on.  That would be an uplifting post, wouldn’t it?  

The truth is, I think that in our journeys’ with mental illness and recovery, we often get bogged down with figuring out everything from A to Z.  What is the root cause of my anxiety and depression, what are strategies to saying no, how can I stop comparing myself to other people, etc., etc.  We create plans, attend groups, take our medication, and when we still have a panic attack or when we still struggle with that one fear food, our head becomes filled with “I wonder why” statements.  This cycle is so dangerous because mental illness will always be an “I wonder why.” I wonder why people have to struggle with it to begin with, so where do we get ourselves if we just keep asking why?

The song is not solely about questioning why certain things are the way that they are.  The pre-chorus and chorus say this:

Although I guess if I knew tomorrow

I guess I wouldn’t need faith

I guess if I never fell, I guess I wouldn’t need grace

I guess if I knew His plans, I guess He wouldn’t be God

So maybe I don’t know, maybe I don’t know…

But maybe that’s okay.

I can’t help but sit back and marvel at how true these statements are.  Now, I believe in a higher power, a God whose fingerprint is always at work in our lives.  In fact, spirituality is a core value of Unpolished Journey. In recognizing this, I think there are some things we may not understand for a long time or possibly never understand in our journey with mental illness and recovery.  And if we constantly question why we are still struggling, we’ll be left walking in circles, because, while there may be some behaviors someone is partaking in that are feeding his or her mental illness, the truth of the matter is we will never really know – we’ll never know why he struggles with bulimia or she turns to alcohol or he has manic episodes.  

I think of it this way.  Say someone gets a cancer diagnosis.  The doctor may explain the diagnosis at a scientific level – maybe it was genetic or maybe the individual smoked a lot.  But the question is a deeper why.  Why that person, that individual, that human being.  

And the same goes for mental illness. We will never know why [insert what you struggle with] has to be an issue for us.  We may never really uncover the exact root cause of our depression that we are so intent on finding or read enough self-help books to create a perfect, foolproof plan for recovery.  

I want to take a moment to say that taking medication, attending groups, reading books, creating coping ahead plans, and everything that you do to help your mental illness is beyond necessary, in the same way that someone with a cancer diagnosis needs to get radiation and chemotherapy or whatever the treatment might be. The point of this post is not to discredit any of those things.  The point of this post is to remind us that even while doing those things, we may never fully understand parts of our journey.  And that’s okay. If we let these “I wonder why” statements cloud our thoughts, we will never fully experience recovery.

As I see it, Bellion reminds us that without these struggles, without these hardships, we wouldn’t truly appreciate faith and grace and all of the beautiful things that exist in this world.  So, while we’ll never fully understand our journey, we can be patient, watch it unfold, and appreciate faith and grace in the process.

P.S. I highly recommend listening to the song.  Click here to do so.