Let’s talk about “getting stuck in your head.” We all refer to this phrase when we are having a blip in our mental well being. To me, it literally feels as though you are trapped in an internal prison of negativity and self loathing. You are screaming for help but the sounds just don’t come out. You are silenced by your own demons because you don’t feel worthy enough of care. You feel you are taking up too much time, space and attention so the most plausible thing to do is suffer in silence. These feelings are all very real and very overwhelming.
Carrying on as if everything is okay in the hope that it will eventually pass, in my experience, just close down those thoughts to inevitably explode at a later date, and at an even bigger cost. Sure, difficult feelings and emotions are temporary but that doesn’t make them any easier to manage, nor does it make them less valid. They are valid! It doesn’t matter if you experience severe emotional desperation for 5 minutes or 5 weeks. You are always worthy of a listening ear or a shoulder to cry on. This is because these feelings are real and often quite scary. Don’t let anyone tell you to “get over it” or “not to worry because they’ll pass.”
I’m saying all this like it’s easy to manage these ups and downs and open up to a loved one. In actual fact, I am going through utter turmoil. I have been out of intensive treatment for my eating disorder for 3 weeks and I now attend therapy only once a week. I’ve been so busy and “carrying on as if everything is okay” that I have been bottling up my emotions and, you guessed it, I’ve exploded. I feel so unworthy, inadequate and alone. I have no idea how to deal with my emotions and I haven’t felt this level of panic since February. Before, I would use eating disorder behaviours to cope with these difficult sensations so it isn’t helpful when my loved ones ask “but you’ve got through it once before, how did you cope last time?” Last time I would skip meals and go on mammoth runs (which I don’t do anymore), not to mention the fact that I had a whole team of staff supporting my every move throughout treatment. Other than my therapy session once a week, I’m alone. I’m in the big wide world to manage my emotions in a non disordered way. Similar to driving a car alone after passing your test; the learning really starts here.
I often feel like a fake for preaching about mental health and how to deal with emotions in a healthy, non destructive way when I too struggle. If only life was that simple to apply what you know and believe in practice. I’ve read all the self help books and could probably recite perfectly what they all say as well as what my therapist has told me time and time again. ‘Doing’ it is a different ball game. Also, we are all human and no one is perfect.
Recovery is a process; we are constantly learning, reflecting and practising how to deal with our mental health. Think about our physical health: our bodies are not the same over an entire lifetime. Things happen, we grow old and life can be unexpected. We are constantly taking knocks and choosing the most appropriate form of treatment to better our recovery. We don’t wear the same sized jeans forever so why would we express the same outlooks and mantras to deal with our mental growth. There is constantly an essence of reassessing our needs in correlation to the process of life.
What I am saying is, recovery is not a straight road. We fall, we go backwards and we change direction but overall we are going forward. It is healthy to take steps back or lose motivation otherwise, where is the opportunity for us to learn and grow stronger? Although I preach about mental well being and don’t always apply it to myself (who takes on their own advice ALL the time???), I understand that above all I am heading in the right direction. Some days you need to pause and take the slow lane.