Is “recovery” a choice?

It seems fair to me, to say that having a mental illness is not a choice. If it were, would anyone take it? I think that no matter the source of mental illness, its anything but a decision. But what of recovery, is that a choice?

Firstly, I don’t mean for this post to sound in anyway invalidating, my experience has taught me just how incredibly difficult recovery is, how painful it can be to go against the grain of what some part of your mind is telling you to do and build new tracks, try new behaviors and ultimately fight against “yourself” – does this mean you’re wounding “yourself?”. I’ve lived the horrendous “2 steps forward 3 back” as the scales tip between my being in control, and my illness being in control. The frightening mismatch between how I feel and how I act, between what “I” want to do, and what I am doing. It seems a complicated tangle, trying to unravel yourself from your mental illness, to find where your connected and where you’re not, to distinguish self from not self. The age old “who am I?” identity crisis. The identity mental illness gives ¬†you, the mental illness within that identity. You get the picture – it’s confusing.

I can identify now a number of “choices” I had to make along the way, the choice to try something, anything, other than what my mental illness was telling me to do. To not just exchange one “bad” behavior for another. Others I’ve spoken to speak of “turning points” or times where something just “clicked”. What is this click? Is it something internal, or external? They now speak of their mental illness as though its something distant and separate (which I find myself doing now, too, but used to find odd when in the midst of being “ill”). Remember that constant, voice in your head that guided your life? Maybe you still have it, it becomes a whisper. Now and again, it shouts out like a stubborn child when circumstances wake it, but now, you’re able to kindly say “no”. That is a choice. Whilst I completely appreciate just how important it is to listen to this “inner child” or what have you, to find out what he or she wants, what guides THEM and what motivates THEM. But, similarly, we can’t give in to every tantrum they, or mental illness throws, otherwise we’re never going to recover. We have to set boundaries, just like we might with a child. It doesn’t mean it’s easy though, having a child kicking and screaming inside your head that you “can’t” listen to.

Does this make any sense to anyone else, or am I just crazy? Is recovery a choice?

I recognize the need for support etc. and the right external environment. I’m not saying its an easy choice by any means, but is it a choice?

 

 

 

Eating disorders: control and shame

I think for me, ‘disordered’ eating has always been to some extent about control; a fairly common theme, I know.

It makes kind of logical sense in some ways. I dread the stereotypical ‘wanting to be in control of your body because of times when you haven’t’, though I do accept this theory. For me, I’ve been thinking more and more about exactly what it is I want to control: is it my weight, my appearance, my eating desires? Is it about wanting to see how far I can push myself, how much discipline and control I have over myself? 

These were all things I used to think I wanted to be in control of. From a young age I learnt to control myself in so many ways and ‘controlling’ food helped me to continue this; which is something I felt I should do. 

Suddenly though, I realise it is not just about these things. It is about controlling me. It’s about holding me back. Keeping the little battered me inside. 

I feel so utterly branded by shame on the inside that I must hide myself; I must not have desires or be who I want to be. 

It feels as though every part of my soul has been seared and scarred by shame and I darent share it with anyone for fear of repulsion. My eating disorder has cut over scar after scar of shame and kept me quiet, kept me hidden. 

What does abuse do to you?

This is a very difficult post for me, even anonymously, to share publicly. The word ‘abuse’ is a big and scary one and I wouldn’t classify anything I’ve been through as that, though I know others would disagree. 

In light of my recent post ‘recovery’, I’d like to be able to follow it up with a second post that looks more honestly at the shadows behind that word. In many ways, I think DBT (dialectical behavioural therapy) has actually been unhelpful to me. I feel almost as though the past year has taught me how not to cry, how not to react to terror and torment and so reinforced many of the lessons I learned as a child. My therapist, possibly not to her fault, actively discouraged me talking of anything vaguely traumatic and helped gloss over everything that is my life. This has helped me in some ways, it’s arguable reduced some of the ‘BPD’ symptoms (though, I am not sure if I have just made allowances for this elsewhere). The thing it really hasn’t helped me with, and if anything has pushed me further into the hands of denial with, is my PTSD. 

Post traumatic stress disorder. What a phrase. 

I’ve suffered this arguably since I was a child, though obviously I wouldn’t have seen it that way then and I still don’t really now. I have nightmares every night, sure. I have night terrors still, like a child and wake myself up screaming and fighting. And then there’s the day times. Every half step, something seems to trigger my memory and I find myself wincing or bracing to fight my way out. It’s exhausting. It sounds like something out of a movie, but it’s not. It’s really not. This is my life. 

I feel like I am trapped in my childhood, and that wasn’t a good place to be. 

So these are some of the symptoms DBT has not helped me deal with. These are the manifestations of a constant overflow of traumatic memories, one after the other flooding my brain and frying it’s circuits. 
What is it like to have PTSD? It’s exhausting. 

And what of the original trauma? 

Now that I have finished DBT, I am allegedly ‘robust’ enough to start dealing with it. I am not gloating in anyway, but I have ‘survived’ a childhood of abuse, neglect, homelessness but now after a year of DBT you think I might be robust enough – thanks. 

Anyway, so this means onward referal, which I am entirely grateful for. The downside being I must now try and share my story again. 

If admitting to having PTSD is hard, admitting to having been thtough any trauma is impossible. I just can’t do it. So I start scraping around the top of the barrel for some lesser, more acceptable memories. I need to portray to this team I am struggling, but my inner autos kick in and I simultaneously need to portray that I have never been abused in any way shape or form. 

So what does trauma do to you? This. 

It terrifies you to talk and terrorises you to not. 

Even the memories I class as lesser, the one offs, even they terrify me. And it’s only just dawned on me how freaking scary this all is. 

This is all I can share for now. Thanks anyone who reads.