Recovery isn’t all it’s cracked up to be, it turns out.
I would consider myself currently in recovery from mental illness. I feel good in myself. I don’t feel anxious or depressed. I feel the most mentally healthy I ever have. It’s amazing, but it is also shit.
I have a long way to go. I am learning, very slowly, how to manage my emotions. At the moment everything makes me cry, or irritates me, or both. I feel so deeply, but I have never learned how to experience emotions healthily. I have been on medication since my late teens, medication that was designed to numb those emotions. Maybe it helped me, maybe it didn’t, but I took it. Instead of facing those emotions, facing the underlying issues, I buried everything until it was lost in that fog of mental illness and meds. If I could go back and do it over, I’d do it so differently. But I can’t.
The most frustrating thing though, is being stuck. Stuck in the back end of beyond. Stuck living with my parents. Stuck in France.
I can’t drive, so there is no option to nip out for a mooch around the shops, or have a coffee in a café. I can’t poddle off to a local market for a morning, or to a nightclub one evening. I am entirely dependent on my parents for lifts to get anywhere or do anything. I am hoping to learn to drive next year, but getting my licence is a long way off.
Additionally, I have a lot of resistance to even trying to create a life here. I don’t want a life here. I want a life, but I want it away from France. I have spent 5 years here and I still hate it. I don’t want to marry someone French, I don’t want to work here, I don’t want to be involved in the community here, because that feels like giving in. It feels like accepting that this is it, that I’m stuck here for the rest of my life, and I’m not ready to do that.
I know that getting a job here would put me in a better financial position to move, but I’m so scared that I would then feel tied. That I would, once I had the security of a job, be too afraid to leave and start over. And not only that, the idea of still being here in even 6 months breaks my heart. It would take me years to be in a financial position to move at all, let alone move countries, and honestly I cannot face spending that much longer here.
I have wasted five years of my life in a country I hate. I have spent so much time being mentally ill, being unable to do anything, and now that my mental health isn’t holding me back, reality is.
I want to live. I am so ready to live, and I still can’t.
People always talk about the fact that recovery itself isn’t a straight line: there are times when you feel you’re going backwards, times when you are stagnant, but the general theme is that you are moving forward.
I’ve never seen anyone talk about the reality of creating a life after mental illness, after recovery. I’ve never seen anyone explain how hard it is to restart your whole life after you lost everything to illness.
How do you get back into work? How do you begin to socialise again? How do you start to find local friendships? How do you learn what life is about now? And how on Earth do you make peace with the fact that you’ll never get back all those years of your life that you spent just trying to survive?
Recovery is hard in the most unexpected ways.