mental health word cloud, including words like trauma, grief, stigma, genetic, clinical, bipolar

The worst thing about recovery

Here’s something nobody ever tells you about recovery; you have to leave people behind. You have to know their suffering but be unable to help.

Something I found in my very darkest times was an amazing community of people. They were people who were also suffering, who were lost, who were clinging on even though they weren’t sure why. They were the people who took the time to reply to middle-of-the-night crisis tweets. People who sat with me in the darkness, who didn’t need an explanation, who didn’t need anything but to know they weren’t alone in their own darkness.

I don’t say this to romanticise that darkness but there is a beauty in the connection within that community.

Recovery can be a dirty word in the darkness. Not because you don’t want it but because there is no hope there, there is no belief that it is even possible. Recovery is for people who weren’t as lost as you, had fewer labels than you, with more energy than you. Sure, recovery happens, but it doesn’t happen to people like you and I built a community on that. A community of “we will never recover,” of “we are too broken,” a community where those who were the most lost, would reach out their hand and help another because they knew how it felt.

Recovery for me has come with guilt that some of those people are still there, in the darkness. Some of their lights have already gone out. There are those who clambered out of their own darkness alongside me and those starting to find their way out now, but I can’t help those still there.

Guilt that I got out.

Guilt that I left them there.

Guilt that I can’t help them anymore.

And it becomes a billion times more painful, more heartbreaking, to watch. To know the intensity of their suffering and also know that I can throw down all the ropes, ladders and life-rafts but I can’t make them to see them.

I still can’t tell you what flicked the switch for me. I have no idea why or how I was able to lift myself out. I don’t know where I found the energy or brain space to fight back, or to accept, or to do whatever it took to get out. I don’t know. And even if I did know, that would be my story, that wouldn’t help them.

I want nothing more than to white knight in, throw them onto my horse and ride off into the bright light with them. I want to see the ember behind their eyes flicker as they decide they are going to damn well do it. Because then I can help them. Then I can send them links and videos and exercises and support and cheerleading and supportive GIFs and I canĀ do something.

So I do the worst thing; I avoid thinking about them. I skip over the tweets, I scroll past the status updates, I pretend it’s not happening because to be aware breaks my heart. To know that darkness so intimately is awful, but to know others are still there and you can’t save them is worse.

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