I totally had to switch to Open DNS to be able to access the internet just now. Weird. Anyway!
Day 17 - What’s improved in my life since I started recovery?
Well, for starters, I have my own place to live, my own car, and a much better neighborhood.
Everything has gotten better for me since October of 2009, which is when I started trying to recover actively, instead of just letting things happen. I didn’t know I was “starting recovery” - I just knew I was in really bad shape and was seriously asking for long-term help for the first time.
One of the big things is that I have a much better sense of when things are going badly and I need to ask for more help (and that it’s OK to ask for help.) I felt really alone before then - like it was 100% my responsibility to be perfect, and that I was an inherently broken and doomed person. I didn’t fully embrace the idea that I was sick, or that there were things I could learn and medications I could take that would really make things much better. Just that switch - the knowing help is available thing - has been a huge improvement. When I suffer a relapse or a setback, my first inclination is still to turn inward, to blame myself, to feel like crap for feeling like crap - but pretty quickly, I remember that I don’t have to play the game that way at all. It’s like the difference between wandering in the desert and wandering in the desert with a compass and a map to a bunch of different water sources. I mean, yeah, I’m still in the desert, but now I’ve got tools, and it’s like, well, the desert is a whole different place now.
I’m definitely materially much better off, too, which is funny because up till then I’d only ever seen progress in concert with a hypomanic episode. I could point at nearly every single thing I owned and tell you the wacky story behind it (and it was generally a wacky story.) Now I have, like, sensible stories. About, you know, that one time when I had a credit report pulled and I got a car loan and I made a whole bunch of payments on time (THANK YOU AUTOMATIC WITHDRAWALS) and stuff. There’s still usually a hint of wackiness, because I’m rarely euthymic and don’t get a lot done when I’m depressed, but it’s nothing like before. Also, I have a lot MORE stuff, because I don’t have to keep moving, keep getting rid of things, keep destroying things by accident. I have this one story about losing a tomato in my living room, that ends with learning about what will and will not repair a professionally waxed hardwood floor that’s been exposed to rotting tomato and then bleach. I don’t have nearly so many stories like that popping up these days, and as a result, I have more nice stuff around.
I like myself a little bit more. Especially after the hopsitalization program and all those Inner Critic exercises - I’ve kind of become better at seeing the good parts of me as legitimately good, even in the presence of rampant dysfunction. I’ve learned to listen a bit less to the screaming hordes inside my mind telling me how lame I am, which is beneficial.
I’ve become more open, and that’s been helpful in terms of Dealing With Issues (TM) but also in terms of building better relationships. I still need to work on this with non-professionals, but just the fact that I’ve told now a couple of dozen people what’s going on inside my head - and they haven’t outright rejected me - has been awesome.
I take my medications and my therapy a lot more seriously, and keep using them even when I’d rather not, and boy howdy has that been more effective than the other thing.
I’ve learned a lot of really useful tricks, and found out a lot about the stuff that doesn’t work for me and why. Figuring out I have more than just Bipolar II has also been beneficial; I used to read the literature about bipolar disorder and see all the extra stuff that was “wrong with me” and figure I was still inherently rather worthless and unfixable. Having names like agoraphobia and ADHD and OCPD and avoidance, that explain things and give clues on how to deal with them, has been hugely helpful. I no longer get furious with myself for losing my keys; I know this is a real thing that’s actually more to do with chemicals in my brain than any kind of character fault, and so I’ve stopped the railing at myself for my stupidity tactic in favor of the attaching my keys to the front door so I always know where they are tactic. Similarly, I’ve been able to reevaluate some of the long-held beliefs and narratives I have about myself. Demeter wasn’t a lazy good for nothing useless 2nd grader - she was a 2nd grader who showed pretty obvious signs of a mood disorder, social anxiety, and ADHD, and it really wasn’t her fault that she didn’t “get” a lot of the things other kids “get” at that age.
I’m also a lot more helpful for other people to talk to now, and I like that a lot. In 2009 I wasn’t really helping anyone - I was keeping my head barely above water (at least, kind of, some of the time, often enough that it wasn’t blatantly obvious that I was totally drowning.) I’ve had the opportunity to answer some questions, give people some feedback, and try to be nice and kind to folks who are having a rough time, and that’s pretty sweet.
I still have a long, long way to go (recovery is neither linear nor “completable”) but I am really glad I’m on the road I’m on, instead of the road I was on.