There was once a part of me that didn’t want to recover. Or rather, it wasn’t necessarily that I didn’t want to, but more that I shouldn’t, because I didn’t feel that I deserved to recover. There was a part of me that felt like I was meant to suffer, to wallow in my depression and self-injury, and that was what my life was going to be like—what it should be like.
I’m here to tell those who think the same way, I couldn’t have been more wrong. Everyone deserves to recover. It wasn’t my fault that my depression took over and led to my self-injury. It didn’t happen because I was weak, and it’s not happening because you’re weak. But it can make you stronger.
It’s OK to recognize your fears of recovery; then you can figure out how to handle them. One reason I was afraid to get out of my struggle was that recovery brings the possibility of relapse. I wasn’t prepared for the potential failure I could experience. I didn’t want to let anyone down if I did relapse. But I decided I’d rather live with going through recovery and relapsing than not trying at all. Because, in the end, if I didn’t try to recover, I’d be failing myself, and that was the last person I wanted to fail.
I now speak from experience when I say my fear of relapse was a valid one. To find myself breaking down in the middle of the hallway of my workplace was not fun, and it definitely wasn’t something I had prepared for. The reality of relapse makes it hard to tell when things are going to be good and when things are going to be bad again. But despite how terrifying it was, it also motivated me to keep going and to stay better. I didn’t know if it was going to happen again, but I knew I wasn’t going back to the dark place I had been in four years ago. You have to make the decision for yourself to not give up, adapt to the change, and embrace the good, because you are worth it. It may not seem that way given your current position in the struggle, but believe me. You may not know how or where to start over, so just start simple. These things take time.
One thing that eventually became a key to my recovery was reflection. At first, it may seem like it’s difficult to reflect. I didn’t want to reflect back on anything; I was afraid returning to those thoughts would make me sink lower than I already was. But I learned that reflection doesn’t have to be bad. I began reflecting every night before I went to bed, but I chose not to focus on how I got there or what had led me to depression and self-injury. Don’t get me wrong, when you’re able, it’s definitely healthy to come to terms with what got you to where you are. But when you first practice reflection, try to reflect not on the very bad or even the very good, but on the simple things. Maybe it’s as simple as, “I woke up today and got out of bed.” For many people dealing with depression, anxiety, or self-injury, getting out of bed seems to be the first stepping stool to recovery, so I would recommend acknowledging that every day, because with the acknowledgement comes the confidence that you can continue to succeed in this aspect of the recovery.
Another thing I had to realize is that recovery isn’t accomplished in a day. Waking up and getting out of bed in the morning isn’t going to be immediately easier. Everything takes time, but the way to get out of this process is through it. You can’t expect to be completely healthy in one day. However, you can expect to be at least a little better, and odds are you will be.
Every day, we either meet new people and experience new things, or we have an opportunity to see and experience the same things, just in a different way. A positive aspect of recovery is that it not only helps us get through our daily routine physically, but it makes us rethink what we knew before, in a good way. I take public transportation to work five days out of the week, but one day I stopped at a train station before my destination and walked the rest of the way to my job. It’s nothing I hadn’t seen before, but the walk, the scenery, feeling the wind brush against me was refreshing. I’m normally cooped up in a packed CTA train, and having that small change made the difference in my day.
Each morning, it gets a little easier for me to get out of bed, and my recovery continues to blossom. I’m still not at my 100 percent best, and I don’t know if I’ll ever reach 100 percent, but I do know I will continue to reflect, recover, and fight through this struggle. We’re all a work in progress waiting for our chance to shine—and we do deserve to shine. It’s time we start believing that, despite our fears of recovery and relapse.