I used to tense up when I was told I ‘looked better’. I was proud of my disguise, but I also felt a strange sort of disconnect between the girl on the outside and what I was trying to understand about the inside of me.
I had this sick belief that I deserved to have my wrongness tattooed across my forehead, that I was a liar, betraying my truth by tricking people into thinking I was having a good day.
At the same time, there was no way I wanted to inconvenience anyone with me. It became a catch-22 that consumed all my efforts at moving forward in life.
I was deeply, deeply afraid of being okay.
Which is terrifying to type. Because why would I choose sickness over health? It turns out that is a hugely complicated debate that even now I can’t face on my own.
So, I have a collection mental health difficulties. I don’t even really know how to structure that sentence. I don’t know how to talk about any of that, and here is not the place. I’m not ready for that, which is okay.
Despite what my midnight brain may make me believe, the internet is not my therapist.
I did want to preface my subject though, but that is done now.
I consider myself in recovery.
Which doesn’t roll off my tongue exactly?
It gets caught, I choke just a bit, but I can swallow it back, fix my watering eyes and smudged mascara with a bit of paper towel.
Yesterday I was told how wonderful it was to see my smiling face, a few weeks ago another person said how fantastic it was to see me step from the shadows.
I didn’t tense this time, I smiled bigger, because there is something within me that is less afraid.
I attribute a lot of this to my faith, but also more specifically to the fact that I am in recovery now, perhaps not entirely fully fledged, but beginning to spread my wings.
Baby wings, not strong enough yet, but someday will be.
At 8.45 am on Sunday morning I smiled. I had just enough makeup on to look like I’m not losing my eyelashes from stress (it happens), I’d thrown an embroidered jacket over my jeans and grey shirt.
(I bought this jacket for this exact purpose, people think you tried, when really you put in the same amount of effort as if you were wearing a hoodie. Life changing.)
Half an hour prior I had been curled up in bed trying to decide if I had the mental energy to make it out this morning.
This week has been stupid tough. Like actual stupid tough.
I’m still pretty shaken, to be honest.
I’ve been a bit of a mess. A mascara-smudged-halfway-up-my-face mess. A you-could-actually-wring-my-sleeve-out-I’ve-done-so-much-crying mess.
And I dare to consider myself ‘in recovery’.
England, Ireland, Scotland, Wales,
Inside, outside, monkey tails.
By this point, I am literally playing games with myself.
Slam the door.
Run, run, run.
Have a cry.
Okay, so I think I’ve figured it out. I think I know what recovery actually is.
Because for a while I thought it looked like smiling, acai bowls, and never slipping up. Church every week, socialise, talking to everyone. Calm, happy, healthy. Poster girl.
I thought being sick was all maladaptive coping mechanisms and drinking. Giving up, dissociation, panic attacks. Lying, crying. Inside bad, the outside matches.
But it’s not?
I have this really bad habit of looking at everything related to myself in black and white terms. Everything I do either gets a check mark or a great red x.
No middle ground.
(Because, you know, apparently life is suddenly that simple?)
Part of me wanted to believe that’s this week meant I was not recovering.
Because, if I was recovering I wouldn’t be having panic attacks every night. And I wouldn’t be standing in the middle of town having a snotty post-appointment cry. I wouldn’t be glaring at my reflection with its swollen cheeks and red eyes, disappointed that I was letting everyone and myself down again.
Maybe it’s a perfectionist curse, but I really struggle to see anything messy as good.
The older I get and the more I learn about my own mental health and my place in the world, the more I realise that there is nothing that is not just a bit of a mess.
If I wasn’t still having bad days, why bother with this recovery bullshit then? Why go to appointments, buy my prescriptions, take my prescriptions?
I think recovery is a state of mind.
A sometimes painful choice.
I chose life.
I choose life. Choose in perfect tense.
Chosen already but an ongoing choice.
Now I am smiling or crying or living beyond survival. I’m not just making do anymore. I’m looking to lessen the tension and find my answers however I can.
Somedays, on the outside I can probably fake looking like the poster girl of transformation, but a lot of the time I am busy choosing life.
Which is exhausting.
Recovery is learning to balance your inside-outside, to not have to fake a facade, but also accepting that sometimes you do just have to get on with it for just a little while, and you are not lying, you are just living.
Recovery is choosing to step on to the tightrope across the abyss. It will lead you away from the town you grew up in, it was home, but it is time to grow up, to blossom.
I don’t know.
Basically, recovery is messy and confusing. Also exhausting. I am exhausted, but okay.
all my love,