One of my warning signs of being on the brink of a relapse with my mental health issues is starting to think I am on the brink of happily ever after. This can lead to panic and almost always also leads to self-sabotage. Somehow part of my brain sees having my shit together in multiple parts of my life as achieving some sort of fairytale ending and decides that NO I do not deserve this and goes into a slow shambolic self-destruct.
The first sign this is on its way is when I start connecting unconnected things. At the start of the year, I was sick, in debt, my washing machine was broken and I had no idea where I was going to live. Somehow these things got connected. I could maybe find solutions to two but certainly not all. And somehow if my washing machine got fixed that boded well or ill for my meeting with the bank.
Now there are some connections; there was a chance my landlord would not replace the machine as we are moving at the end of the month, and with no washing machine I was liable to have to use laundrettes using the money I don’t really have to wash my clothes. But that is the only connection. Nothing more. But in my head, they all became symbolic and interconnected and I could not sleep.
Next step? Obsessively looking for signs in places. But where? Well if my washing machine doesn’t get replaced that means my tenancy will fall through and my bank meeting will go badly because … um? Or I will play this stupid game on my phone and if I get a score above 300,000 then it means it will go well and if I score below it will go badly. Unless I score below 50,000 as then it does not count. Obviously.
I’d love to say that I can see when I am falling into this but frankly on this occasion, it was a friend sending a very tough love WhatsApp message that made me see I was heading into this cycle as she told me to stop. Repeatedly. Eventually, I got the message. It took a while and a lot of crying. It was not pretty.
So how do I address it? I address it by doing basic self-care stuff like I know I should. I go outside. I exercise. I switch off from the internet and connect with people in real life. I avoid alcohol. I eat healthy real food. I prioritise sleep and routine. I make sure I take my medication. I spend the day in bed reading if I need to do so to recover from my cough. I break the cycle.
I will say again and again that recovery is not linear. It is not. There is no happily ever after of ‘recovered’ for most of us and that is okay. The story continues as long as we do and that is to be celebrated, even if it means that it is messier, longer and more complicated than we want, because it is, more importantly than all of that real and for someone who struggles to know what is and isn’t real sometimes that is the biggest gift of all.