Six months ago I had a nervous breakdown. I've written about it here before, I wrote about how the darkness fell and the mist came over and I lost all ability to cope. If you've been there you'll know it was an awful time. If you've been there you'll know that it takes longer than six months to recover.
A few days ago I began to wonder if I would ever recover. Then I realised that I was using the word recovery to mean 'get back to before' and you cannot get back to before, as it wasn't right then.
Recovery is about becoming something new with a better understanding of yourself, and others.
It's a daily pledge to reject the darkness by telling it to "f*** right off". It's a daily pledge to push out the darkness and fill it with something much more positive and constructive.
I won't lie, it's hard and it's taken all my energy just to get to this point. In my previous blog I had pledged to write about my recovery but I realise now that was optimistic.
You don't just get over a crappy period to find the sun shining and people dancing around singing 'Happy Days Are Here Again' and drinking Pimms (unless you've joined a cult). Instead, mental illness is something that's lurking in the corner for that moment when you're a bit tired or hungover and generally a wee bit vulnerable. In that moment mental illness gives a little mischievous chuckle and dives into action. "Watch as she wakes up this morning, a little hungover and thinks that a nice cup of tea and listening to FKA Twigs will make it all better." BAMN! "Let's bring on some tears for no apparent reason. Yeehah!" Or "Watch as she gets stuck in traffic after a long day at work, craving a nice bath and healthy dinner." BAMM! "Let's play a melancholy song on the radio and induce an anxiety attack. Yeehah!" Chuckle, Chuckle.
What makes recovering from a breakdown so much easier are great friends, family and understanding people around you. They're not there to listen to your woes all the time. They're not there to rescue you, because you don't need rescuing. They're just there for you when you say: "I feel crappy at the moment, so tell me a joke", and understand why you're saying it and make you laugh.
They don't stigmatise you when you get a little drunk and emotional and randomly shed a few tears in the pub after work. They just give you a hug and carry on chatting about the annoying colleague everyone loves to hate (we all have one.).
All in all, they don't make a big deal of these moments. That's because they understand that they don't need to be a big deal. They aren't to me.
In the past six months that's been the most helpful and life-saving thing about recovering from a breakdown. When I have a little cry after work, I don't need the embarrassment of it to add to everything else I'm dealing with.
I've come across people whom have treated me awfully due to my breakdown. They treated me like I was a horrible person and that does not help. In fact - for me - it prolonged my breakdown.
Stigma is the bread knife in the back of mental illness. It stops people from seeking help, and getting help. Whether it's a stranger treating you like a leper for getting teary because you've missed your bus stop, or your husband refusing to support you when you have an anxiety attack and who, instead, tells everyone what a terrible person you are, it makes everything worse.
Having people around you whom take these moments of weakness with a little kindness, understanding and gentle pinch of salt is liberating. (Namely because minutes after my little blub, I'm back to joining in with gossiping about my annoying work colleague with everyone else.)
What these positive people understand is that this behaviour is not attention seeking. It's not being OTT, ridiculous nor unreasonable; it's simply a person who is going through a tough time and feeling a little crap for a few moments and who bounces back quickly because others took it well.
There are many people in this world whom are kind and emotionally mature enough to realise this. And to those people I've met and let me blub on their shoulder after a glass of Pinot Noir and then, moments later, joined me in dancing around to whatever cheesy music is blaring from the DJ booth: I salute you.