Process Over Progress on My Mental Illness Recovery Journey

I have always struggled with the whole concept of “recovery” from mental illness. It would be nice if it was some neat, ordered, linear process with quantifiable markers of success. I think if we are honest enough with ourselves we would realize we all wish for that. It would be nice if there was a 12 step program or magic wand we could wave and all of a sudden all the pain and heartache would go away and we would be better.

Instead it is a tangled mess of two steps forward, three steps back and then slipping on a piece of junk and riding the spiral downwards to end up somewhere near where you started or sometimes even further away from your “goal.” I have also found the further I journey into recovery, the more I realize my efforts and striving and struggle have brought some improvements, but my final destination isn’t actually where I thought it was going to be. It has now changed and I am left feeling that for all of my striving I still have so far to go. It can be a little disheartening.

It can be hard to explain the journey to those who don’t understand it, because they would think that surely after being in therapy for a year and a half and taking medication surely you must feel “better,” as if a lifetime of experiences both negative and good is something that can be processed and healed in a short period of time.

Even my doctor tries to put a number on my progress. She tries so hard to justify some level of improvement and laments when I tell her today is not a good day to ask me that question. I hate those scaled assessments they make you do because I feel such a broad spectrum of feelings, which cannot be simplified down to a five point scale.

A banner promoting The Mighty's new Recovery Warriors group on The Mighty mobile app. The banner reads, Recovery Warriors is a safe space for anyone who's in the process of mental or physical healing. Lean on others for support and celebrate your recovery milestones here. Click to join.

Some days I question if it is worth all of the effort I have to put in to achieve so little on my journey to wellness, but that is when I turn to those close to me for a little bit of motivation. And maybe my goal needs to change? Maybe I will never be free of depression and anxiety as society once led me to believe I could be. Maybe I will learn that while these things are a part of my story, they do not define me. Until then, I will take the steps, try not to slip on any junk and keep on the journey, no matter how painful it may be.

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