Mental illness is often romanticized in media, especially on the Internet. Recovery is romanticized too, spelled out in curly fonts or painted in pastels. The image recovery evokes is full of positive vibes, smiles, and smoothies. It’s made to look fun, and even simple.
Recovery is none of those things. Recovery is the hardest thing you will EVER do in your life. For most of us it’s harder than graduating high school, or getting into college. It’s even harder than getting sick. It’s an uphill battle, like climbing a mountain barefoot and only being able to crawl.
Recovery requires changing not only your behavior, but the way you see the world. After being sick there’s a lot to relearn. Whether it’s learning to feed yourself again or practicing new coping skills or reshaping cognitive processes, it’s nothing other than hard work. It has to be your number one priority, and sometimes everything else has to fall by the wayside. When I first entered recovery my grades and relationships suffered so I took a year off college to focus on my recovery. It’s totally fine to “just” do recovery.
Choosing recovery and sticking to it isn’t easy either. Recovery isn’t something that you just decide to do one day and become 100% dedicated to. It requires a leap of faith. It’s a choice that you have to make every second of every day. And some seconds you’re not going to want to choose recovery. Some days you’re going to kick and scream, begging everyone to just let you be sick again. That’s okay. But you move forward inch by inch, clawing your way to health and happiness.
This is not meant to discourage anyone. But we do need to be realistic about what it is to make sure people know what they’re getting themselves into so they’re not discouraged when they hit a bump in the road. Recovery is not easy and it is not glamorous, but it IS worth it. Being able to declare yourself one week and then one month and then one year clean from whatever unhealthy behavior you use is a momentous occasion. Being able to celebrate victories with friends or to even leave your house makes you feel powerful. You’ll find that your eyes well up with tears when someone mentions the progress you’ve made. Sure, you miss being sick, but the longer you stick with it the fainter that longing will become. There will be sweat and tears at first, but like everything, recovery gets easier with time.
So don’t worry if your meals aren’t perfectly arranged into pretty patterns. Or if snot pours from your nose as you cry because you’re trying so hard not to self-harm. Don’t worry, it’s supposed to be this gritty. It is supposed to be this hard.