It may seem kind of like a cliché, but have you ever heard the saying “it’s about the journey, not the destination”? That’s often how recovery can look or feel.
Recovery isn’t some big, shiny end goal: it is a journey of constant improvement, growth, and, sometimes, mistakes. There isn’t a set of criteria that you need to check off to be considered “recovered.” Instead, recovery can look like multiple different things for different people, and that’s okay.
As someone with severe depression and anxiety, I used to try to figure out when I would finally be “better”. I would think: “As soon as I’m out of the hospital, I’ll be okay.” “As soon as I go a full week without feeling depressed, I’ll be cured.” “As soon as I don’t need medication anymore, I’ll be completely recovered.” But the reality is, recovery rarely looks like any of those things. Recovery looks different for everyone, but it’s the progress that matters more than anything.
Recovery isn’t linear. It can feel like taking one step backwards for every two steps forward. Sometimes it’s forgetting the medicine that you know you need. Sometimes it can feel like days where you aren’t able to do anything. But none of those lapses or mistakes discredit the progress you’ve made. You’re still moving forward.
And sometimes, recovery happens subconsciously. Maybe you don’t actively feel like you’re making progress, but you can look back at yourself a year ago and realize you’re in a better place. Maybe you can’t do everything someone else can, but you’re now doing the best YOU can. Maybe some people don’t or won’t stick around to see you get better, but you’re growing into new relationships and friendships as you go.
Maybe recovery is happening in all the cracks when you aren’t paying attention: in therapy, in accepting compliments, in growing self-love, in finding your support group, in letting yourself be loved. All of this means recovery, even if it doesn’t look like a specific, picture-perfect end goal.
Seven years after receiving my official diagnoses, I still have depression and anxiety. But I’m also in a much better place than I used to be. I still struggle. There are days where it feels like none of the progress I’ve made has been enough. But at the end of the day, I’m alive and doing better than I was seven years ago. And even if my recovery hasn’t been perfect, being alive and being in a healthier state of mind overall is what matters.
Don’t be hard on yourself if recovery doesn’t look like constant growth. Be kind to yourself, accept and learn and grow from your mistakes or lapses, and keep working toward being the healthiest and safest version of yourself you can be, even if that version isn’t perfect. No matter what your journey looks like, be proud of the progress you’ve made so far. Forgive yourself when you don’t actively feel like you’re making progress, and celebrate the growth you HAVE seen, both in yourself and in others.
If you or someone you know is struggling, reach out. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is available 24/7/365 at 1-800-273-TALK (8255). You are never alone.
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