Swimming Up Stream, by Leslie

Am I In Recovery?

I dove into life off the starting block, gliding through the water. It washes smoothly across my skin. With a strong flutter kick, I break the surface of the water. My arms reach out and push the water, steadily moving forward, propelling myself into life. The flip turns of each lap give added speed. Pushing off the wall, keeping myself propelled into the future, with each turn I make.

Somewhere, I seem to have taken a breath while my face was still under water and everything that I once knew, the path I once followed, disappeared. I struggle against the water rather than flowing through it. Thrashing rather than gliding, gasping, choking, coughing, no longer rhythmic breathing. I’m no longer in the race, not the race that I was in, when I dove in off the starting block.

Rolling with the waves of new terminology, and a lot to think about. Can I get better, will I get better, do people get better? The present buzzword is recovery, so let us define what it is I’m recovering from. For the purpose of this article, I’m writing about mental health, mental illness, my diagnosis.

With that explained, let’s look at a few questions, am I in Recovery? On the surface, this is really quite a simple question, or at least it should be. I’m not sure whether I really know the answer or not, but if I have to take a stab at it than I will say, “I’m not in recovery.”

When I think about recovery, I think of a broken bone that has mended, and no longer needs a cast or splint to support it. It’s working, supporting muscles and tissue or allowing us to move hold things and lift things, get around, and perform tasks that we could do prior to the break. Recovered. More commonly, most all of us have recovered from a cold, poison ivy or sunburn.

Next question, what stage of recovery are you in?  Stage, recovery? Okay, so I will use the term recovery for now and the 5 stages of recovery as Michigan Peer Support Specialists learn them. I’ve already dealt with the effects of the onset of the illness (Impact). I accept that I have a mental illness and acknowledge it. I want to be better (Change is Possible). I want to be self-sufficient, self-sustaining, and not dependent on others to provide for my basic needs. I’m looking to the future (Commitment to Change). I’m making plans and pursuing the plan and goals made, I took steps towards these goals, and fell flat on my face (Action for Change). A belly flop rather than a cannonball. I want to have the freedom to not report how much money I made, or am earning or may make this month or next month or the next. To swim at my pace and speed daily rather than always being coached, preparing myself for the starting block. I want the ability to be able to deal with stress in life events without stumbling or needing a timeout or a haven of safety (Life is Limited). I want friends, I want relationships with other people who return that friendship, love, empathy, companionship – and a hug once in a while would help as well. I want to be on the team again. In shape for the races that come our way but enjoying the workout as I feel my body responding to the drag of the water. The strength I feel as I enter the water. Exhausted from giving it my all, a teammate reaching down to help me from the depth of the pool, limp from exerting myself, of giving my all. Knowing that the strength will return, my heart will slow down and I will have the strength to enter the next race when it arrives.

Am I in recovery? I’m really not sure if I can ever recover from the situation. I don’t think I can mend the illness or that anyone else can. My mind isn’t broken, although there is definitely something not right with it. Now if we are speaking about recovering from the events that my mental illness has caused my life, I truly hope I’m beginning the path of recovery, or maybe I’ve been on it for a long, long time. I hope I’m on the path, and I really hope that I’m nearing the end of my journey. It has been a terribly long journey, with the path stretching before me, through fields and forests, over rivers and waterways. The destination is on the horizon. Farther than I can see, disappearing on the other side of Lake Michigan, Wisconsin…

The hurt, the loss, the suffering, and oh, yes, humility. Pride is gone, for one must humble themselves to seek the help that may or may not be there. The help that existed on the onset or discovery of the affliction that would walk beside me throughout the rest of my life has disappeared. Long-suffering. I have no choice or no choice acceptable by the common people of this world. So I persevere on this path strewn with barriers.

So no, I am not in recovery, but I am on the path to wellness, working on improving and maintaining my health. Good habits, good nutrition, exercise, fresh air, peace, tranquility, gratitude and communing with nature and all that surrounds me. Faith and Hope, that there is a future where the sun shines and the rain refreshes the earth, and the winds blow, filling my sails, propelling me across the water to a place of contentment. The journey is to be enjoyed on the way towards the destination, but it is difficult, enjoying the barriers, and keeping the destination solidly in front of me.  I invite you to join me in this journey, feel what I feel, see what I see, live with what I live with and without. I invite you to experience it completely. Will you embrace it or will you turn away?
I am searching and working actively on wellness, striving to recover. Not from the illness but from that which I have lost and need to heal from, the pain of the losses. I walk daily with my affliction, either next to me, leading me or as my shadow. Even though my illness is with me always. I am first and foremost a mom, an employee… a neighbor and a member of your community. A very lonely and isolated member, but a member nevertheless. I have a mental illness, but I am not the ILLNESS!