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Progress is not Linear

Sometimes I forget that progress is not linear. I think that once I take a few steps forward I have moved out of the darkness and will never go back again. Unfortunately, that is just not how life, and especially recovery works.

A couple of weeks ago I had one of the best weeks I have had in a long time. I was so excited and so relieved that things were finally coming together. I was so proud of myself for working so hard, and so grateful that finally I was moving forward. Even my friends and family noticed. I got so many Facebook messages, and texts, and calls congratulating me and wanting to get together with me. It felt amazing. I was finally back to my old life! But then things got more difficult.

I took on too many challenges at once and started to become really overwhelmed. I set goals that were too large and felt so angry at myself that I couldn’t achieve them. It was difficult to remember all the amazing achievements I had in the last few weeks. All I could see were the downturns of this week. Plus, I caught a cold, and wouldn’t let myself rest and so it turned into a sinus infection…and then acute bronchitis. This is especially problematic because it meant I had to go on steroids so it wouldn’t continue to get worse, and steroids do not go well with my body or my mental illness AT ALL.

I was so embarrassed. I didn’t want to tell anyone. They were all so proud of me, I didn’t want to let them down. I started adopting back many of my negative coping skills just to get through. I didn’t tell my counselor everything that was going on…I didn’t really tell anyone EVERYTHING that was going on. I was so ashamed. And the problems just kept getting more and more difficult to get through. For one of the first times, I was not authentic, I continued to post as if everything was fine and wonderful when it really was not.

But then I remembered, I am a voice of mental illness, and mental illness doesn’t get “fixed.’ There’s no cure, I’m going to live with it for the rest of my life. Although I have a ton of incredible coping skills and an amazing support team, sometimes I will make a poor choice…or several…and that’s okay. The important thing is to get back on the horse and keep fighting. All the people I was worried about letting down are people that love me and know me well.

The truth is, to have me in your life you have to be flexible. You need to realize that there are going to be good days and bad days, and sometimes I won’t know until the very last minute. That sometimes we will go out to have fun and I will burst into tears. That even though I love spending time with you I will likely have to take an anxiety pill just to go through it. That I LOVE being with my friends and family, but I am absolutely terrified of it as well.

And you know what? I’m not alone. Lots of people with mental illness no exactly how I feel. The best way you can support them is to let them know that you are an ally, and not get frustrated when they need to advocate for themselves. And for the people out there just like me, don’t feel embarrassed to be who you are. Those who love you will always be with you, and it’s okay to have a bad day…or 17. 😊 Liz

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