For the last year or so, I have been doing a lot of work to process my childhood trauma. I've been in therapy, I've been taking psychiatric medication, I've been doing outside reading, and my therapist and I even found a way to work one of my favorite TV shows into my trauma work. In general, I think it's going really well, except for one problem: parenting. I don't know how to avoid causing my son the same trauma that happened to me.
Limitations in mental health recovery are real; but lately, I've been doing everything in my power to ignore my increasingly obvious limitations. I just don't want to be mentally ill anymore. I want it to go away so I can read and write and be a good wife and mother without a herculean effort. Even though I've been in recovery for years now, part of me still believes that if I just ignore my limitations and shame myself for having them in the first place, I'll be able to just breeze past them. Every time, this leads to a complete meltdown that forces me to honor my limitations, so you'd think I would know better by now, but here I am again, in meltdown mode.
When I first read online that once I started really digging in to my recovery, things would get worse before they got better, I thought I understood. I thought it meant that acknowledging my pain would cause me more pain at first, but then it would heal and I would be "better." I knew that was a naive way of looking at things, but I still believed that would generally be the process. Boy, was I wrong.
Countless times, people have told me that a person can only start to heal if they are ready to do the work themselves. They can't be forced into improving their lives. Despite hearing this message over and over, part of me really thought I could convince other people to heal and "get better" if I just said and did the right thing. This probably comes from a history of being responsible for co-regulating my parents' emotions. I grew up having to say and do the right thing to maintain my worth, and for a long time, that felt normal.
Behavioral change isn't the only change needed in recovery from mental illness, but it is a key part of feeling better and living the life you want to live. But it is so incredibly hard. I recently had a frustrating, but productive, conversation with my therapist about how I need to start making behavioral changes if I want to keep improving my mental health, and the reason it was so frustrating is because I have never known how to change my behavior.
If you've never heard of the term "time-blindness," you aren't alone. I've been researching and writing about mental health for nearly 10 years, and I only heard the term last year, even though it is a major problem for a lot of people, especially those with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Typically on this blog, I talk about how I am recovering from depression and anxiety, but I have strongly identified with the symptoms of ADHD for a few years now, ever since I started reading resources on what ADHD looks like in girls and adults. Once this pandemic is over, I plan on being professionally evaluated to see if I actually have ADHD or if my ADHD symptoms are connected to something else. Regardless of a diagnosis, I definitely experience time-blindness, and it makes life in general difficult, but it can also create big problems for my mental health.
I've been in recovery from mental illness for several years now because recovery is a slow, and often lifelong, process. There are many aspects of recovery that I have a pretty good handle on at this point, like opening up in therapy and sharing my experiences with others to make all of us feel a little less alone, but one part that still throws me for a loop every time is the "random" breakdowns in mental health recovery.
Making therapy goals is an important part of recovering from mental illness and getting the most out of your therapy experience; but, for a long time, my goals were pretty simple. I just wanted to improve my functioning and reduce my mental illness symptoms. It took a long time and a lot of work, but I'm finally in a place where my functioning level works for my life, and my symptoms of anxiety and depression only pop up every now and again rather than all day, every day. This means now I need to set new therapy goals.
Therapy homework differs for each therapist and each client, and many therapists don't do therapy homework at all, which begs the question: does it actually help? I've had several different therapists over the years, and only one or two of them have ever given me therapy homework. Some of my friends in therapy have lots of homework, and I always wondered if my therapists were doing something wrong by not giving me things to do outside of sessions. Now that I've had one or two therapists who do give homework, I think I understand some of the benefits and problems with therapy homework.
Usually, anything that helps with my depression feels like a pure blessing from above, but I have some fears about how much having a baby has helped my depression. I've found that my baby can incentivize me to get out of bed even on horrible days where, without a baby, I would have been stuck in bed all day long.