road to recovery 1

Why recovery is not just a straight road…

February 9th 2017

When does recovery start?

For me personally recovery starts when you take the first step, no matter how small it is, to get the help you need. This could be telling a friend, family member or teacher that you are struggling and need help. This could be going to a doctor and explaining that you feel something is not right. Or even just admitting to yourself that you are not okay but reminding yourself it’s okay to not be okay.

Recovery isn’t a easy process. It firstly requires you to want to change. I remember in one of my first group therapy sessions they showed us this diagram of recovery, illustrating different stages which you are likely to and is completely normal for you to go through during the recovery process. I remember looking at the first stage, of the diagram about not wanting to change, I was puzzled.

I couldn’t understand why people wouldn’t want to change. Then I realised that In fact I was in that stage. As much as I hated what I was going through (at this point I was very bad) I was too caught up in the intrusive thoughts to realise what I was doing was wrong. My brain was lying to me and I was believing it. I didn’t really want to change. Deep down I did but that was very very deep down. My OCD was in control.

People think recovery from any mental illness is a straight road.  It’s not. It’s more of a ride on a roller coaster. There’s ups, downs, stagnate parts, gentle drops, gradual increases and parts which fill you with so much dread and anxiety, you think you are going to be sick. OCD is no different.

OCD is so hard to recover from because the compulsions you have built up to relieve the anxiety have become habits. Habits are hard to break. Whether you have OCD or not, you probably have tried to drink less, stop smoking or stop bitting your nails at some point in your life and you know how hard that was. Breaking habits takes an enormous amount of effort. For OCD sufferers these compulsions are fuelled by intense anxiety and fear thus making them even more difficult to break.

We know what we are doing doesn’t make sense. But when you have this bellowing voice in your head all the time telling you all the bad things that will happen if you don’t obey, you do it. It’s really like living with an abusive partner. Being a slave to your own mind. The compulsions are so Ingrained in your mind, you start to believe what you are doing is right and not deviant from the norm.

It takes a lot and I mean a lot of courage to say no. To stand up to the bully in your head, telling you what your doing is right and okay. You have to be incredibly and brave to say enough is enough and do something to change. But it can be done. It just takes time.

Once you have accepted that you want to change and have made those first steps on the recovery path. The next step is recognising that recovery takes time. A very long time. It can be easy to want to change over night or within a few weeks, but realistically it just doesn’t work that way. I’ve fallen into the trap before of taking on things which are too much for me. Not recognising that I’m only starting out with recovery yet I think I’m ready to start doing things which are way out of my comfort zone.

Although on paper, this may not sound too bad in reality, it really is. When you push yourself too far you regress. You can’t keep it up because it pushes you far beyond what you’re comfortable with. Instead recovery is all about making those little steps. Instead of diving in the deep end, when you can’t actually swim by starting of at the shallow end, you’re more likely to build your confidence up with small little steps, in contrast to diving in the deep end, not being able to cope and going backwards in recovery.

The problem is with taking small little steps is that it makes recovery last a very long time. Like months or even years. It drags it out. When you are caught up in the mercy of OCD you want to get better quickly. You want there to be a quick fix. A magic potion if you like. Unfortunately, this doesn’t exist. Recovery takes time, will power and motivation. Staying with it can be very hard. Recovery is hard. Challenging those thoughts and behaviours which you’ve been obeying for months potentially years is not going to happen overnight.

And there’s the set backs. In recovery there is going to be set backs. Life is unpredictable. This is why recovery can never be a straight road. You could be doing great. Making really big steps. Challenging those thoughts and compulsions. Doing things you never expected you would do. Faking it when you had to and suddenly life can knock you right off your track. Putting you back to square one. This is normal and a common part of recovery.

But these extra challenges only make you stronger, braver and more able to achieve what you want to. It can be hard to see it sometimes, all the steps you’ve made to get yourself where you are today but trust me you have achieved a lot. Life begins when you leave your comfort zone.

You don’t have to live with OCD for the rest of your life. It doesn’t have to ruin and rule the rest of your life. There’s a whole world out there, waiting to be discovered and explored, away from OCD. It’s waiting for you. It all starts with that first little step of recovery.

Recovery; a process which starts with a small act of acceptance but is made up of pain, suffering, happiness, achievements, set backs, learning but is truly, truly worth it.

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