Monday, 9 June 2014

The First Steps To Recovery

The First Steps to Recovery

Often the hardest part of a mental illness is seeking help. That difficult step, saying 'I am not okay', is also the first move towards recovery. But a diagnosis and a prescription for anti-depressants don't make all of your problems disappear. You cannot suddenly say 'I am okay'. There is no quick fix.

I was diagnosed with 'severe depression' in April 2011. It was a release to have a diagnosis. It was nice to put a name on how I had been feeling. I realised that I was sick; this illness was a part of me, it affected my mood, my personality, but it wasn't WHO I was. I was given the hope that I could get better, I could find happiness in life again.

Following my diagnosis I was sent for counselling. I attended two counselling sessions in my University's Health Centre, but the free service meant a strained waiting list and I was soon lost in the system. Two sessions were not enough to aid my recovery; I had barely touched on the surface of my illness.

But the summer came quickly and I moved back home. Any hope I had gained from my initial diagnosis was lost amid the incessant free time and loneliness I now faced. As I documented in Crafting To Ease The Pain I don't deal well with a lack of structure and alone time. I returned to the same low, hopeless girl I had been just two months before hand. My suicidal ideation reappeared. I felt that I had investigated every option of potential help and they had failed. I was losing the battle against myself. 

While a part of me was vying to give up, another part of me knew that there was a way in which I could pull through. There was one solution that I hadn't properly tried yet - Counselling. In early September I made the decision to call the Health Centre and make an appointment to go back to counselling. The difference was that this time I didn't need somebody else to save me; I didn't wait for someone else to tell me to go seek help. I found the strength to save myself. 

I had a new Counselor this time around, and we clicked. While I still struggled with the decision to drop out of my course that September, I was exploring my illness in a way that I hadn't before and I was beginning to make progress. For two months we would talk through my week together and rate my mood on a scale. I came to realise my Depression was shaped by my environment; by circumstance. Slowly, with his help, I began to recognise my triggers. But a large part of the battle was still my own to fight.

In November 2011 I stumbled across the most crucial part of my recovery. I became involved in Mental Health activism through a Mental Health Awareness Week in my University. That one event became two, three and grew to where I am today; a national Ambassador with See Change. It helped me to fight my personal battle; giving me a better understanding of my illness and what I was dealing with, but most importantly it gave me a purpose. At outreach events I was able to inform people about mental health and mental illness, and people started to open up to me about their experiences. I was able to make new and understanding friends. These like minded people became my teammates, my friends, my support group. And I became a fighter in the cause.

My Depression became something more than just 'My' battle. It empowered me to be a change in my community, and more recently nationally. 

There is no quick fix. Through a mix of these things; my Diagnosis, Anti-Depressants, Counselling and just generally being more active, and over time I found myself. By May 2012 I was able to start saying, 'I am okay'. And I am. I'm okay. 
'I'm okay. Even when I'm making THAT face.'

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