The other day I wrote myself a kind of mantra about recovery:
Some days in recovery aren’t easy. Sometimes you might feel like the world is surely about to end, you can’t face getting out of bed and it feels impossibly hard. This is where true recovery is born, where you find the resilience to keep going when it feels hard. Remember that your head may well be selling you the idea of relapse as a positive… like it might make you feel better right now… you even get that kind of homesick feeling for a time when you were poorly. But the reality is that even the way you’re feeling right now, is better than the good days of being unwell. Keep strong and keep fighting!
As a student, recovering from a mental health problem can at times feel like a huge challenge. Or course it’s not restricted to students… it applies to anyone who is doing ‘life stuff’ at the same time whether it’s working, studying, looking after a family… anything that divides your attention. Recovering from any mental health problem can often feel like a full time job that requires a lot of attention, but our reasons to recover are the ‘life stuff’, so we tread this fine line between focusing enough time on each area. I guess it’s that classic plate spinning game; the focus needs to be enough in each area to keep the plates up but actually it’s not the end of the world if occasionally something slips or drops.
I had a couple of flat days recently where I was ok… but finding the extra energy I needed to be up and out of the house early just felt too much. It was a better option to have a quieter and easier start and think about the work I could do from home until I built up my resources again. I felt guilty for missing a couple of bits of contact time and teetered on the edge of beating myself up for being a bit of a failure etc. (all the negativity my brain wanted to feed me!). When I took a step back and thought about it though… it was ok for me to be taking a personal day to boost myself up. The reality was that I worked better, slept better and generally felt better afterwards. It was what I needed and had it been a ‘work’ day, I might have booked it off to allow myself that space to rest my brain.
University can feel a little unwieldy at accommodating mental health at times. The holidays come at their prescribed times, rather than when you might most benefit from a day or two off. Another way to look at it is to think about what you would do if you have a stomach bug! I’m fairly certain you wouldn’t force yourself to attend all of your contact time regardless of what your body was doing? I’m pretty sure you wouldn’t just think you need to ‘man up’ and battle through. You would take a day off to get back to strength and then head back ready to face to world!
At the weekend I spent a day exploring Fountains Abbey in Yorkshire with one of my loveliest friends. I didn’t do any Uni work that day, but felt refreshed and better able to tackle it because I’d had such a lovely day.
Taking the personal time to just reset is such a great form of self care, perhaps we should think about it more as a necessary task rather than a luxury. Recovery can fit in with life and it’s totally possible to juggle things so you can focus enough on each, but there will undoubtedly come times when it’s slips for a moment. The balance may not be quite right, but it’s totally ok to take a moment to regroup ready to get to it again!