Nearly three months ago, I found myself quietly celebrating an anniversary that very few people knew about. I really didn’t want to give it too much attention to be honest. I wanted to avoid triggering thoughts that would take me back to those moments when life wasn’t so great. However, as I sat with my computer I began to remember and I actually smiled.
Prior to 2016, I had lived with family members for over 7 years. After being hospitalized for my mental health condition, I was unable to maintain consistent employment, provide for my daughter, or live alone. It was challenging to find the right combination of medication, self-care techniques, social supports, faith guidance, and therapeutic connections that would allow me to regain my self-sufficiency. In addition, I lived in constant fear of failing.
I felt as if I had lost so much of myself that I questioned my ability to pull my life back together. How could I work and live on my own? I felt professionally crippled by this disease. I feared rejection by other mental health professionals. I feared being viewed as lacking the capacity to serve others. I doubted myself. I wondered about being triggered, my ability to engage people, and what would happen if anyone found out about my illness. Regardless of how many times I spoke openly about it, the fear that I would be treated differently lingered.
In my attempt to move beyond this, I had to learn how to manage my life in spite of my fears. Recovery became an ongoing process of discovering what worked for what situations during any given moment. Moreover, I had to recognize how my condition affected the way I lived.
As a former therapist, I experienced assisting others on their wellness journeys. As an individual with lived experience, I needed to obtain the courage to focus on my own. In doing so, I had to redefine my identity within the field of mental health. I discovered that practicing in certain areas of the field no longer suited me. I processed through the shame and embarrassment, then found a healthier way to reconnect to the work I loved.
My road to mental wellness also involved developing new social connections. Online communities played a vital role in assisting me in increasing my social interaction. Through various social media platforms, I conversed with women and men across the country. Some individuals managed mental health conditions and some did not. Regardless, I developed relationships that helped me expand my network of people who I could reach out to for support. There were people who never met me who were willing to help walk with me through some of the more challenging moments in life. This became essential during the times I felt like a burden to people closest to me. These opportunities became life lines and assisted me as I regained my strength and made advancements toward self-sufficiency.
Fast forward to now, I still navigate through a maze of doctors, medication increases, and therapy appointments. Some days are a real struggle. My mind can race a thousand miles per minute. And I have to be mindful of how much of something is too much all the time. In spite of all this, I manage to get up most days, get dressed, and go to work. Sometimes I have no clue how it gets done, but it gets done.
I no longer ask why life chose this path for me. I never found an answer anyway. What I did find was I could do all the things I feared would never happen. In fact, as I type this I am in my apartment… MY APARTMENT! I have resided here for over a year. For the first time since 2009, I am living on my own and self-sufficient. I guess it might not be a big deal for some but for me it meant everything. I made it to the place I wanted to be for so long. I finally made the long journey home.