It seemed a strange feeling-to be afraid of recovery. So, I did some research to see if other people with mental illness have ever felt the fear of recovery. And to my surprise-it is a common feeling!
Recovery has been defined by SAMHSA (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration) as “a process of change through which individuals improve their health and wellness, live a self-directed life, and strive to reach their full potential” (SAMHSA, 2011). “Fear of Recovery” by Susan Noonan MD
Lately, I have been picturing myself attending a Catholic retreat this summer, being an active Catholic mom, attending biblical school this fall, eating a diet that is high in protein (No sugary sodas-well-maybe every now and then!), and becoming fit through a very expensive six month personal training package I purchased at my gym.
I picture myself learning Spanish and Hindi, writing some fiction, reading books, blogging, and going to a few writer’s groups this summer while the girls are with their dad. I tend to fall into deep depressions when they are gone for long periods of time. My therapist says the time I spend alone is time that can be spent reinventing myself outside of being a mother. I am trying to focus on that positive aspect instead of feeling the loss of not being needed.
My illness has kept me from participating in the Church. Mass is stressful for me. I feel ecstasy that turns to terror, and I often suffer from intrusive and obsessive thoughts during the service. I avoided mass for two years thinking that I would improve, but I did not. The same symptoms returned when I started attending. I am trying to stick with it. Having a spiritual connection with God through the sacraments is important to me. I have felt lost and alone without them, and I want my girls to experience the love of God through the sacraments as well.
I have been picturing myself being active and healthy for the first time in five years! I recently experienced a deep depression and I am recovering from it; however, I have developed unhealthy habits during the depression that I am now trying to leave behind. For instance, I tend to isolate myself and sit on the couch binge watching television shows and movies. Chores aren’t a reason to be active as I am tired of doing them after years of cleaning and organizing. The last time I cleaned (thoroughly) and organized was last October 2016 during a manic phase. My apartment is due for a deep clean now, and I want to get on top of it, but I feel overwhelmed by it all. I am newly recovering and it may just be too much to tackle all at once. I can break down the organizing and cleaning schedule, but I do need to be committed to actually following through with the plans!
I want to recover, but I’m afraid that I will recover and then my illness will resurface and ruin all that I worked hard to achieve. I’m not sure that I have repetitive resilience to start over again each time I experience a prolonged mood episode.
The blog post on Psychology Today that I quoted above includes questions to ask yourself about recovery. I will post my answers below. Read the article and answer the questions…it might just help you too!
- Identify your fear.
- I am afraid to succeed only to have my illness destroy what I have achieved. And I am afraid that I will not have the resilience needed to try again after each prolonged mood episode I may experience in the future.
- Think about how it makes you feel (afraid, anxious, etc.).
- I feel anxious and afraid; however, I am hopeful that I can achieve a more self-directed future.
- What are the thoughts you have associated with your fear?
- I think about being a failure. I think about being too weak to start again after a prolonged mood episode in the future. I think about letting other people down after they begin to depend on me while I’m well.
- What are the benefits of staying in your old comfort zone?
- I can lie in bed or on the couch and avoid the pain of failure. I can isolate myself to avoid losing important people I may grow to love.
- What are the costs of staying in your old comfort zone?
- My body and my mind grow weak without direct stimulation, and I am missing out on friendships.
- Identify a few small steps to help you confront these feelings and negative thoughts.
- I have confronted the thoughts, researched them, and I am trying to picture myself being successful in all that I attempt while living a life of recovery.
- Identify the support people you need to help you face your fear.
- My Catholic psychologist friend whom I share everything with. My psychiatrist and my therapist and my friends.
- Begin with a few of the small steps you just identified
- I will make a chore and organization chart. I will keep paying on my tuition for the biblical school that begins this fall. I will read books on writing fiction, try to attend a writer’s group, and study Hindi and Spanish. And I will actually cook the food I buy and attend my personal training sessions and fit in workouts on my off-days. I hope I don’t overload myself! I have turned down some volunteer engagements that I found to be stressful in the past-activities that I am passionate about but that would exacerbate my depression.