Saturday, December 26, 2015

So What Happens to People After Treatment?? Are They Cured?

This might be a question some of you have asked of this blog or of those you know who received treatment for mental health problems. "Where did she go?" "Is she OK?" "Maybe she's cured and has nothing to talk about any more?" For those of you visiting this blog for the first time, I've chronicled my journey to wellness here, so I invite you to start at the beginning if you or someone you love struggles.

Well, I'm still here, have't really gone anywhere except for Greece and Italy which was AMAZING!!! I'm ok, but I'm certainly not cured!! I wish!! Or do I...

Since leaving the PTSR treatment program at the Homewood in May 2013, a lot has happened. I made a gradual return to full time work over a period of twelve months, I've traveled to far away places for the first time in my life and alone on one particular occasion! Along with my regular day job, I've dabbled in some entrepreneurial work which I continue to develop, I've given talks about transitioning from treatment back into the real world, I've served on committees for mental health in the workplace, and I continue to see my psychiatrist every three months, and I continue to have really bad days and short periods where I fear I may be sinking into darkness again, so am I cured? Absolutely not!! But I am coping well and enjoying a content and balanced life for the most part, but not without a great deal of effort.

My depression over the last couple of months has been mild to moderate on an almost daily basis which creates problems with motivation. Sometimes I feel like working out at the gym or going to yoga which are essential to my treatment and progress and sometimes I don't. I have to exercise compassion for myself while also holding myself accountable, it's a fine line. My lack of motivation and difficulty focusing spills over into my work as well sometimes making me feel inept or "less than"again requiring me to be gentle with myself. Sometimes I need to force myself to go to the gym or do work, and it isn't easy, but I always feel proud of myself after I've done what I didn't have any desire or energy to do earlier.

I also witnessed a horribly fatal car accident this past week where I was witness to a transport truck colliding with an oncoming vehicle killing the driver and orphaning her 11 year old son. Having received treatment for PTSD, I find myself now sorting through the intrusive memories from this event as well as the numbness that accompanies witnessing such a senseless tragedy. I have moments of rage when I hear others complain about the stress of the holidays or who didn't give them what for Christmas, and I expect this will continue for a period of time until I learn to once again employ the tools I was taught to help process this very intense and triggering experience. I also find myself getting angry for having to deal with all these issues all over again!! I did this already!! I spent a great deal of time and energy doing this two years ago, and I don't want to have to do it again! But I do have to do it again, and I expect this most likely will not be the last time I have to do it again, but unlike two years ago, I now understand what happens to the human brain during a trauma like this, and I also know what I need to do to self nurture and promote my own healing.

So what happens to people after treatment?? I suppose one of two things.... sadly, I think some either fall back into being a victim of their illness, criticizing themselves for not doing better or being better and perpetuating the cycle of shame that comes with a diagnosis of mental illness, and relying on old ineffective habits to cope simply because they're easier and more familiar.  Or they work every day, to use those healthy coping tools to make progress, and to learn to enjoy a happy and fulfilled life; they learn to take risks again and to push their own personal expectations so that they can experience more than they're experienced in the past, and we do all of it knowing that any day, something can happen, a neurological imbalance can occur, a medication can stop working, or a tragic life event can side swipe us back into darkness, but we mustn't stop working to be well. None of us, mental health diagnosis or not, must ever stop trying to be the best version of ourselves we can be.

To all of you out there, I hope 2016 brings many opportunities for you to grow and experience the beauty of life and living, and to feel the love the lives inside of each of us!! Happy New Year!!