I visualise my mental health recovery as a craggy mountain that needs conquering. I have to take on the qualities of the mountain goat in order to scale the dizzy heights and not fall down or break a leg. Assessing your journey is tricky. If you look down, you can see how far you have come up. The view is reasonably good and you can be fooled into thinking you have travelled far enough. If you are constantly looking up, the summit looks so far away that the climb appears impossible and you want to sit down and cease to continue.
Focusing on the moment in hand and keeping it the day for me is the only way to manage. And I have to test myself out to see how well I am doing. Living in the depressed head is like residing in a bubble of isolated sickness. Reaching out and communicating is incredibly hard. So when wellness creeps in, you can start to move backwards and forwards across the invisible barriers that have been separating you from the world. You can step out, dip your toe in the water and see what happens.
I can assess my wellness on a sliding scale of 1-10. 1 is under a bus. 10 is floating on the cloud of candyfloss with cherubs of joy floating around my head. I don't think I have ever reached 10 and on reflection, if I did, I might be a bit worried! But seriously, at certain times in my recovery, things start to feel easier. Physical changes like not needing to sleep constantly because everything is exhausting. Having energy after a year of forcing yourself to do even the most basic tasks and eating meals that actually taste of something. Laughing and actually connecting to the feeling of happiness that is attached to it. Not that hollow caricature laugh that comes out of my mouth like a Pavlovian response to comedy as the "Appropriate" response. Being able to look someone in the eye. The tap of emotions comes back on too, but it feels like whoever is in control of the flow isn't quite sure at what speed the feelings are meant to be flowing. They come out in huge splashes all together and it gets messy and confusing or you get the wrong feeling in the wrong situation. The little emotion minions in my head get their memos confused and send the wrong response to the wrong situation. "Yes, he died suddenly". Small outburst of laughter. WTF. When a child begins to walk, they have speed and basic technique, but no direction, cannot stop and bump into stuff all the time. It would be amusing but it's also quite frightening. This is how my emotions work.
Also I check out my social situation resilience. Being in large social situations can be hideously overwhelming. You feel stripped naked and totally vulnerable.It's emotionally and physically loud. Everyone else appears to be totally unself-conscious, in the moment, able to speak without thinking it through in total scenario form before speaking and generally happy. Being in amongst that is hard enough, but then you have to try and join in it's like standing on the 10 metre board, thinking about jumping and knowing that your swimming capability is limited. I tend to look like a rabbit caught in headlights. Thankfully most people get a bit drunk and generally don't give a monkeys about whether or not you are in a self obsessed freak out zone, or chatting about the food shop. My strategy for coping is this. Regular toilet breaks for breathing and refocusing. Reminding myself that it's OK to struggle and it's normal to find it a bit tough. Being selective about who I talk to. Toxic people in this frame of mind are bad news. AVOID. Listen lots and speak little. Leave if it gets too difficult. I will not miss anything of great importance by going home to bed.
It's funny as people do start to realise you are on a mental shift. I realised this when I went on a football tournament earlier in the year. I think I must have spent a large period of the season in relative silence. Standing on the sidelines I made a few sarcastic and rather caustic comments about a parent of another team, at which point people looked at me in shock and horror, as though the corner flag had suddenly spoken.
Recovery at this point is precarious. Returning to work, a really bad idea I found out.