My recovery journey, quite bluntly, has been a rather hideous uphill struggle. I have juggled work and kids, the demands of a marriage, church commitments, a huge variety of medications, psychiatrists, side effects and patches of suicidal thinking. I had my driving licence taken off of me for 6 months. I have had brief moments where I have considered giving up completely, but by grace and some very deep seated will to live, I have carried on. And yes someone did explain to me how to pop your eye out with a spoon.
Thankfully, I am made of grit and determination, (So not sugar and spice and all things nice I can tell you!) and to be truthful, I'll be damned if I let the rapacious nature of my illness get the better of me. I won't give it the smug satisfaction.
And then, Like Mr. Benn, something magical happens and you pass through the back door of the mental illness shop, and find yourself in the garden of wellness. You do recognise the garden, it has a very familiar feel but you haven't been in it for such a long time you wonder if you are dreaming. It is bitter sweet moment as you fondly remember this place where everything is so perfect and simple, but the sense of loss and grief at the amount of time you have been away takes your breath away.
The place of wellness is precarious. I often feel that I am standing on the mountain peak and I can see the entirety of my recovery journey. I have to preserve this moment at all costs. You cannot comprehend how glorious being free actually feels. But my illness is notoriously unpredictable and marred by fairly regular relapses into darkness. The flip side of this time of normality is that when I feel really good, the "Am I manic?" paranoia kicks in. Am I too happy? Am I too fast? Am I over excitable? Will people think I am manic if I express joy and energy?
What I realise is that feeling well is quite unusual for me and there is a part of me that wants to run around telling people that I feel OK. The other part of me can't believe my luck. I can't predict if I will stay well for a long time, or have a dodgy patch, or go off like a sky rocket into mania space. What I can trust is that if I keep doing what keeps me on top of things, I am in with a good chance of being reasonably OK.
Lastly, recognising the state of being in wellness, is a real benchmark of how far you have travelled upward from the pit of despair. Hindsight, that beautiful reflective tool, helps us to turn around and peak over our shoulder to look back, even when we are a little scared to see. It's at times like these that I get a profound sense of how much of my true self can get misplaced in my periods of deep depression. It's almost like when I am ill, I am only coloured in with the primary colours, in very small patches with bits of grey and black. When I reach wellness, the edges of colour bleed together and I am totally filled in with a mass of hues, blends and patterns. I reach the fullness of my human spirit.
Feeling well and having the energy and motivation to do really ordinary stuff is totally awesome. I smile at you from the inside. Cleaning the bathroom is fun because I don't cry at the thought of trying to change the towels and if I actually complete the whole task, I don't need to sleep for 3 hours. Breathing is not an effort. I bake and am overwhelmed by joy when the choux pasty rises up in angelic little puff balls. There is a glorious sweetness in the very small moments that link together to make up a whole day free of despondency and desolation. I no longer feel like a raging forest fire has torn through my soul and burnt to shreds all meaning and hope.
Depression is a thief. It steals the deepest and most beautiful parts of you, and threatens not to return them. Wellness is a cool oasis of joy and peace, free from fear where I am connected to the world and to you. I think I'll try and hang on to that for as long as possible.
Oh yes, and Mr. Benn gave me this outfit!!