*imagine this said in a low voice* Why hello there, friends.
Welcome to the latest edition of Recovery to Wellness’ awesomeness featuring teachable moments everrrrr! *applause is heard from the back of the theater*
This is the first of many teachable moment posts that I’ll be sharing with you all here on this lovely blog front of ours. 😀 This is also about two weeks later than I said I’d have it up so hooray to finally being here right now!!
Today’s teachable moment comes in the form of art therapy. I just added to the title–SERIES! Because this series will feature all the art therapy work I did in my second hospitalization at WWL. What that stands for, you’ll never know! Unless you read my DA posts, buahahaha. It’s just an acronym for the place I was at 😉
Any who, there was a lot of art therapy done during my second hospitalization and the aim of this series will be to share what I made and what value it had for me then as well as to now. 🙂 I’m hopeful that this process of sharing my experiences and my notes and my artwork will remind you of how recovery IS a journey and IS a process and I didn’t wind up where I am now in recovery out of the blue. It took time and it STILL takes time. And that’s okay. I’ll also share some of those ideas I mentioned cooking in my last post in the NEXT post. All of the foreshadowing, buahaha!
Any who, let’s get down to the meat of it!!! Here is our first art therapy teachable moment, (which is super fitting for how we get started on the road to recovery):
What is ‘Recovery’ and what is ‘Wellness’? Two VERY good questions for the name of this blog!
The prompt we had for this piece was defining (on one side) what recovery and wellness meant to us. And on the other side of the paper, to create what was blocking us from achieving that wellness or that recovery and how we can work through that wall.
So, at this point in time, on March 11 2015, I described my definition of Recovery as:
“Living alongside mental illness. Not letting OCD or depression overtake me.”
If I take a moment NOW, June 24th 2016, to define Recovery I would say:
“Recovery is living alongside mental health issues. It’s about dreaming big and not letting the OCD overtake me, and instead telling it to fuck off and punch it in the face for trying to. It means taking back my life and working towards a better tomorrow. (And trusting in that process).”
Overall, both are pretty similar. I don’t really like the term ‘mental illness’ personally, so I tend to say ‘mental health issues’ nowadays, myself. Everybody has different terminology they’re okay with, just like we all have different positive coping mechanisms that work for us or different definitions of recovery. Maybe someone’s definition of recovery is learning to manage their depression and take mental health days when they are struggling more. Or maybe someone’s definition is that they don’t think recovery truly exists and haven’t found what they’re working towards yet. It’s all different.
It’s actually pretty neat that I used the term ‘living alongside’ back in 2015. That, later on, became a huge part of my recovery definition and what I strived for. Not so much eradicating the OCD or the depression, just striving to live alongside it, side by side. Or me in the front mostly with them tagging behind. I’m sure there’s some dance involved.
I also think my current definition of Recovery is a work in progress. It’s something that if I truly thought about more, I could change and add more phrases to it or edit out other ones. That is a good project for me for the future with those ideas I’m cooking up all nice and tenderly. 😉
Question time: What is YOUR definition of recovery? Or, if you don’t have mental health issues, what is your definition of a happy, fulfilled life?
Back in 2015 I described Wellness as:
Taking life as it comes.
Falling down and standing taller again
Having hope and happiness
Having support and socializing.
In 2016 I would describe Wellness as….
Wellness is being capable of managing mental health issues in a positive and effective manner. It means balancing the good days with the tough days, and recognizing that both can exist and both will fade away in time. I like the idea of wellness having hope and happiness and positivity, too.
It’s interesting to see I wrote ‘stability’ there, as that’s a value I strive for but have yet to properly attain or balance out. I hope you guys find this interesting, too!!
Question Time: How do you define wellness/health in your life?
Now, onto the other side!
In 2015, my wall to Recovery involved this:
The cyclic nature of the OCD, some bricks of OCD repetitively mentioned, a brick of intrusive/obsessive thoughts and images, the Depression Dude, the haze of depression blocking out the sun, and two text boxes saying:
No to coping. Let the crisis come. Immobile. Don’t cope. Don’t listen to true self.
In response to these last two boxes, I wrote how I could get through those bricks by:
Choosing to cope, acting on thoughts in line WITH my values. That thoughts are just thoughts. I control my actions. I can choose to be kind to myself, to care for me, and to work on overcoming these cyclic darkness’.
The very interesting thing about looking back on this first teachable moment, is that I’m finding so much of what is the foundation of my recovery journey, here, in these little snippets of hope and words. It will likely take time for your recovery journey to fly into the heavens, however, I encourage you to look out for the signs of when your adding to your recovery journey and pulling away from the depression or the OCD or the schizophrenia or whatever it is that ails you. It’s so often in life that the big scale movements we manage, began with small scale seedlings dropped here and there months prior. That’s at least, what I’m learning and what I hope you are also seeing from this post thus far.
For instance, I recognized a year ago that I controlled my own actions. That I was making a choice between coping positively or coping negatively. Was that easy? Fuck no. Yet, it’s crucial. When I was at the OCD-I, I was reminded that I always have a choice. Even now, when I’m residing on Struggle Lane, I recognize on some level that I have a choice. It’s my choice whether I choose to act on an OCD thought or choose to act in line with my recovery. Choices are decisions about to be made, and then acted upon. This morning I was contemplating choosing the OCD over my recovery. Now? It’s the opposite. Things change.
I also like that I spoke about self-love here, too. I was telling my therapist yesterday how I got a tough question at my last NAMI presentation on an inpatient unit from someone who was struggling to see why they had to stop cutting because it wasn’t hurting anyone else and was seemingly helping them. I explained a couple of times that in my own recovery, I had questioned that too, but came upon the idea that I didn’t have to choose laying more physical pain over my emotional pain. Instead, I wanted to care for myself and give myself love and kindness rather than hate and spite.
And for the “Cope Now” part, I still use that to this day. Back when I was really struggling in 2015, I had a habit of telling myself I’d cope LATER and act on a thought now. Definitely it needed to be the other way around!! So once when I went to a crisis appointment at school, the therapist there suggested I make some kind of phone notification to tell me to ‘Cope Now’. From then on, ‘Cope NOW’ became my 4:00p reminder. It still is, now.
I even added a ‘Cope NOW’ to 12:00p over this past spring, probably even in May, when I had more free time and needed the reminder. So, that’s still something I use in my recovery even to this day.
The next bit in purple reads:
“I can clear the sky by voluntary movement. I can’t control my thoughts and that’s okay because I don’t need to. I can choose to step back from the ledge and tell someone and cope. ‘My’ OCD, ‘My’ depression will not control me. I am more than their abstract powers.”
So much for them not controlling me with all that MY ownership flinging around! Lmao. I didn’t know better, yet. 😉
It is true though, voluntary movement, my actions, those are things I can control. If I don’t like where the OCD is heading in my brain, with its chatterbox of a mouth mucking around in my brain meninges, than I can change the story line by moving and getting up and doing something else. The OCD may control my brain, yet I control my movement. I mean, technically the brain controls that too but for the metaphor, man, for the metaphor!
Trying to control your thoughts is like trying to catch smoke. Actually, that reminds me of something I was told once in my third hospitalization and subsequent partial. Because you can’t catch smoke, it’s important to write the thoughts down on paper, so when you go back to your treatment provider, you can share with them those raw unfiltered thoughts and come up with come-backs to the thoughts to utilize for the next time the thoughts come back up.
A person’s thoughts are plainly just thoughts. Just as easily as you can think up OCD’s worst case scenarios, you can create five-eyed creatures or unicorns shitting rainbows. Of course, with OCD, the problem is getting stuck in those loops of thoughts and thinking that if you can just (sorry for the ‘you’ statement) stop the thought or stop the anxiety than everything would be all right.
But, you can’t stop your thoughts. And the more you try to, the more unpleasant your experience will become. Because the problem is NOT the thoughts, it’s the compulsions, the behavior either mental or physical that you’re engaging in to combat the anxiety created by those thoughts. That’s where exposure and response prevention treatment comes into play.
You have to confront your worst fears (gradually, of course) without doing the compulsions so that you can learn that the anxiety will naturally come down on its own and, really, you don’t have to act on any thought to make it end.
That’s what was so liberating in my experience at the OCD-I. That despite whatever emotion or thought I was feeling, I did not HAVE to act on those thoughts. I could just do whatever the hell it is I wanted. That’s awesome!
Again, easy? Fuck no. Worth it? Fuck yes.
One of the things I can tell from this art therapy is that I was way ahead from the get-go with my treatment and recovery journey. I’m lucky that when the OCD truly formed and could be seen as OCD from the outside, that I got help for it right away and even with ups and downs I was getting help for it all along. I didn’t always choose the right behaviors, I didn’t always look out for myself in a good way, but I was in treatment through the worst of it. I was asking for help through the worst of it. I was GETTING help through the worst of it.
I can’t relate to people who have suffered from their OCD for years before getting treatment, as I began my treatment when the OCD really kicked up a few notches. Maybe, just maybe, that explains the losses and gains I’ve made in my journey thus far.
The last box reads as such:
“I challenge myself to take this into account and recognize when I am appropriately doing so. It’s why I’m still here.”
I think that last statement is still really important. Just as I’ve been told in my experiences before, there must have been some part of me that wanted to live otherwise I wouldn’t still be alive.
It’s one thing to cope effectively and another to give yourself the appropriate credit for doing so.
For now, I’d like to say: Damn, Raquel, you’re doing one hell of a good job. This shit isn’t easy and you’ve seen that come and pass. Just remember that feelings are temporary and there are people out there who support you and who want you to get better. They’re only one phone call away, when you need them.
Remind yourself of what you have to live for. Become your inner tree soul and root yourself to the ground. I use that technique even now. If I plan to give a speech on X future day, that means I’ve got to be alive to be there for that speech. That means no acting on thoughts of suicide between now and then.
If I’ve made it a week clean from scratching myself, and have someone to answer to who will ask about it, then that means I have to stay clean until I can tell them I made it X amount of time. And so on and so forth.
So, look, this post has gotten long. I hope you’ve stayed in with your brains intact throughout it. I hope it’s been helpful of some kind to you. I’d love to hear your feedback on structuring these out in the future and how helpful this was for you.
My goal for these is to plant the seedling in your brains, too, like it was planted in mine. Or, even if it’s just popping a seedling down on your plot of soil, the little thing resting on the top for a while, well, that’s a success to me, too. Again, a lot of these will be directed at OCD sufferers most, yet you can stretch out some general concepts to apply to other issues, mental health or otherwise.
Also, these are just my experiences and I’m not a mental health professional *cough yet cough*. If anything, you can raise your questions to your own treatment team and speak it out with them, god knows I’ve done that enough times from my explorations on the Interwebs. 😉
Hope you enjoyed!! Until the next post….which may happen soon as well! 🙂 (this was my ‘break’ after all).
Stay safe and recover faster! 😉 XD