I finally addressed the elephant in the room last week. I could no longer put down all my anxiety to having recently started voluntary work. I realised and admitted to myself that a lot of things I have been doing of late although all signs of recovery and establishing “A life worth living” as the DBT parlance goes, have been contributing to the high levels of anxiety I am experiencing on a daily basis.
What I’ve been doing doesn’t seem much, and isn’t compared to my life before being consumed by the world of psychiatry, (and yes, I am working on the judgments and attitudes I have surrounding this) but it is definitely contributing to my anxiety. I’m studying, working 1 day a week at the Citizens Advice Bureau, attending to relationships I had been neglecting, putting myself out there a little more and even helping lead the DBT skills group. It’s a massive step from being a full-time psychiatric patient.
The anxiety this provokes has caused me a lot of shame to be honest. I’m anxious because things are improving for me and that means leaving the safety of being unwell. I hadn’t realised that I’d become safe being a patient and I feel shame because of this. I frequently have judgments about people who I see as well enough to be getting back out there in the real world, regaining control and a life. This isn’t because I am being mean but because I care and want them to have a better life, one of meaning – I’ve always struggled when seeing others suffer. I now have more of an understanding and perhaps compassion towards them in this regard. Developing a life worth living involves getting out of your comfort zone, having to deal with the horrendous anxiety whilst your head (and body) is telling you that it is much safer and comfortable to hide from the world and continue with your identity as someone who is ‘unwell’.
However, throughout this I have to remind myself that although the anxiety sucks, it’s actually natural and I have the skills to help me through this. I want to be well, I want a better life and if that means putting up with the distress in the short-term (or even longer) then it is worth it.
Recovery isn’t all happiness and light, it involves discomfort and this is a truth that isn’t often discussed by those keen to see you recover.