What is recovery? Recovery in mental illnesses can mean living a meaningful and productive life despite a disability. It can also refer to a reduction or complete remission of symptoms and a healing transformation of the self. For most people, it refers to the power of hope in healing disorders that were once thought to be hopeless. As Henry Ford once said, "Whether you think you can, or you think you can't, you're right."
Wednesday, January 4, 2012
Love: A Key to Recovery
Your experience may be different, but for me, love was absolutely key to recovery. Some of you may be groaning at what at first blush may seem to be my sappiness. But without love for someone or something (by no means does it need to be the romantic kind!), there seems to be no reason to live. During my years of depression I did not realize that my primary problem was a lack of self-love. As I descended into psychosis at age 25, this lack escalated into off-the-charts self-loathing. Way, way off the charts. The voices that I heard at the time, rather than reflecting a chemical imbalance (although one may have existed), were mainly mirroring a deep disgust for everything that was me at the time. When I thought my problem was [insert reason to hate myself], my problem was really the hatred itself. For many years, it didn't really occur to me that there was any other possible reaction, but of course there always was. After attempting to kill myself because I believed God wanted me to do so, my true higher power led me the book A Return to Love by Marianne Williamson. In reading it, I was inspired to believe that maybe- just maybe- it was possible to love myself and forgive myself for my perceived transgressions. One night, I lay awake at 3 am, mentally calling out to forces I wasn't sure existed and asking them for some sign that it was true that I was lovable. Immediately Abby, our beloved (since passed) family cat bounded into the room and onto my bed, purring and rubbing against me lovingly, a seeming answer to my prayers. Yet the idea of self-love at first perplexed me, since I mistakenly thought that love was something that happened to people, rather than a choice you can make at any moment. It occurred to me visualize love as an energy coming out of my heart and surrounding me. It worked! I "relapsed" into self-hatred a few times, because I believed I had wronged others and therefore didn't deserve the love I was giving myself. I quickly learned that a reduction in self-love led to a reduced ability to love others. Even though I did not "deserve" this love, I thought, I knew that family and friends deserved the love that I would be able to give them as a result, and so I kept moving forward with my self-love efforts. Eventually I learned to love myself for who I am. I am pretty awesome! Yet I could never have accomplished these self-love goals, and thus, my recovery, without those around me who loved me deeply even when I gave them back nothing but ugliness and living nightmares. It was my family and friends who gave me a reason to recover and to keep on living when life otherwise seemed like an endless hell due to my illness. How has love helped, or not helped, you? What or whom do you love that makes your life worthwhile?
Posted by Hope at 3:24 PM