Leaving residential care is difficult. You become acclimated very quickly, institutionalized to the environment and once you leave, everything outside of it seems big and hard and wrong and unfamiliar.
It’s not unlike the way I felt before I went in when the depression and eating disorder and substance abuse (or whatever your problem happens to be) became everything. Became a trap, a prison I couldn’t escape from.
When my depression is at its worst, and when my eating disorder is hugely ascendant, I feel it in my bones. I feel tied up and immobilized, stripped of free will by the demands of my issues, controlled by not myself. I am not me, but rather a combination of all the things my disorders require me to do. It’s a hard and constrained life.
Sometimes I feel that way in recovery. Sometimes I feel as trapped as I was before I started doing all the things one needs to do to get better. Recovery, in a way, is proving almost as problematic as the mental illnesses I’m seeking relief from.
I often feel overwhelmed by all the things I need to do, all the things that would be good to do, in order to get “better”. Part of the problem is I don’t even know what “better” looks like; it’s a mysterious country and I don’t remember what it’s like there, though I’ve visited a time or two. It just seems so long ago and far away.
In order to get to better, my life has become almost solely about recovery. Most moments, and nearly every action and thought are connected to the idea of recovery and I’m starting to feel buried alive. I feel controlled by recovery. I’m starting to feel trapped and resentful.
Wake up. Make the bed to practice good self-care – a clean environment shows how much you love yourself. Eat breakfast but make it healthy and don’t forget the protein because if you skip, it could be taken as a slip. Meditate. Read helpful and inspirational things. Exercise, but not too much lest it be misconstrued as an eating disorder behaviour. Perform a household chore. Read something else good for you. Do some homework because school is helping you to get better. Write, but make it good and connected in some way to being sick. Get ready for bed and don’t you dare skip on washing up or brushing teeth lest that indicate a fall towards severely depressed. Be grateful. Sleep and sleep well; poor sleep is a sign your recovery is not coming along as well people might hope. Do better tomorrow.
They’re killer, those expectations. They’re like the palpable feeling of anxious hope I get from people when they ask how things are going, repeatedly, even when I assure them I’m fine. Which I’d say even if I wasn’t fine because I’m tired of being defined by my issues and nothing else. I’m tired of talking about recovery. I’m getting tired of living it. I’m tired of questioning myself over whether I’m actually tired or this is just another kind of self-sabotage. I’m definitely tired of overthinking.
I don’t know how to escape it. I don’t know how to get away from recovery. It’s as tentacled into my existence as my illnesses were and it’s starting to feel as welcome. I want to be better, of course I do, but does better mean I feel locked into a cage for the rest of my life with no respite?
You have no life if you can’t recover, but recovery can’t be your whole life. It’s a puzzle.