Recovery Isn’t Linear
By Maria Morran Black
Recovery isn’t linear.
And that’s okay.
It’s a tough concept to grasp depending on where you are emotionally. There’s at least one backslide, more than a few dark nights, your meds could stop working and you might even end up totally relapsing. And somehow that’s all supposed to be okay!?
I know, I know – it doesn’t make sense to me either.
I’ve been on the recovery roller coaster for about six months now and it never fails to surprise me when I take a sudden plunge downward.
To give some background, I was diagnosed with OCD, Major Depressive Disorder (One Time), and Panic Disorder at the tender age of 29. Looking back, I’d had OCD most of my life so the symptoms were all very normal to me – but not to the rest of the world. It wasn’t until I was a few months into treatment that I even realized I could even “recover” from my disorder. That’s how bad it was.
So it was a surprising and incredible relief when the meds kicked in and the treatment started working. I was on cloud nine, the best I’d ever felt. I called it my “vacation from anxiety” and it lasted for about three months.
I didn’t fall all of a sudden. No, it was more of an avalanche, starting gently but picking up intensity as it flowed. At first it was little things like waking up before my 6:00 AM alarm despite going to bed late or getting annoyed with my husband over trivial things. Over the course of a couple weeks it rolled into headaches, panic attacks at work and sudden bouts of tears, one that was so bad I ended up on the bathroom floor quaking with raw emotion for hours. As the avalanche came crashing down one day I caught myself wondering if I died would anyone miss me?
That moment was the most heartbreaking of all. I was watching myself be covered up by the avalanche and there was nothing I could do to stop it.
I ended up having to leave my job, which I loved. It was my main stressor, contributing to a lot of my relapse. It was the best possible thing I could have done for myself but it felt like my soul was being ripped out of chest. It wasn’t like we were rolling in the dough either so me not working took a toll on our bank account too.
All around, it totally sucked.
I really went through it for about two weeks after I quit, the anxiety was so high and the feelings of failure and worthlessness just smacked me around like a rag doll. I had always been a high achiever constantly striving for her hopes and dreams but now I was so sick I couldn’t even hold down a job. I’m not going to lie, life had no meaning to it for a while.
But I discovered something beautiful during that time: quitting had given me the chance to do something I would have never done before I started recovery: I was able to give myself time and space to heal. I meditated. I gave myself days to cry, days to be a lazy lump. I took baths, I went running, I sat with my discomfort.
All the coping skills I’d learned in treatment went into action without much effort on my part. And after that two weeks was up, it was like I was a whole new person again, maybe not on cloud nine anymore but way more stable, more like cloud 5 ½.
It’s still hard. I haven’t quite dug myself out yet and I’m not sure if I ever will. I still have really bad days but the good ones are starting to be really good and more frequent. The fact that recovery isn’t linear still doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to me but I’m doing my best to just ride out the ups and downs and that’s enough for me.