When you are sick, everybody wants to be there for you. In my experience, if you cry out for help, others will come to your rescue. Gifts, flowers, balloons, kind words and get well soon cards are all items I received when I reached my breaking point.
When I hit rock bottom, people threw me life jackets and encouraged me to swim. Some risked diving after me and supported me as I regained my footing. Others shouted and cheered from the boat and told me not to give up.
When I was sick, everyone believed in me and my ability to move along the path towards wellness and recovery.
When I struggled to stay afloat, my friends and family held out their hands and helped me to safety. When I finally climbed aboard the boat, they secured me with caring gestures and loving words.
When I waited in the ER on a Friday night, the nurses brought me extra blankets and apple juice containers.
When I felt distressed a few months ago, my psychiatrist scheduled an emergency meeting.
When I called my best friend in tears, she told me to come over and I ended up on her couch, curled up in a sleeping bag.
Now, I am feeling better.
Now, I don’t walk around feeling suicidal 24/7.
Now, I sleep better, eat healthier and can focus for longer.
But even though I’m feeling better, that doesn’t mean I don’t need help anymore. In fact, I believe I need help now more than ever.
Because I’m vulnerable as hell and the tiniest thing will send me flying back into the ocean, with its dangerous waves and unpredictable storms.
I’m still very fragile and delicate. But not like a pretty flower. No, I prefer the metaphor of a damaged, broken glass jar. With broken glass, you have to be super careful when cleaning it up. And if you drop the pieces again before gluing them back together, you’ll get even more tiny pieces, which will then be even harder to put back together.
The truth is, sometimes you get worse before you get better. The truth is, sometimes recovery and treading water is harder than allowing yourself to drown and hit the bottom of the sea.
Recovery comes with a whole new set of challenges. Recovery is destabilizing and there’s a lot to lose. Recovery means letting go, stepping out of your comfort zone and facing the unknown. So I say, as you start feeling better, you need more support, not less.
The truth is, progress rips the ground away. This takes many forms. Getting discharged from the hospital. Terminating therapy. Losing peer support or government assistance. Losing the empathy of your loved ones who believe you aren’t sick anymore and so on.
And then there’s the danger of invaliding yourself and your progress, and berating yourself because your brain insists you should be cured and well and happy now.
One friend told me that when she was sick, everyone wanted to be there for her. But as she traveled along her path towards wellness and recovery, people started disappearing on her.
So what happens when you’ve been sick for years, and then you start feeling happy?
What happens when the people around you aren’t there for you as much as you still need them to be?
What happens when you are able to swim in the ocean without water rings, but still can’t envision the safety of the shore, much less the firm ground beneath your feet?
In short, the better you feel, the more help you need.