I absolutely love this picture, which was shared through Facebook today via the mental health charity SANE. I wish I could credit the picture, but although it pops up in a miriad places on the internet when you google it, I cannot find an attribution anywhere!
I’m not sure my expectations of recovery ever had such a steep and rosy gradient, but my own reality of recovery is definitely as messy as that illustrated here. In fact I would go as far as to say that in terms of how it feels (even if that does not reflect what is actually happening) it is more like this:
The scary cliff-edge at the end represents the fact that it is pretty much impossible for me at the moment to visualise a future in which recovery has actually happened. Alternatively, think of this picture as the random walk of therapy, with the cliff-edge representing the terrifying prospect of ‘termination’.
Or imagine recovery as a battle – that’s easy to do. For many people with mental health difficulties, every day feels like a fight: a fight against your thoughts; a fight against your feelings; a fight against your impulses; a fight against other people and their perceptions; a fight against your own self, or a version of yourself that wants to keep you trapped in misery, fear and self-loathing. Sometimes recovery can feel as though your enemy is shooting arrows as straight as the ones on the left of the top picture, that pierce straight through, leaving you bleeding out. Whereas it feels as though you are shooting arrows as twisty as the ones on the right – even if they hit their target they penetrate a little way and then get stuck, or simply dislodge and fall to the ground.
If you’re a soldier at war with mental illness, you might like this track called ‘Recovery’, by James Arthur. The video contains an interesting visual for another feeling that I sometimes associate with recovery – the sense that I am stuck on a particular track, going round and round in circles, not able to break out of the infinite loop of my experience, but desperately wanting to. This song reminds me that however helpless I may feel, and however trapped in that loop I may feel, recovery is possible and it is within my hands and my direction – even if that direction resembles a tangled trail of spaghetti.