Parents teach their children lessons that will be used in the future. These lessons help us grow and evolve into strong and independent adults. We use them to guide us through a rough and unpredictable world. We can also use those lessons from childhood to help us through struggles in our lives like fighting to reach recovery from mental illness. What do you remember from what your parents taught you as a child that can help you reach above your mental illness?
The other day my husband and I were in the car going to an appointment when I saw a small child on a tricycle on the sidewalk. I asked my husband if he had one as a child. Then I recalled the one I had was passed down from my older sister to me and from me to my younger siblings. Then I asked my husband who taught him how to ride a bike and the lesson came to me. A valuable lesson I never really thought about until that moment.
I remember my dad taking the training wheels off my bike. “Okay, Aimee, get on. Start pedaling. Don’t worry I’ll be holding on to the back of the bike.”
I started pedaling and once I got moving dad let go. I suddenly wobbled from side to side and fell into a mud puddle. I stood up, wet and muddy.
Tears streamed down my face, but dad looked into my eyes. “You can’t give up now. Get back on and try again.”
I pouted. “I don’t want to fall again.”
Dad patted the seat. “When you fall, you dust yourself off and give it a try again until you get it right.”
Dad’s lesson followed me through my journey to recovery. See, on the road to recovery I fell off the bike quite a few times. I took time off from college to get treatment for my mental illness. During that time I started working in a grocery store. I began to make friends, I got a social life for the first time, and I even started dating for the first time. Life was going great. I got off my antidepressants and discontinued therapy. I was in recovery.
A few years down the road, the depression began to settle in again. I felt myself falling off that bike so I looked into getting a therapist. Before I knew it I was lying in that mud puddle again. I felt like my world crumbling around me, I began injuring again, I got into an abusive relationship, and I began to feel like a close friend was abandoning me. I sent that friend notes (with blood on them) begging her not to leave me. I wasn’t thinking straight. My friend told me she couldn’t handle my illness and ended our friendship. Then my boyfriend began to hurt me physically and emotionally.
I ended up in a mental health hospital after my boyfriend packed my bags. I wanted to lie in that puddle and give up. It would have been easy to do, but that lesson my dad taught me was engraved in my mind and soul. I had to pick myself up and get on that bike again. I had to keep trying no matter how many times I crashed. So I participated in therapy, I took my medication, and began to journal my feelings. Within a week I was released from the hospital to continue treatments at home. I was back on the bike to recovery.
In the years to follow I fell off the bike again. I got depressed and began injuring again. The abuse I received from my ex-boyfriend was hard to get over, and it seemed like I had lost all my friends. I cried my eyes out in therapy. I went to work and came home and that was all I did. I wanted to give up, but once again the lesson my father taught me kicked in. A co-worker with gave me a goal to go six months without injuring. So I got on my bike and began pedaling up a steep hill to reach that goal. I went to therapy each week and began to learn healthier coping techniques. Each time I felt myself wobbling, I pedaled harder until I succeeded. Once I reached six month my co-worker threw me a party to celebrate my accomplishment.
I tried to stay on that bike, but I kept falling off. On my road to recovery I kept crashing into episodes of depression. I’d pull myself up only to swerve, wobble, and tumble down again.
I met my husband and he began holding that bike for me. Like my father, he encouraged me to get up and try again. Each time I tumbled my husband told me, “Don’t give up.” In time I was riding down that road of recovery without any help. I finally got it right and I reached recovery.
If you slip up in your road to recovery, remember to pick yourself up and try again. Don’t give up because you fell a couple times. That’s part of the process. Just keep pulling yourself up and pushing forward. Never give up, just get back up, dust your pride off, and get back on that road to recovery again. Think of it as learning to ride a bike. You keep falling and getting back up again until you’re pedaling right into the light of recovery.
I have been on the bike of recovery for a while now. I fall from time to time, but I dust off my knees and get back on again. The road can be full of hills, it can be bumpy, and it can twist in many directions, but I never give up. Because I never give up, I am riding my bike in the light of recovery.