Being in recovery from mental illness doesn’t mean you’re cured, but it does mean you’re in control of your illness. Once you know how to handle your bad days and enjoy your good days, you find yourself stronger than ever. It takes strength to reach recovery and to stay in it. Things change when you’re in recovery. You take new steps, you take on new roles, and you step out of your comfort zone into new beginnings. You find yourself able to give back to those who helped you when you were at the bottom of your hole.
Almost 19 years ago I was deep into my mental illness. The only thing I could see was how awful I felt and how awful living seemed. I couldn’t focus on anyone else’s problems but mine. During that time I leaned heavily on my friend Cheryl. She was my support and strength. I called her in the middle of night when I wanted to injure. She’d talk to me, even if it was at one am, until she got me to laugh. Sometimes we talked for hours. I cried and then I laughed. She knew what to say and what to do. She made herself available at any time.
When my ex-boyfriend couldn’t handle my illness or sudden emotional episodes, he called Cheryl. She was even there when I struggled to get through a day of work. One day I stood out in the middle of a road ready to die and Cheryl pulled me off. She has always been at my side when I needed her.
We lost contact for a few years, but once I found her again on Facebook, I was much stronger and happier. I had reached recovery, yet she picked up from where she left off. Instead of calling her to keep me from self-injuring or attempting suicide, I text her for advice on my bad days. When I started writing this blog, she began to use my post to help me, but suddenly roles have changed.
Cheryl has dipped into depression and is struggling with anxiety due to a situation in her life. Instead of me leaning on her, she is now leaning on me. Instead of her using my blog posts to chide me, I am now using them to child her. Being in recovery and going through years of therapy, I am now taking on a new role. Instead of me turning to her at my lowest, she is turning to me at her lowest. I am finally strong enough to be part of her support team. Roles have reversed. Now I am the strong one.
Many times I texted Cheryl, “It’s not fair. You’re using my own blog post against me.”
Now Cheryl texts, “Hey, it’s not fair, now you’re using your blog posts against me.”
When I started this blog I never considered that my posts could be used to not only help others, but also for others to use it to help me. I never thought I could actively put them to use on my own friend. I never thought I could be strong enough to be Cheryl’s shoulder to lean on. It is a good feeling to be able to help a friend in distress.
Cheryl messages me in tears and when she is at her lowest. I text her back or use Marco Polo to give her words of comfort, to encourage her, and to use what I’ve learned in therapy and what I have written in these posts to help her. This time I’m able to give back to her, by being her shoulder to lean on and cry on, to talk to her until she laughs, and to encourage her to fight for recovery. I’m more than happy to be able to be there for her like she has been for me.
Once you reach recovery, your life changes and you change. You learn to manage your illness each day and still find the strength to be the friend you couldn’t be while you were ill. You take on new roles and you make big steps into new beginnings. Instead of being the person in need you can be the rock others are leaning on and standing on. You can give back to those who gave selflessly to you while you were at the bottom of the hole. Instead of the person needing support you can be the person giving support.
I still need to lean on Cheryl from time to time, but I am so happy to be the one she can lean on right now. I’m giving back to her what she has given me so many times. I’m giving her strength like she gave me, I’m giving her support like she gave me, I’m giving her a shoulder to cry on like she gave me, and so much more. I will stand at Cheryl’s side until we both can dance in the light of recovery.