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.

Caucasian woman riding bicycle near beach

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.


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.


Lou, Aimee, Cheryl and Cheryl’s boyfriend, Kieth. Peeking in from the back is Brianna Cheryl’s daughter. First time we saw each other face to face after reconnecting.

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.