We talk a lot about ‘recovery’ in our group sessions, but what does it mean? Recovery can be difficult to define as it depends on our personal circumstances and expectations, but essentially it is about hope – the belief that it is possible to regain a meaningful life.
For many of us, the concept of recovery is about staying in control of our lives despite experiencing anxiety from time to time. It involves changing where anxiety ‘sits’ in our world. You might like to think of this as the shift from you living around your anxiety, to anxiety living around you – it exists, but no longer dominates or controls you.
Putting recovery into action means focusing on support and building resilience – it doesn’t just involve treating or managing symptoms. When we are first diagnosed, we often have one goal - to get ‘rid’ of symptoms and get on with it. The problem is that symptoms are there for a reason. They act like an alarm system, alerting us to the fact that something is up. This can be very useful if we are prepared to listen! Slowing down and tuning in is the start of recovery from an anxiety disorder.
As we move through this process, it is common to come across roadblocks which may threaten to throw us off course. Perhaps you are able to name a few of your own? Here are just some of the ways we can get stuck as we head towards wellness:
Applying perfectionistic or black and white thinking to recovery
Moving from one therapist/therapy to the next without allowing ourselves the time it takes to see results
Not doing our homework!
Continuing with a therapist that is no longer helpful out of fear
Non-acceptance: believing that our anxiety is actually something else (it’s just that no one has found it yet!)
Procrastination i.e. ‘I’ll deal with it later’, ‘I can’t be bothered with this homework right now’ etc.
Feeling like a fraud i.e. ‘Maybe I’m just making this up’, ‘Maybe it’s not really that bad?’
Defeatism and negative thinking i.e. ‘There’s no point’, ‘Why try?’
The belief that our experience is vastly different or ‘worse’ than what other’s experience/ have experienced
Fear of relapse i.e. ‘What if it comes back?’, ‘What if I find myself back at square one? Then what?’
Resisting the fact that being uncomfortable is a normal part of life
Lack of social support
Avoidance, inactivity and isolation
Forgetting to apply the skills we have acquired so far
Fear of failure i.e. ‘If I don’t try, I can’t fail’
Setbacks i.e. ‘Oh no, it’s all back again! I’ve failed!’
Doing too much too soon/ expecting too much of ourselves
Stigma and shame – trying to hide our anxiety for fear of being judged, rejected, ridiculed or discriminated against
Believing that recovery is the exception, not the rule
Stubborn self reliance i.e. ‘I must do this on my own’
Attachment to the idea of being unwell i.e. ‘What will it mean if this disorder is no longer a part of my life?’ ‘What will happen to my supports?’, ‘Who am I?’
Developing an awareness of our own roadblocks to recovery is essential if we are to move forward. Seeing these obstacles for what they are – not what we fear they are – allows us to deal with them as practical challenges. Being honest with ourselves provides us with the opportunity to shift away from the thinking, behavior and excuses that can hamper recovery and wellness over the long term.