Monday, 14 November 2016

Success story.

For a lot of people, particularly within local mental health services and the hospitals I was a patient in, I've become more of an idea than a person. Hell, for a lot of people who only sort of know me, I'm the stories people tell, rather than the person I am. I'm the success story; I'm the person who proves that recovery is possible; I'm the person that's rewarding to work with. Not because I'm particularly special, but because I seem to have returned from some sort of living death and a lot of people can claim (and mostly deservedly so) input into that. They tell me that I'm the one they tell people who are just starting their recovery journeys about. And they think that that's going to be nice to hear.

But it's not.

Don't get me wrong, I do honestly get it. I used to search for success stories to encourage myself forward and I ate up all sorts of tales about recovery. Anything to inject me with a dose of hope. I was always waiting for some sort of epiphany, for everything to suddenly make sense. I remember once seeing a made-for-TV film about two friends, one with anorexia and the other with bulimia. All manner of dramatic and fast things happened (don't get me started on how quickly Hollywood EDs progress and how quickly people get help), and then one night one of them had this massively dramatic breakdown where she screamed that she didn't want to die, and then quickly recovered. I never had that moment. Nobody really has that moment.

I think, though, in or way or another, everybody searches for that moment. Everybody wants to believe that it can all turn around instantly. Everybody wants to believe in stories like mine. On paper, you only have to look at my history of hospital admissions and yadda yadda yadda and see that it's been well over a year since I last was in and blah blah blah. You can flick through my facebook photos are see me doing fun things and looking healthy. It's all out there.

Nobody is looking for the silence though. People don't realise that my fear over getting ill again and letting everybody down is literally making me ill. I feel under so much pressure and I'm so beyond stressed. When they tell people about me, nobody speaks about how I lay awake at night worrying about what effect me struggling would have on the morale of services and social media friends and people who sort of know me. Things are not unicorns and rainbows. I'm having a really hard time working out how much I can tell different people about how I'm feeling, judged by how invested they are in my being a success. It's exhausting.

People don't seem to understand that I never wanted to be the poster child for anything. I sort of fell into public speaking and I loved it. I still do. To a degree, it is all my fault. But I only wanted, selfish as it sounds, to speak for myself. I don't want to be a mouthpiece, I don't want to an example, I don't want to be a 'I once knew this girl...' type of a girl.

I just want to be a person. I'm not a success story. Today it took me 3 hours to convince myself to have my first shower in 5 days. Tomorrow might be better. I'm tired.


  1. Rebecca... I have missed you... I understand depression and not wanting to let anyone down. I haven't been in the best place myself lately and I didn't write, I just couldn't. It was difficult to come back and write because I knew I still could not be what others expected of me... I decided I needed the writing more.

    I love how you keep it real, success stories are never simple, it is work, a great of work... I know as I have been reading you blog for many years and I know that you have had some really wonderful highs but also some terrible lows.

    I am proud that you continue to work on yourself... just be yourself and don't let anyone make you feel less when you don't always live up to what others expect... I know much easier said then done. I work on that daily myself... we just need to keep working at it... xox

  2. Everyone likes a good story... the structure of which is a character being introduced, events leading up to a problem/ conflict, climax of problem/ conflict, problem resolution & transformation of character, and possible revelation of a moral. Humans are born to love this structure! And we tend to want to apply it too neatly sometimes... to ourselves too.

    People need to know that 'recovery' is not a point you reach... but more of a process... with ups & downs. It must be difficult to feel that pressure to be okay all the time. And to feel that horrible fear when things start to wobble that you are going to crash all the way back down (n.b. you probably aren't!) It is important that people who see you as a figure of hope see and understand this too. It is okay to talk about this. This is not failure.

    I had a friend who 'recovered', and for a long time I felt utterly bewildered as I watched her fly up and away from me. She got a stressful full time job after years of ill health, and appeared to everyone to be doing so well. She didn't want to admit to struggling... it felt like weakness... like she was letting people down, or that other people might get worried that if she got ill again then recovery wasn't possible for them either. I couldn't figure out what was wrong with me... why was I still struggling? When I was weight restored, I felt even more lost... why was I still finding things so hard? How did she manage to stay okay? What was I doing wrong?!
    When she eventually opened up, it felt like a weight off both of us. She is doing brilliantly, but it is *not* easy... and sometimes she really struggles. Things get really bad... but... she can ask for help with less fear these days. And the episodes of badness last less than they used to. From my perspective, it really helped to see recovery in this way. It helped me to understand that this is the reality... progress is possible, but it will have its ups and downs. And it can take a looong time!

  3. (continued... sorry! I wrote too much!)

    A lot of the pressure feels like it is coming from you (though it may not be helped by others around you). Perhaps you are perceiving pressure from others when actually what they want to convey is their pleasure in life being better for you? When you see them being 'pleased' with your 'success', it is natural that you will fear they will be 'unhappy' or even 'disappointed' with your 'failure'. I think there is a problem with the language here... and the way things are framed. It is very judgemental!

    People on similar paths will relate to your struggle... and if people are 'invested in your success' then they are invested in *you*. Having times where you struggle does not mean you are not a 'success'. People who are truly 'invested' in you, want to help you on good days and even more on bad ones.

    I am totally guilty of using this language of failure and success on/ against myself all the time. I don't know how not to... our society and culture perpetuates it so virulently. I recognise the way you use terms like people being 'invested' in you... like you have to 'perform' to be valued, loved, cared for, appreciated etc.

    You are valuable, regardless of whether or not you are struggling. Your experience has value... and speaking about it helps other people.

    I also feel like a 'failure' for struggling with things like personal care. For other people... that is failure. But, for me... I know just how hard it can be some days. I know other people often can't see it, and will judge sometimes. I know I fail to describe the hows and whys of all this.

    I have done 'difficult' things like facilitating classrooms full of children... or winning an academic prize... or playing tricky music on the piano. But none were as hard as 'not self-harming' some days (from the outside, this is literally doing nothing). Or brushing my teeth. It's really hard to hold this frame still... the one that says I am doing my best, and that's okay... when it seems like everyone around me is looking down at my non-achievement. Anyway... sorry for ranting on about myself... I'm just trying to say that I relate xx

    I'm really sorry things are a bit shitty right now. It is so fucking hard sometimes <3

    Sending love & hope... please be gentle with yourself. You're doing okay. Just keep swimming! x