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How I’ve Found Peace in the Storms of My Mental Illness

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A storm can be defined as “a disturbance in the atmosphere.”

Sometimes it is an intense disturbance, with lightning and thunder flowing with chaos. And maybe the strongest kind of storms a person can experience is the storms in our minds. The storms brought on by mental illness can sometimes be the strongest of all. Flashes of worry, crashing noises and downpours of soaked depression. It can be overwhelming.

I have lived with these storms most of my life. I have found peace with these, and because of that, I can say that “I am in recovery.”

Recovery is not a cure — it’s better. Being in recovery, to me, means a chance to bring the things in my life that were stolen by my illness back to life — the roles I play, the person I was before I got sick and who I still am. Rather than just fighting off the storm, recovery means rebuilding the town and maybe making it into something even more than it was before the disaster.

But it is not a cure. Recovering from the last waves of a mental illness episode does not mean there will be no more waves of rain or roars of thunder. It does not mean that every day will be free from rain or lightning in the sky — early warning signs or triggers. Most people who are in recovery from a mental illness will be in recovery for the rest of our lives. We carry with us our past and the possibility of future episodes.

At one time, I let the fear of my symptoms drive me into my home. I could close of my shutters, hide in a closet and pray the storms won’t sweep me away. In taking such desperate measures to try to keep my mind healthy, I sacrificed the reasons why I wanted to keep it healthy in the first place. I avoided people, places and things that could trigger me — particularly stress. But I learned that even this would not stop the storms.

I had to rebuild again, but this time, I focused on figuring out a more effective plan. I built my home on a stronger foundation by taking part in activities that encouraged my wellness and self-care. I developed an awareness of how much stress I could take and took the time to challenge myself up to that limit. I learned what triggers I could sometimes deal with in favor of doing the things I love and what triggers could be too dangerous that I absolutely must avoid them — like sleep deprivation. I shared my ideas with others and I learned from them. I have a strong belief in myself and my supports to hold onto should the hurricane ever return.

Today, I no longer fear the lightning and thunder. I have learned to accept, listen and enjoy what I can. Storms can be as beautiful as they are scary. I have learned that one of the worst things the weather could possibly do to me is frighten me back to that place of retreat — of pseudo-safety. I have promised myself not to let that happen.

I have also learned that I can never be so foolish as to assume that I have made my final escape. Although I hope that each storm will be my last, I have found the times I am most vulnerable are the times when I believe I am invincible — believing that maybe I no longer need to make an effort to maintain my “home.”

I will be in recovery for the rest of my life, and I am OK with that. I am proud of how far I have come, and I look forward to moving even farther. My home and my life is more now than it ever has been. I have found peace in the storm.

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Thinkstock photo via Grandfailure

Originally published: August 25, 2017
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