There is a popular saying that goes ‘easier said than done’. I can attest to its popularity because I use it in nearly every email I write to people who ask me for advice. It’s like my little disclaimer when I’m describing to them what I do to get through exposure sessions and conquer my fear of leaving my house – “So you need to do X, Y and Z…but I know, easier said than done.’ I say it for two reasons.
- I have no idea what the fuck I’m talking about 99% of the time. I mean, I know the exact things that I’ve done over the last 12+ months, but I don’t know which ones specifically have contributed to my ‘recovery’, whether it was one thing in particular, or a mix of all of them combined, or if none of them actually contributed at all and it was just the passing of time that helped me to get better.
- And because, most importantly, I know first-hand how incredibly hard the things I describe have been to put into practice. I know how easy it is to talk about X Y and Z, I know how you can read my advice and go ‘oh ok, sounds straightforward enough, I just get in the car, do some affirmations, pop some rescue remedy and off I go, right?’, but then when you actually get in that situation and your heart starts pumping, your stomach starts spectacularly exploding into anxious, nausea-inducing fireworks and your brain just says ‘NOPE, NOT TODAY!’ And then you might think, ‘well, Lauren said that’s what I need to do, but obviously she has NO IDEA because it ISN’T WORKING!’ Yep, I know, my friends – it is much, much easier said than done.
I hate that I use this little disclaimer, because I wish to god I knew how to cure agoraphobia and panic disorder once and for all. I absolutely love when I get emails from people asking for advice or support, not because I’m happy that people out there are struggling (I’m not that sadistic, promise – only when it comes to watching The Bachelor) but because I love connecting with people, talking to them and getting involved in their journey and trying to be a source of support to them as best I can. But god, if only I didn’t have to say those words.
So why is something seemingly basic so hard to do? We can talk about exposure sessions, about motivation, about hypnosis tapes and inspirational books and the mind-body connection all day long, and there is definitely something to be said for doing that. Finding that which inspires you to make change is an incredible feeling. You can be in the deepest, darkest downward spiral and you read a passage in a book, or you talk to a like-minded individual on an internet forum, and suddenly it’s as if there’s a light in the darkness of your mind and you think ‘Tomorrow I’m going to do this. Life is going to get better from this moment.’ But we all know, ‘tomorrow’ can be a different story altogether, because one of the hardest things to do is to get started. I can absolutely sympathise with people who are at the beginning of ‘recovery’, because it took me two long years to get started. And I really only got started because I had a baby, and I kinda had to get out of the house for that one. But then comes another battle. What about when you’re already on the road to recovery? What about when you’re feeling better? When do you feel better? DOES IT GET BETTER?!
I had a bad week not so long ago – I came down with some kind of yucky virus and it knocked me on my ass for a few days. Now, I’m used to feeling sick. My anxiety makes me feel physically unwell a lot of the time – especially if I’m about to go out somewhere. But I’m used to it being just a psychosomatic thing. I get to where I need to go, and boom – illness miraculously gone. This time, however, I was really and truly unwell, and this threw me. After it passed and I was well enough to go out again, I didn’t trust the idea that my yucky feelings were actually psychosomatic. It was as if I was pushed right back into the beginning of my exposure sessions again, and I had to fight really, really hard to just drive down the street. And I thought to myself, ‘well, fuck this.’ How is it fair that I spend over 12 months struggling to push past my fears and get out there, improving slowly with every little nail-biting, vomit-inducing exposure session, only to be sick for a few measly days and then suddenly I lose all the progress I’ve made? In the wise words of Cedric Daniels, ‘This is bullshit’.
I continued to be pissed off about it for a couple of days, until I realised that this is what recovery is. It isn’t a linear thing, it’s not like a ladder you climb until you get to the top where you’re suddenly cured. Recovery is more like a silly little square dance. You go forward. You go sideways. You go backwards. You go sideways again. You shake your ass a little, and you do it again. And yes, it seems straightforward to talk about recovery. It seems like there is a starting point, and an end point. But I guess if we’re getting really deep here (we are) the end point is death, not the day in which you wake up and realise you don’t have a mental disorder any more. We humans are feeling creatures, and some days we might feel recovered. Some days, we might not. We might go for years feeling recovered. We might only feel that way for a week. But the point I’m happily square-dancing around is that I think the idea of recovery lies within the journey. Progress is not being better, progress is getting better. Yes, I still feel huge amounts of anxiety when I’m simply going to the corner-store to get milk. But every time I go, I get better at knowing how to manage that anxiety. It will probably always be there – after all, anxiety is a very natural reaction in certain parts of life. But it won’t always make me feel like my heart is going to go full Alien style and explode theatrically out of my chest. I won’t always have to go to the toilet thirty times before I leave the house, because instead of anxiety making me feel like I need to pee, I’ll just be better at realising that no, I don’t have 20 litres of urine that I need to expel immediately, it’s actually just a bit of anxiety. (Ahh, anxiety, you prickly bastard)
And yes, it’s hard. It’s hard to keep fighting, whether you’ve had one good day or thirty. Some days will be harder than others, but the thing to keep in mind is that each day is progress in itself. Each day is recovery. Whether you wake up and kick ass or you wake up and want to throw yourself under a bus (please don’t) you are on the journey to wellness. So keep going, keep fighting, keep growing and learning and healing. And I know, easier said than done…
But you know what they also say?
Nothing worth having comes easy.