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Change Is a Good Thing
By Guest Blogger Lizzie Elsberg     

UnknownI don’t know if I have ever met anyone who genuinely likes change. As humans, we are creatures of habit, and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that. Change, however, is an inevitable part of life – we will go away to school, get new jobs, make new friends, etc. It might be hard at first, but most people adapt. My mom has this “21 day theory” – she says give anything 21 days and you will get used to it. In my experience, I have found this theory to be true in most cases. My one exception, however, is recovering from a mental illness.

Recovering from a mental illness requires one to change the very essence of who they are, or rather, who they BELIEVE they are. On the surface, it sounds so simple. A depressed person needs to be happy. An anxious person needs to calm down. An eating disordered person needs to eat. I could go on and on. The problem is that these conditions – depression, anxiety, eating disorders – are diseases. Would you ever tell a person with diabetes to merely produce more insulin? Probably not. It’s the same thing with mental illness. The changes required to get well are not as simple as “be happy” or “just eat”.

Recovery is a process that, yes, involves change. But it’s not the kind of thing where you flip a switch and everything is better. It requires a series of small, deliberate changes. I will use my personal recovery from my eating disorder to illustrate the kinds of changes necessary to heal. Please remember, that this is the path of MY recovery. Your journey may look different than mine, but they will have one thing in common: change.

When people ask me how I recovered, my honest answer is normally, “I have no idea”. That’s because recovery of mental illness is so gradual that sometimes it’s hard to see. But if I break it down, this is how I did it. I told someone. I asked for help (this is definitely not to say I always accepted the help, but the sooner you welcome the help the sooner you will experience change). I withdrew from school to focus solely on myself. I submitted to a higher level of care (multiple times – sometimes it takes more than once, and that’s okay). I established a solid outpatient team. I was honest. I kept appointments. I listened to the professionals’ recommendations. I found coping skills that work for me (this one was hard – it’s a very individualized thing). I never gave up. I accepted that this is a life-long battle, but it will get easier. I allowed myself to show emotion (and even cry in therapy!!). I went to brunch and ate French Toast. I went back to work. I got a puppy. I’m going to graduate school next year.

So, yes, recovery did involve change. But, you see, this change occurred over many, many years – definitely not 21 days. And it’s still happening. It was painful; probably the most difficult change I have ever had to make. Healing from a mental illness is complex because it doesn’t just require one change. It requires you to wake up every single day and choose to make a series of changes that every fiber of your being does not want to make. But once you start to repeatedly make those choices, the changes will seem more natural. Eventually you won’t have to make the choice to change anymore. One day, you will realize that you are no longer the person you once thought you were. You will be changed.

 My name is Lizzie and this is Where I Stand.