Farewell Summer: My Recovery Continues

This has been the most transformative, progressive and positive three months of my life! Having such a great amount of time off for summer has been invaluable for my recovery and I don’t want it to end! Tomorrow, I begin my third year at University which is terrifying. Whilst I cannot wait to see my friends, going back to an intense schedule and overwhelming workload worries me as I’m unsure if I’m mentally strong enough to cope with it. However, I need to keep positive and continue to progress in my journey of recovery!

Bad days still come, but they are much fewer; this summer I have struggled occasionally but overall I have made great strides. Additionally, when I have felt low or anxious it has been triggered by events that qualify a negative reaction – my anxiety has not arisen unnecessarily. I remind myself that whilst my days are spent dedicated to recovering, that I am still living my life; the world can’t stop to give me time to get better, instead I have to get better whilst I deal with the punches that life throws. I think that people forget I suffer from anxiety and depression, as it is an invisible illness, and whilst I don’t ask to be treated any differently from others, it would be beneficial if people considered this. For example, an argument could leave me anxious and down for a whole week; my reactions are overreactions but they are still my reactions nonetheless. However, I am getting better at picking myself up from the depths of depression by employing all of the positive coping mechanisms that I have learned – such as reaching out to my friends.

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This summer I have flown so much (recommended by my therapist as Graded Exposure Therapy ) that I barely feel nervous about flying now.

The main challenge of my summer has to be spending two weeks in Mexico; don’t get me wrong, I am extremely grateful to have a great vacation and family time, but in order for me to even get there I had to challenge myself. Diazepam failed to take the edge off a delayed ten-hour flight, but after I finally got into my room in Mexico I realised that every potential problem with travelling safely occurred – this meant I had succeeded at a great test. And whilst, at first I felt disheartened that my anxiety had taken over me, knowing that I got through it and was able to enjoy my holiday after the flight was incredible. Facing my anxieties in Mexico didn’t stop there…

A short few months ago, I could only go out in public once a day as it was so anxiety inducing and draining, but in Mexico I was only ever alone when I was asleep. I went to restaurants or cafes at least three times a day and if you told me that back in February, I would not have believed you. Most people wouldn’t think twice about spending all day in a busy place but the idea of that frightened me; after forcing myself the first few times, I became used to it and the stress of that situation completely diminished. Before I left for Mexico, I told myself that if I survived the flights I would be impressed – I could spend the full fortnight in the bathroom being sick – but no matter what, flying for ten hours and dealing with the stress of the airport would be a great step – but I achieved so much more. I had a fabulous time in Mexico with my hilarious family and my life felt like normal again; this proved to me that recovery is possible.

This has been the first year I have felt confident in my bikini. Being able to walk about carefree and content with your body is the most empowering feeling. Recognising that I am happy with myself, although I might be flawed, has been a great milestone for me. Being insecure can be exhausting and I am loving how nonplussed I have been throughout the summer – not caring what anyone thinks will take a weight off of your shoulders. My weight still fluctuates depending on my anxiety, but for the full summer I have stayed a healthy weight, for which I am so grateful. There is a required weight for a reason – if you are below it that means you are unhealthy and could experience dangerous repercussions, just like I did. However, my diet includes little to no vegetables which I’m planning to work on over this upcoming semester.

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If you feel comfortable in your own skin, you are able to appreciate the moment without being distracted by your insecurities.

This summer has brought me much closer with a lot of my friends. Finally I am able to go out and meet up with friends normally, for the most part, and this has made a massive difference. Spending time with friends lifts my mood and makes life seem worthwhile. I have been lucky enough to go on two girls holidays this summer and I’ve loved every minute. Since I have spent most of my year struggling, having two weeks of laughter in the sun felt amazing and it has really encouraged my recovery, as I am reminded of the happiness that can be found in living. My friends have been a constant support throughout my recovery, from the bad days to this summer when I found the light in my life again – I can’t thank them enough. They have really made the effort to ask me lots of questions that has allowed them to understand my illness and be there for me in the most effective way.

My summer break was desperately needed; it gave me a few months to solely focus on myself, my health and my recovery. I’ve made more progress than I believed was possible and I’ve had more fun than I have had in years. The clouds have finally broke and allowed some light in. I know that going back to University will be difficult, but I am in a much better place than I was last year and with my newfound positive mental attitude I am sure that I will be fine. Maybe doctors should prescribe a three-month summer vacation for everyone.

ONCE YOU’VE BEEN IN THE DARKNESS, YOU APPRECIATE EVERYTHING THAT SHINES

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