Starting your mental health recovery is a hard step to take. The road to recovery is filled with potholes, mountains, and unpaved paths. Sometimes, there is no end in sight, and other times, you don’t know where to start. Most people seem to have opinions and advice to give at every corner, which can be severely overwhelming. Whether you’re at the start of your journey or somewhere along the way, here are five things to remember that might help it seem just a bit easier.

  1. Mental health recovery is personal. 

One of the most important parts of mental health recovery is that it is very personal. What works for one person might not work for another because mental health varies by each individual. You never know where people are in their journey because mental health affects everyone differently. You can seem to be managing well on the outside, while privately struggling. You can seem like a complete mess to the public while feeling better internally. Because of this, it’s impossible to compare recoveries or to measure your own recovery against someone else’s. 

You could be succeeding in an area of recovery they struggle with, just like you might struggle with an area they find easier. Personally, messiness is something I struggle with constantly in my recovery, but I’ve become fairly good at remembering to eat. I have a friend that’s the complete opposite in their recovery. Everyone has different goals and different hurdles to face, and each goal you complete in your recovery is a victory. Do not let another’s victory diminish your own.

  1. Help can be found in odd places. 

Professional therapy is probably the most common recommendation people give for mental health recovery, and it can be a great option for those who can afford it. However, therapy can be inaccessible for many due to costs, availability, or other circumstances. This shouldn’t stop anyone from starting their recovery though. There are other resources that can help and can be used simultaneously with therapy as well. For college students, a lot of campuses offer free counseling and group support. There are also apps that function as virtual text support groups. Insane Ability offers affordable Peer Support Groups and 1-on-1 Coaching Sessions as well. 

Help does not have to be standard because there is no standard recovery. It can be found in music, online, or in activities. If you find something that helps your recovery, use it. Don’t be discouraged if it seems odd or out of place. As long as it’s not hurting yourself or anybody else, it can make your recovery journey easier.

  1. Mental health recovery can be long and painful. 

Recovery can be long, painful, and in some cases, unending. This can be discouraging, especially at the start of your journey. Without a visible end, the journey can seem pointless, and it can be hard to remember why you’re putting in so much effort for results you might not fully notice. It can also be painful to sort through your emotions and figure out what helps you. You may even come across advice that actually worsens your recovery rather than helps it. 

Having a reminder for why you’re working through the pain and towards recovery can be helpful, even if it’s as small as telling yourself that it’ll get better everyday. Your recovery is for you and your life. 

It can also be helpful to set small goals for yourself. Maybe there’s something specific you struggle with that you’d like to get better at. Maybe there’s something you always wanted to do but have felt you couldn’t. Find something small to work towards, and take recovery one step at a time. It can be as small as cleaning your room or making a phone call.  It can help with feeling overwhelmed and make recovery seem more doable.

  1. There will be bad days. 

Recovery is not a steady path where everyday is better than the last. Some days through your mental health recovery will be really good. You’ll feel more productive than you ever have, and that energy can pump you up for a whole week. A lot of days will be average or manageable; they’re not perfect, but you’ll feel like you’re on the right path. Unfortunately, some days will feel like you’ve done absolutely nothing towards recovery. Some days will be so bad that it feels like you’re back at square one.

It’s important to remember that a bad day, week, month does not mean you’re not making progress, and more importantly, it does not negate the previous progress you made. These past few months have been a really good example of that. There’s an outside stress factor to add onto everything else, and a lot of people are stuck at home. Personally, I’ve felt like my whole life has been put on pause for months, which makes me feel like my recovery has gone backwards, when in reality, it just didn’t leap forward. These bad days are just like rest stops on a long journey. You can’t always keep your foot on the gas. Take a break and refuel. Tomorrow it’ll be a new day.

  1. There is no right way to recover. 

With all the advice and posts about mental health recovery on the internet, it might feel like you’re not recovering like you should. You might start your recovery then stop for a little bit before continuing. You might complete a goal then wait to make a new one. You may have coping mechanisms or ways to manage your mental health that you don’t hear about from others or seem odd in comparison to neurotypical society. It is more important to keep yourself healthy.

I’m horrible at keeping myself hydrated; I rarely drink water. However, I’ve found having a water bottle in random places around the house will help me drink more than just having a bottle next to me. I won’t stop to drink if the water is next to me because I’ll forget it’s there, but if i see the bottle somewhere while going to get something or walking around, I’ll stop to drink. During my first year of college, it helped to have an alarm set to remind me to eat. It doesn’t matter if it’s a common thing to do or if your recovery stops and starts. What’s important is doing what you can that helps you recover.

Some of you may find these points helpful, and some of you may find them useless. Whatever your situation is, do not be discouraged. Keep working towards your recovery. Your mental health is important and needs to be taken seriously. Whether you’re at the start of your journey, towards the end, or somewhere in the middle, don’t stop working on yourself. Even the smallest step forward is going in the right direction.

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