Lately, my most prominent topic of conversation among both my neurotypical friends and my ever growing group of less neurotypical friends has by far and away been recovery - and more specifically how we seem to be punished by the universe simply for getting better. The world can understand "irreparably ill" and "completely fine" but the in between stages of "far from bad but far from good" seems to send other people into an endless spiral of confusion, leading us to have to pick up the pieces for them.
I can understand why it's so hard to grasp the concept from an outside view. When I say I can walk to our local corner shop with no issues, and I can even do it with other people these days, I'm always met with praise and congratulations, but when I say I can't get in the car and drive there? Blank stares and confused eyebrows. Why can't I do that if I can do this? Boy if I knew, I'd be doing it all.
My best example is that on many occasions now, I've been able to drive with my boyfriend (shout out H ily) but other days I simply can't. No if's no buts, I'm just not doing it without an unfathomable panic attack. There's no rhyme or reason as to why it differs, it just does and everyone else needs to be on board with that. Nothing stays the same, okay?
There seems to be this notion that recovery should happen all at once and all together when it's more like taking a category at a time.
Walking - Check.
Into this one tiny shop alone - Check.
Being in a car with someone other than my parents - Nope.
Some might argue that going into a store is harder than just being in the car, but if that was the case I'd be able to eat soup instead of being able to sit in waiting rooms alone (A proud accomplishment if I do say so myself and I'm not sure why I fear soup).
Anxiety towards one issue is not comparable to the other - Just because one task seems easier than another, does not actually make it easier. It's individual and unaffected by our other accomplishments. Just as having learned to speak French won't make you any better at speaking Mandarin.
It is almost as if we're punished for being in this middle ground because the rest of the world doesn't understand how to deal with it. Privileges (and I use the term very loosely) are taken away when we begin to improve because it's suddenly expected that we've improved entirely. If you can do this, then you don't need any of that. If you don't have a cold anymore then we're taking away your tissues, even though your nose is still a bit runny. Reactions like this make recovering not only more laborious than it already has to be, but almost pointless. Recovering is firmly a middle ground, which still requires the same patience and care as being completely over taken by your illness. The frequency of good days, or good moments, may have increased, but ultimately there are still so many bad days and it's not right that we have to justify those to anyone who can't understand the idea that being "better" isn't set in stone.
The pressure grows so intensely when we start to show signs of having it together. My likelihood of saying yes to things I wouldn't even dream of before has increased tenfold, but that makes it near impossible to say no on the days when I feel beaten by my anxiety. It's a real life application of the "you've made your bed, now you have to lie in it" phrase. I've presented this image of a person with their life together. Someone who is, by all accounts, doing well, who can achieve almost anything now, give or take a little anxiety. Unfortunately, this isn't realistic in the slightest. As a result, I feel I have to apologise and explain myself in a way I never had to before. In the past, I'd fully embraced my own situation and unapologetically owned my anxieties. It was futile for anyone to ask anything of me, because I was always going to stick to my protective guns, guilt free. Now, I've opened the flood gates, I rarely take "me" days or say no. This has led to so very many days feeling overwhelmed and guilty.
I find myself regularly having to explain that I need some time because I can't keep up with my own rate of progression. I'm trying so hard, and I'm so proud of myself, but there's only so long you can keep up such intense hard work before beginning to crash. This would be an isolated problem of its own if only I didn't then have to explain myself as if I'd done something wrong, because I need to take few steps back. My actions affect others and I understand how it can be painful to allow their lives to be impacted by my own when my life is never stable. I'm more than appreciative of the people who continue to love me, to care for me, and want me in their lives despite all the baggage I come with, but I can't help but feel like I'm never quite enough now.
Every so often, I have some seriously good days, I can almost appear fully functional. In reality, I am simply a high-functioning bundle of anxiety. However, the good days are what everyone remembers, what everyone clings to. When I can't function quite as well, it's as I've told my loved ones that I'm converting to Satanism. I mean well, I always do, but sometimes I can't keep up. Unfortunately, this is often received as if I don't care, or don't want to be a part of the relationship.
If I may, I'd like to clear this up once and for all. Yesterday is not today, last week is not now. I am doing my best every single day no matter what. Just because my best today doesn't look like yesterday's best, doesn't mean I'm not working equally as hard. Sometimes, I back out of things at the last minute. That is because I cant possibly carry on with how I feel and I need to escape, but I left it as late as possible because I wanted to try. Be pleased that I tried, that I even considered whatever it was. Don't blame me, or take offense, I tried. Know that I will have always tried my best. A year ago, I probably wouldn't have even attempted such things. I never want to cause any upset when my anxiety affects someone else's day, it's just that at this moment it seems like my options are going through with the plans or death. We'd all choose the same, given the same circumstances.
When it comes to recovery, the vast majority of us are living in this Phantom Zone. Where we are doesn't exist inside the usual space/time continuum, only to us in it. Please just give us time, let us call our own shots and try to take life with us as it comes. We're moving one step at a time and so should you. I know you have plans and hopes that include us, and we are more grateful for that than you'll know, but please, let us decide what is and isn't realistic.
We'll get there, I promise.
|I hadn't sat on this field in 4 years - seriously.|