I’m doing a fair bit of work on The Butterfly Mother at the moment, trying to get the blog out there in more places, reach more parents who may be suffering and raise more awareness etc (any tips or advice for this blogging newbie are very welcome, by the way!) and I’ve been reading back through a lot of my earlier posts. Am I Recovered? from the beginning of May is a particularly interesting read at the moment and shows me how much I’ve learnt in just a few short months.
Regular readers know that when I began blogging in April it was almost two years since I became a mum and I considered myself “recovered.” At least for the most part. Sometimes. Or actually not really. Except I mean, I was. I am…probably.
Yeah, you see my problem.
Knowing whether you’re recovered or not can be really difficult because Postnatal Depression & Anxiety, and I suspect any mental health issue or big life event really, is so soul-shaking that you’re never the exact same person afterwards. It’s just not really possible, save for a bout of amnesia, and who wants amnesia really? (*raises hand* me sometimes!) But without pain we don’t learn, and without knowledge we don’t get the chance to become stronger.
Three months ago I posted about a recent setback I’d experienced. I now think of this not so much as a setback or recurrence, but as simply another step in my recovery. A necessary step. Because recovery is not a destination. Recovery is simply a journey. And it’s not really even “recovery” because it doesn’t need a label. This is just me now, I suppose, this is my life. In some ways that is still utterly terrifying to me. The idea that the old, naive, carefree me is lost forever can be so upsetting. I spend way too long dwelling on this, letting myself fall into a negativity spiral about it, which doesn’t help. I just feel awful for a few days then drag myself out of it and begin to feel better again. Positivity is much more powerful (albeit a very difficult lesson for me!).
I strongly suspect I will never be the woman I was before I had Caterpillar and experienced a terrible mental illness. How can I be? And do I really want to be? In all honestly, I kinda like the new me. She is kinder, deeper and more empathetic. She worries less and is present more. She is more vulnerable maybe but also stronger at the same time.
That earlier post demonstrates my desperation to feel normal again, to be completely and utterly recovered. I suspect it was this obsession that led to recent events. What I’m realising (frustratingly slowly) is that it doesn’t really matter if I’m recovered. It doesn’t really matter if I’m “well” or “unwell.” I just am. And somehow that’s okay.
The tagline for this blog came to me a long time ago but as the months go by I realise more and more how significant those words are; find joy in the journey. Recovery is not a destination and neither is life! It is fluid, constantly moving. There are frequent highs and lows, sometimes within the same day or even the same hour (especially when you’re a parent to young children!) so my best route forward is to work on accepting all feelings, and just finding the small joys in all the things I can. This does mean I’m more hyperaware of my mood now, which is a source of frustration and anxiety for me, but it also means that I will never miss a moment of happiness. Even on the crappiest day, I can now find a tiny moment of joy. Frankly, I rarely did that before PND, and that’s a lesson I will always be grateful for.