"Recovery" is a term often used with addiction issues, and it can apply to other issues related to mental health as well. We can experience recovery from depression, PTSD, anxiety, eating disorders, and other issues. I've had readers reach out and ask if recovery from PTSD means that all our symptoms will go away, or if we will not remember our traumatic experience, or if our lives will go back to how they were. Unfortunately, the answer is no. But this does not mean that we cannot have a recovery journey and live a meaningful life.
Recovery can mean different things to different people. It isn't straightforward, it isn't linear, and that is okay. For me personally, my recovery from PTSD has been 20 years in the making. For me, it has meant reducing my symptoms so that I could function, building a strong social support team, and sharing my experience, strength, and hope with others. As you may have read in The Soldier's Guide to PTSD, my journey was messy, and I made a lot of mistakes along the way. But I'm here, and I own every step in my recovery journey - good, bad, and ugly. For me, recovery is an ongoing process rather than a destination.
For some of us, recovery will mean managing or reducing symptoms. For others, it will mean learning new coping skills and ways to live. Other goals could be connecting with others, engaging in self care, or starting on a spiritual path. Whatever our path is, it is individual to us.
Recovery is often described as a process, meaning it isn’t always straightforward and there may be bumps and bruises along the way. We might have a period of time when we feel great and then an unexpected relapse in which our symptoms return. When I experienced this, I felt angry and frustrated - like all my work was for nothing. I had to remind myself that recovery is about progress, not perfection.
When it comes to recovery, what helped me was thinking about what a meaningful life looks like for me. I talked with my support team (my therapist and battle buddies), set small, attainable goals, and asked my team to keep me accountable. For me, having support was vital.
“Most people overestimate what they can do in a day,
and underestimate what they can do in a month.
We overestimate what we can do in a year,
and underestimate what we can accomplish in a decade."
-Matthew Kelly from the book The Long View
I love that quote because it reminds me that recovery is not a "drive-thru breakthrough;" it takes time. Unfortunately, help for PTSD is not "my way, right away" like the drive-thru at Burger King, and I still have to remind myself of that because I am not a particularly patient person. Yes, it gets easier over time, but there is no rushing it.
There's a popular Chinese proverb that says: “The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now.” There is no time like the present.
“If you believe change is possible, you want to change, and you are willing to do the work, you absolutely CAN get your life back.”