Thursday, 23 April 2015

Measuring Progress in Recovery

I'm at a strange stage in my recovery. It's not a 'crossroads', I'm not in 'limbo', I'm not even 'stagnating', but I am living with a sense of tension and unease. My problem is the future - or the fact that I cannot see what's going to happen in the future. Now, in reality I have never been able to see ahead in time, but I have always had plans, ambitions, career paths to follow, so it created the illusion that I had some control over how my life was progressing.

I don't think I'm any different or less able to read the future than anyone else, I have just become more acutely aware of how quickly my plans can go awry, just like Rabbie Burns' 'mice and men'. Having had an unremitting cycle of work and retraining, relocation and travel over the years, it is an alien experience to have lived in one place for more than a decade. Up until the last three years I have also had the stability of a career with a definite career progression. Surely that is what stability is built on? Yet, I don't think I have been as peaceful and untroubled by emotional storms as I have in the past year.

Nonetheless I am troubled by the short term nature of my ability to provide for myself. Going by the patterns of the past I SHOULD be relaunching myself in a new direction, be completely absorbed by a new job and praised for my external progression. My problem at the moment is that any opportunities to help out or volunteer are short term and sporadic. I feel the pressure to go back to work, but the idea of applying for full time work is so troubling that few people venture to ask and I daren't even consider the possibility, even though, on the surface, that would provide the greatest stability - financially.

As I write this, I realise I am in a process of adjusting my life to new priorities. My greatest needs are to manage my emotional life so that I don't regress to the inexorable daily cycles of damaging emotions and behaviours that have marked most of my life. That means that looking ahead is not helpful.

I am only able to plan up to a month in advance. I have a monthly meeting as part of the Experts by Experience group of my local NHS Trust. I am still meeting with people one to one to help them with Mental Health needs as part of my involvement in the church. Over the past three months, having had some disruption to my emotions caused by the pressures of managing the needs of elderly parents who live at a distance, I have learned to set the running of a five week course to one side - and learned that the sky didn't fall in because I put my own health first. Overall, it means that I have managed my mental health well and managed not to slip back into emotional dysfunction.

I need time to be able to reflect on these changes as realities which indicate that my progress in recovery and managing the symptoms of my BPD continues, but is not at an end, or, indeed an end in itself.

One of my biggest challenges is creating my own patterns without the regular hours of paid work. This includes valuing what I am able to do as helpful and contributing to those around me as I am able, without having the external validation of a pay packet at the end of the month. After over 35 years working in various jobs and careers this continues to be a battle. If I am able to turn up to events at church that means I am part of a community and I am valuable simply as myself. When I am asked to help out in developing a website and writing the odd article that means I can enjoy using skills and experience I have developed over the years. I need to change my internal validation compass to accept that I am contributing in a positive way without having a salary point to indicate my 'progress'.

Of course there is a daily reality of bills to pay. I know that it would be good if my progress could result in rejoining the ranks of those who are paid to work. At the moment I am learning to accept that whilst I am capable of working, my emotional resilience casts a question over how far I would be able to sustain a full time role. So, again I come back to looking ahead and seeing only bends in the road. Acceptance means that I settle my ambitious, career driven self to the here and now. Recognising the need some days to give myself a break means that I would not be the ideal employee at the moment, particularly in a nine to five, five days a week environment. Some structure would be nice, though.