Recovery Is Always At Least A Little Bit In Your Head…

October 29, 2017

*music notes (talk singing/dancing/finger guns)* Another post comparing mental and physical health */end music notes*

Sometimes I’m driving myself crazy with what’s in my head vs. what isn’t. Like, mental illness is real (obviously). And if you had a broken ankle, basically nobody would ask you to walk on it. So, it’d be weird to ask you to “walk” on your “broken brain.”

But it feels like people do that kind of a lot. “Oh, come on. Get back in the world. It’s not a big deal, etc.”

And I appreciate the sentiment. But sometimes I don’t feel ready.

Trauma is real. PTSD is real. Brains are complicated. And sometimes it’s more than just an attitude shift. I’ve been working very hard to learn about tools and grounding techniques and how to actually go back out in the world – and enjoy myself, and also hopefully have the people around me enjoy me/themselves.

And now to what I mean in the title of this post…

When I was in the hospital a whole bunch for my heart stuff, for the most part, it’s in my chart that I’m enthusiastic and doing really well and all that jazz. For the nearly-a-year span of all the doctor visits and surgeries and everything, I do well in procedures, I heal quickly. It’s all good.

But it is also in my chart that I took a little longer than expected to recover from open-heart surgery. It talks about how I’m a young woman capable of doing more, whose attitude after open heart-surgery seems to be slowing her down a little.

I don’t know if I’d finally just gotten exhausted; or if the doctor was overestimating my ability, or underestimating my pain; or maybe I was overestimating my pain, or underestimating my ability.

And I think sometimes when you’ve had a lot of physical issues, you can have a little fear that holds you back for a bit (which is something I dealt with a bit during recovery from that). Whatever it was, there were a few days immediately following open-heart surgery that I didn’t do everything I could do….(I didn’t sit up quite as fast as they thought I would, or walk, etc.) (In the end, I don’t think it matters much, as I have obviously made a full recovery.)

Now, even if my attitude had been perfect, there was only so much I could do. When I finally got to do stairs for the first time before I left the hospital – my attitude had apparently made the shift at this point because – once I got to the top of the landing, I excitedly asked if I could do more. And the nurse was all, “No, no, no! Not today.”

They want you to improve daily, but they won’t even allow you to go too hard, because doctors are smart, and they have a gauge on what might re-injure you. And so everybody on your team does their best  to find that sweet spot, of doing enough work to markedly move forward at an okay pace, but not re-injure yourself to a point where you’re in recovery forever or worse.

And to me, mental health is kind of the same, I think. Yes, there is an attitude component. But I don’t think it’s everything.

When I was having nightmares every night and so many more panic attacks, and just a lot of various issues, that wasn’t just a problem with a “bad attitude.” That was like my brain chemistry having been changed.

Certain things are supposed to potentially help people with PTSD, so whether I do those things (exercise, being outside/getting vitamin D, etc.) or not may have to do with my attitude. But I also don’t think that it means I must go out at every opportunity, and stay at things/events for the full possible amount of time and all that stuff… Baby steps might be fine.

If I lock myself in a dark room for the rest of my life and say, “I can’t do anything because I have PTSD,” that’s an attitude thing. If I regularly go to therapy, and gauge what I can and can’t handle right now, with an eye toward full recovery, but understanding it doesn’t always happen so fast, that’s just being realistic (to me, anyway).

I think there were certain times where I would force myself to try to go out and do oh so much, because I “need to be better/normal right now!” And, I think, overall, it was much more painful and anxiety-inducing (and kind of money-wasting) than it really needed to be.

I wouldn’t run a 5k on a broken ankle. So, I don’t need to be doing a mental marathon on a broken brain.

Trying to find that balance has been pretty darn exceptionally hard for me. But I think it’s been helpful for me to remember that it’s not only hard when it’s a mental health thing. It was hard to find that balance on a physical health thing as well.

I'd love to hear from you! So whaddya say?