I’m not sure what it is about the word, “recovery,” but for a lot of people it’s a turn-off. I confess I’ve often felt that way too. Perhaps it’s because I’ve known so much more about the journey through Hell than I could ever know about Paradise. After years in the lower world, with only an occasional glimpse of blurry bright patches in the far distance, I’ve been amazed at finally getting out of there. Getting my life back, though, didn’t have much to do with all the jabber about recovery I’d been hearing for years.
Pop psychology has loaded the word with plenty of baggage – at least when it comes to depression. (It’s still a powerful word in AA.) There are so many people preaching about their healing techniques that I usually shut my mind as soon as I hear them begin. And there’s so much advertising about new drugs, turning frowns into smiles by the millions.
And so many books! Even the good ones have their problems. Sure, I get lots of ideas and insights from them, but sooner or later I wind up feeling overwhelmed, angry, insulted – maybe all of those. A few ideas are fine, but after a couple of hundred pages, I’ve got more tips and techniques than I can keep track of, too much urgent advice, too many things that have to be done every day.
The tone is must-y and should-y. Just go out and do all this. Act, think, exercise, eat, lower the stress level, relate to people! They often assume that you’re already well enough to be doing all that. And I get this implied message – even if it’s not there – that I should be able to undo depression, if I really try or, even worse, if I really want to. It sounds arrogant, preachy, belittling, and I’m reminded of all those “friends” who command you to get your act together and stop whining.
Of course, this word is much on my mind as I work away on my new site, which is all about – recovery. I don’t want to fall into the “recovery”: trap. I’m excited to have reached a turning point in my life, but I’m afraid it’s too easy to start sounding like: You too can do it – if you really try.
Even if I’m careful and never create that impression, there are still the hollow echoes of that word “recovery” from all the claims, oversimplifications and faulty assumptions that come to mind. Even if it doesn’t provoke frustration or hostility, it can still seem so unattainable as to be irrelevant. I’ve noticed this in the reactions I get to posts about recovery as opposed to those about depression.
When I do a post on my own recovery and talk about the ways I managed to pull it off (always hoping the ideas might be useful to a couple of readers), the reaction is often like this: Great news, happy for you … Of course, I can’t even imagine feeling that good myself, or I’m adapting and resigned to living with this forever, or How can I think about recovery when I can’t even get out of bed? etc. Others describe (and this is what I most hope for) what they’ve been able to do to feel better.
Whatever the comments might be, they tend to be brief and few in number.
When I post about episodes of severe depression or damaged relationships, there’s often instant connection: I’ve been there – I could be using those same words – here’s what’s happening to me. There are many more comments, often with long, personal, intensely moving stories. Those are some of the most powerful, unforgettable parts of this blog.
This is no surprise. From what I see all over blog-world, people go on line, as I did, to find out if anyone else is going through this same hell, to make connections with them, to tell their stories and get support. I’ve been helped as much by finding this community as by writing (and as a result learning) about my own experience. Most people are searching for this sort of help and have too much to cope with to start thinking about life without depression.
Recently, a few readers have raised questions that have gotten me thinking about another problem. They ask: Can recovery include doubts? Can you really say you’re recovered if you still take medication? It’s as if there were conditions attached to recovery, that it only counts if you do it in a certain way, or that you have to pass a test before you qualify.
That reminds me how easy it is to focus on the method instead of the result, the word instead of the different life. Strange how hard it can be to remember that “recovery” is only a word. So I’ll use whatever word feels right and try to drop all the baggage of this one. I don’t want to get tangled up in techniques and semantics.
How do you manage to avoid the trap of “recovery”?