Overcoming Fear In Recovery

By: Nic Fleming 

As I sit down to write this blog, I am reflecting on my last post and where I am at today. All I can come up with is that for me living with bipolar is all encompassing. It is present in every action I take or do not take. It undermines my sense of self and often distorts reality. Accepting this fact is exceptionally difficult but I know there is nothing I can do about it except to learn to live with the illness as best I can.

The last time I wrote I spoke of hope through therapy, and although I have been attending groups and seeing my psychologist I am still coming easily unstuck when I am faced with any sort of emotional crisis. My lack of emotional regulation haunts me daily.

At present the task of learning and practising new skills to cement new pathways in my brain is very daunting. I fear failure. So much so that there is strong resistance in my mind whenever I go to practise the skills.

However I think the fear is not so much the fear of failure but the fear of fear- primary and secondary emotions compounding each other to the point of inaction.

Maybe I fear the possibilities therapy offer me, the change that I now know is honestly possible. I have been shown the way, but the questions swim through my mind as always. That constant argument I have with myself is still rollicking in my mind.

I worry that if I can’t incorporate these skills into my day to day life I will be unable to move forward. It is extremely difficult to throw yourself a lifeline when you are at the bottom of the well.

At 44 and a lifetime of mental illness finally having a psychologist and attending groups is all new to me. It is scary and confronting. There is so much to address I often feel overwhelmed.

Staying present is my number one biggest challenge without a doubt. And as my psychologist says, I need to learn to “park” issues and unpack them one segment at a time. At that rate I think I may be in therapy for the rest of my life!

For this reason attending the trauma and recovery program for PTSD has been very challenging. I had a flashback a couple of weeks back on the weekend and by the time I went to group on the Tuesday I literally had to keep pinching my hand to stop myself crumbling on the floor. By the afternoon session I got up and left. I couldn’t handle it. There are so many of my own triggers that I am trying to push down and then there are those that arise from listening to other group members stories.

As soon as I got home the grief flowed through me and I was devastated. My unstable mood elevated to dysphoria rapidly becoming a mixed state within hours and I found myself longing for the relief provided by alcohol. This realisation was just as distressing as the underlying trauma and mood instability given my history of substance abuse.

I didn’t go to groups the following week, gripped by fear once again. The thought of coming undone in a room full of people all at different stages of their recovery was simply too much. I was isolating and ruminating again. I can spot it but most often in retrospect. The doctors and psychologists tell me I have very good insight into my illness. But instead of describing the water whilst I was drowning I’d really like to get on the front foot with this so I can recognise when things are deteriorating and catch it before it gets out of hand.

So, although I am not well the one thing I do know is that my support networks are my rope to climb out of the well. I know it. But is me who has to grab it and make the climb. No one else can do it for me.

I begin socialisation programs on Wednesday to lessen my isolation. I feel like a child being taken to preschool by my caseworker. But we have created a plan to incorporate these changes into my life so I have to stick to it. I said earlier it is me who has to make these changes, but having someone drag you along to get you started doesn’t hurt either. I am grateful for his support.

Can I do it all? In all honesty, I don’t know. But there is no other option but to commit to this and that is the plain truth. So Wednesday I begin another new journey. Wish me luck !

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