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OPINION: Mental health recovery isn't a straight line

Ponoka News - 10/28/2023

I'll be the first to admit that, mentally, things have been a struggle of late.

The last three weeks or so have not been great for my mental health for a variety of reasons; my wife has been dealing with some health issues, this time of year carries its share of trauma echoes from the past, and generally, day-to-day life has, at times, been feeling overwhelming.

That's the thing with battling a mental illness; it ebbs and flows and doesn't remain static.

As bad as things have felt, though, there are positives in the ledger of life; with how much I have grown over the last few years, and how far I have come in my mental health recovery, even facing a setback I am still further ahead than where I once was.

On another positive note, I've become so in tune with myself mentally that I know when something isn't feeling quite right.

Unfortunately, there are negatives though.

On the negative side of the ledger, I've been so wiped out I've needed to take some days off work to just recover mentally and physically.

While the time away has not been ideal, it has definitely allowed me to, at least partially, recharge.

The thing is, this isn't the first time I've been down this road with my mental health. I doubt it will be my last.

Does it hurt? Absolutely.

Is it uncomfortable? Again, absolutely.

However, having been down this road for a time or three has allowed me to develop a plan with my support team, which I am fortunate to have, which allows me to weather these mental storms.

Because of the plan, when I feel my moods sliding, I don't really have to think about what to do but instead start going down the checklist in my head.

Items on the checklist include booking extra appointments with my counsellor, getting in to see my doctor, trying to shed — at least temporarily — anything extraneous from my schedule, and working on ensuring my sleep rhythm is where it needs to be.

I can usually track a mood disturbance issue back to one of two problems: getting myself to get too busy, allowing my sleep rhythm to get messed up, or a combination of the two.

By building, and using, this plan, I've been able to significantly shorten my recovery times and the interventions required, though things are by no means 100 per cent smooth sailing.

Still, I'm grateful for the fact that after over a decade of dealing with my mental health, and mental illness, I am at a point where I am able to navigate issues better than I ever could and that I have a very supportive family at home and management team at work.

The problem with dealing with any mental illness, be it depression, anxiety, or any other, is that they are not one-and-done; they are chronic conditions that can flare up based on what is happening in one's life.

Mental health recovery isn't a straight line and doesn't look the same for everyone.

However, there are more good days than bad and the effort, and pain, are worth it; working the plan allows me to manage both the bad days and the pain and get through to better days ahead.

- Kevin Sabo is the editor for the Stettler Independent, Castor Advance, and Bashaw Star newspapers