MHM Recovery 14

This time around I’m tackling the difficult subject of people as safe zones. When you’re ill it might benefit you to have someone who can go places with you so you don’t feel scared/anxious/exposed. If you’re lucky enough to have the sort of person who understands and is compassionate enough to do that for you, it can be such a lifesaver, although if possible it might be better to have several of these support people rather than just the one.

In recovery this can also be a massive benefit, but only in the initial stages (and only you can tell when they are over and you’re feeling more secure, settled and confident within yourself). As your recovery continues you need to start taking little steps out on your own, without your safe person, or things can become very difficult between you and your recovery may also end up compromised.

No matter how understanding a person is, always being required to be around to accompany you out is bound to end up feeling like a burden and strain their good will and determination to help you. For you, as the recovering party, you might end up firstly feeling stifled and embarrassed by your dependence and then begin to lose ground in terms of your recovery.

Recovery requires a commitment to getting better and part of getting better is learning to re-engage with the world as an individual. Categorically you cannot do this if your engagement with the outside world is reliant upon the presence of another person. You have got to start striking out alone, gaining independence, rediscovering how to communicate when there is only yourself to rely on. If you can’t do this, you will plateau and possibly slip backwards.

It sounds very harsh, but there is a real danger of not only souring close and loving relationships, because what is understandable and acceptable during periods of illness and the early stages of recovery, quickly becomes less so as recovery moves forward. I’ve fallen in to the trap myself of barely being able to go out without my safe person and I can assure you, from experience, that it can end up being a nightmare for all parties involved.

I would advise that, once you start recovering and reach a point where you can feel that urge to do things without restriction reassert (and it will – you’ll know for sure when you’re straining against self-imposed restrictions caused by fears that are no longer entirely in control but nonetheless loud) that you begin those baby steps out by yourself. Start your gradual ‘outside world immunotherapy’ – it’ll feel huge at first, and frightening, but that’s old illness coping mechanisms talking. Ignore them, you will get past the initial bumpy road and find yourself just going out like it’s no big deal. I promise you.

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