Mental Health Recovery Is Never a Straight Line


When things go wrong with our physical health, we feel fairly certain that we know what to do and how to do it (rest, ice, medication, surgery, etc.), and fairly often this process is straight forward. Unfortunately, mental health isn’t so straightforward, and even more frustrating, recovery is hardly ever linear either and we don’t experience feeling better in a nice, neat, straight line. What are some of the reasons for this inexact progress?

Life Events Can be Unpredictable.

Life is mostly inconsistent and so many different factors add to the chaotic nature of our daily lives. No matter how much we try to convince ourselves otherwise, there’s only so much that we can control. Our mental health can take a hit from the things that occur internally for us (thoughts, feelings, physical sensations), but also the things that happen externally in our outer experience. Often, our outer experience brings up certain negative thoughts and emotions, while our thoughts and emotions lead to a change in perspective about what events are happening in our lives.

Recovery Can Be Frustrating.

When we are struggling with mental health issues, lows can feel extraordinarily painful and crushing. We work so hard to move toward the life we want to live, towards good health and piece of mind, and those setbacks can really impact our hope and confidence negatively. We might find ourselves in a cycle of thought such as ‘I’ve tried so hard and things are still going backwards so everything is hopeless and I’ll never get better so there’s no point in trying any more’. It can be very easy to get into this cycle and very hard to get out of it again. Hitting a rough patch of events doesn’t mean that everything is hopeless and it certainly doesn’t mean that all of our hard work is for nothing, but we can be fooled into believing it when this is a persistent thought.

Mental Health Is Continually Changing.

We’re predisposed to measuring how depressed or anxious we are, and how this compares to some date in the past or how it compares to where we would like to be. This comparison and measuring is a very natural behavior, but if it isn’t done constructively, as in keeping a log or journal, it can lead to longing for rapid change when change is generally step-wise when it comes to mental health.

Not Understanding Our Stressors.

It often seems like there’s no logical reason for our mental health deteriorating, but there’s likely something, however small that has affected how we feel or triggered a reflexive thought (habits, boundaries being broken, lack of support, etc). Therapy can help with identifying what our triggers are and learn how to make sense of them, then how to handle them differently. The more knowledgeable we are about our stressors, the more prepared we are to make decisions which benefit us and are workable into the life we want to live.

Discounting Or Ignoring Our Progress and Changes.

We tend to get caught on a rollercoaster of ups and downs as we go through days and weeks and become hopeful and dejected based on the state of our mental health. We often lose sight of the fact that, despite the ups and downs, over the course of time, we are continuing to improve. Think of it in the way that looking at the stock market for a day, there are continuous ups and downs, but when you pull back and see the market over a longer period of time, the general direction is growth.

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Blaming Ourselves For Regression.

Sometimes we use our mental health as a way to beat ourselves up, which only leads to more difficulty in staying the course with skills and new behaviors. We didn’t choose to have depression in the same way that we don’t choose to have a stomach flu. When we punish ourselves for how we feel, it makes us feel worse and starts yet another cycle and a likely spiral downward in mood.

Difficulty Accepting Emotion and Discomfort.

Not being okay can be hard to cope with, and so desperately want to be okay, but it is okay to have discomfort and still do the things in life that are important to us. We often avoid discomfort through easy and quick distractions or escape activities, which leads us to never truly know how resilient we are and how well we can actually live with discomfort until it naturally leaves us. We don’t believe that it is possible to live a full and vital life in the presence of sadness and anxiety, so we wait to begin living until they go away. The problem is that they don’t go away because emotions of all kinds are a part of the human experience. Focusing on them and attempting to resist them leads to them staying around and turning into depression and chronic anxiety.

If you would like assistance in your journey through mental health recovery, consider contacting me at (717) 288-5064 / and schedule an appointment today.