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Recovery: where to start

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Me too : Recovery works

I do consider myself in recovery for more or less 25 years. Yes, it is a long time, and I realize it can seem discouraging.

It does not need to be. I started to feel better relatively quickly – granted, considering the state I was in, it does not seem such a feat.

But still, it was important to see my situation improving. It created the space for a lovely feeling: hope. One day, I will be fine. And sure enough, one day I was just fine. Not “happy ever after” fine, but fine most of the time.

Even more important, I’m not sure that once it’s started, a recovery ever stops. It is always possible to improve our emotional health, regardless of what happened to us, regardless of where we are.

At the beginning, we have problems of epic proportions (how do I face life ?). After a while, they become more specific : “how can I keep my boundaries when I am in love?” (or, more bluntly, “how do I keep this guy from walking all over me?”).

Fast forward, we are still on our journey, asking ourselves if we should not invest more time in our friendships because, you know, we had other priorities but we realize now that friendship is important too.

As one of my mentors put it “The sooner you have solved the first 100 problems….the sooner you can move on to solve the following 100 problems”.

After a lot of recovery work, we still have problems to solve. But they definitely are not the same problems. We also understand that everybody has problems, and is, or should be, working on them. There is no “happy ever after”. For me, it’s good news: it means it will always get better.

What are the possibilities ?

That said, I am convinced that it took me too long to be comfortable in my own skin. It’s probably easier nowadays, but I found it incredibly difficult to find help and information when I started healing.

I started with what was the easiest for me: reading self help and psychology books. You see, I was scared by people. Books on the contrary could not take control, be intrusive, overpower or overwhelm me. Also, they would not judge and find me totally innaprorpriate and unfit for life – which I did; but I did not need a confirmation.

I would have loved recovering by reading books. Seriously, I tried.

Not surprisingly, it was not enough. One day, it finally dawned on me that in order to heal, or even survive, I would need the help of actual, real people. I hated the idea.

I have had a few therapists, but save one of them, they did not seem to have a clue as how to help me – strangely enough, they did help even if they had no clue, more on that later.

I even started a university degree. I do have a master’s degree in clinical psychology now. I still would have one more year to go to be a licenced therapist, but still, I know a few things about mental health.

The incredible thing is, during these four years studying in France, the topic of sexual violence, and how to help people who have lived through it was never addressed.

Not once.

I must admit I suddenly empathised with my previous therapists: no wonder they had no clue. Is this denial from the helping profession a general thing ? Are we that retarded here ?

The one thing I did not do, and that I think I should have done, is reaching out to a support network or group. It’s easy enough to hide behind a false self while working a corporate job. Doing it among fellow survivors is another story entirely. Wether you want it or not, they will understand you, and they may even, God forbid, connect !

Oh well, it’s still on my to do list.

How to choose a recovery path

So, where to start ? Recovery books ? Therapy ? Support groups ? Frankly, all of this is useful. Any type of supporting, accurate information, and any type of connexion with supportive people is good. In whatever order.

If, like me, people scare you, start with books, articles, and blogs like this one. You can still get a form of (one sided) connexion with the people who wrote these, especially when they share their story. And the information you get from some of these authors can be invaluable.

In this blog I will share books that I found really useful and why. I would love to hear from your favorite books.

At some stage though, you will have to recruit real people in your support team. We all need to be seen. We all need to learn to trust. To be validated. To go through corrective experiences. Therapists are good for this, if you can afford it, financially and emotionnally. And I hear support groups are great also. Just don’t stay alone.

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