Celebrate Recovery – A reflection

You may remember I blogged a while ago about starting to attend a group at church called ‘Celebrate Recovery’. It’s a Christ focussed twelve step programme which helps people with their hurts, habits and hang ups. You can find more details about Celebrate Recovery and whether it runs in your area from the link at the end of this blog. A standard introduction at celebrate recovery is “Hi my name is… , I am a Christian and I am in recovery from…” Which seems simple or so you’d think. Not to me it seems who over analyses everything I say and do. As a nurse I pride myself on being a reflective practitioner, which is a vital part of nursing, yet can’t help but berate myself for taking this too far and obsessing over my inadequacies. I have managed to skirt the introduction thing thus far and it has been without issue but tonight I was asked if I would be willing to read out the beatitudes which would involve an introduction in front of the whole group. I was happy to read out the beatitudes but quickly had a moment of realisation that I didn’t know what to say in my introduction. I could have confidently said I am in recovery from mental illness or childhood sexual abuse or even promiscuity if I go far enough back but however true those statements are they do not reflect why I am attending CR.

I attend CR as a last chance saloon attempt to get my emotional eating under control. I do not feel worthy of saying I am in recovery from emotional eating as recovery is an achievement and I do not feel I have achieved anything yet.

The recovery narrative within mental health is something I struggle with for many reasons; so many are written with their over arching theme being that a person was so ill then worked really hard and recovered and go on to live happily ever after. Those of us who have lived with mental illness in our lives for a long time know that this is not the case at all, that recovery often means periods of relapse as well as periods of remission, that it means a level of self awareness which follows you like a cloud even on the sunny days with a constant awareness of its presence and its ability to steal your sunshine.

I consider myself to be three and a half years into a period of remission from mental illness and yet still I have to monitor my mood daily (prevention is better than cure yeah?), I experience anxiety about my worthiness in nearly everything I say and do which gets easier to mask but more pronounced in its effects with each year that passes, still I wake up each morning wondering if today will be the day I relapse. Years since my last relapse and yet still I rarely get a seat on the morning train, the reason being I will not step forward until the train has passed me on the platform, I have never regained the self trust I lost the day I nearly stepped out in front of a train. I also often let trains pass and wait for the next if it is too busy because another residual feature of my mental health is being aware of my need for space and not having to touch others who I don’t know. I know how odd these things seem for a ‘well person’ but it is small adjustments like these which help to keep me well.

Everything I have said so far demonstrates my belief in recovery as a process, as something which is ongoing and not achieved as a one off whereby a certificate is issued and yet I still struggled to attach the word recovery to my emotional eating. I have spent the past 24 hours wondering about this and have come to the conclusion that it is linked to shame. My previous hurts, habits and hang ups have all been ‘worked on’ and I have moved beyond shame over them. I have blogged previously about how I paid for a lot of private therapy and how the more often I use the phrase ‘I am no longer ashamed of my past’ it reduces its cost per use! My shame is exacerbated each time I catch a glimpse of my reflection in the mirror or a shop window, I can’t hide from it.

I did get up and I did say “Hello my name is Claire, I am a Christian and I am in recovery from emotional eating” but I felt fraudulent, I felt like I was different to everyone else, not worthy of using those words and have spent the past 24 hours cursing myself for doing so.

My state of mind was fragile when I arrived at the meeting last night having been on a training course all day then had been into town to look for a dress for a dinner I am attending this weekend and being unsuccessful in that dress search. The training course is Monday to Friday and its about ‘Preventing and Managing Violence and Aggression’ which involves everything from de-escalation and breakaway, resuscitation right through to restraint. I won’t go into depth on the rights or wrongs of restraint however I will say that in the trust I work for the culture is such that it is always a last resort when all other options to keep the patient and others on the ward safe have been attempted, I know this isn’t the case in a number of my twitter followers experience elsewhere in the country however.

As I have already said in this post about getting on busy trains I struggle to be in close proximity to people I don’t particularly know so this in addition to being held against colleagues and to the floor forcibly during role play has left me feeling a bit out of control and vulnerable. I recognise the importance of this training and can manage the actions of the nursing staff which will be what I am required to do in practice but during the training course when I have been held I have found this very difficult. Whether this is something which originates from some awful restraints I witnessed as an inpatient which I remember vividly (personally I was only ever held in a standing restraint and walked back to the ward and never held on the floor thankfully) or whether it is simply linked to me feeling powerless which after my early life experiences is something I really struggle with I don’t know but I do know my body reacted with rigidity without any conscious prompt. I wasn’t even aware how paralysed with fear I was until I was given the ok to stand up.

Following my day on this course I had time to fill before celebrate recovery group as I didn’t have time to go home and get back into town for it so I went to look at dresses for this weekend. BIG MISTAKE. I wasn’t in the mood to try clothes on which resulted in a mini meltdown in the fitting rooms of monsoon surrounded by some beautiful dresses and involved me being vile toward myself in the mirror. I told myself that no amount of sequins or silk would make me look ok that I am repulsive and not deserving of such beautiful items. I then got on the metro to go home and was feeling pretty rotten by this point following my emotionally tough day and an unsuccessful shopping trip but something made me get off the train at the first stop which is where the church is where CR is held. I like to believe Jesus took my hand and led me off the train and into his house where I was able to explain how I was feeling with my mask removed and no judgement from anyone. I am so pleased I did attend as I left lighter emotionally and less inclined to go home and attempt to fill the emotional void left by my distressing day with the contents of my fridge. Is that recovery?

I am not cured, in the same way I can never be cured of other past hurts, I can not make things un-happen but maybe I can describe myself as being in recovery from it as I have made the first step of recognising my powerlessness with this and handing it over to God to deal with for me. Maybe over time as I follow the principles and steps I will become happy in my skin in the same way I am happy and content with other areas of my life? For me Celebrate Recovery will hopefully act as weight watchers for the soul or spiritual slimming world as I begin to shed the layers I have build to cover my true self.

Last night’s lesson was about HOPE and it gave me hope ironically. I have hope that I can follow the programme and change the one aspect of my life which steals my happiness, my mustard seed of faith was shown right there when he helped me off that train and into church rather than letting me go home to fester in my thoughts. I have another three days on this training course and still have no dress but today can rationalise these things as I have handed them over, I cried out and he took them.

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