I asked my psychologist awhile back what it means and what it’s like to be recovered, and he responded with, “What does it mean to you?” Even though I was still getting better at that time, I knew pretty clearly what my answer was.
I think this is an interesting question because with OCD, it could be easy to just want to get rid of the stuck thoughts or change the feelings you’re experiencing. But getting rid of these thoughts doesn’t define recovery to me. To me, OCD recovery doesn’t mean you never have an “intrusive” thought or an emotion you don’t like. You have a brain, so you’re gonna have thoughts for the rest of your life. Instead, I see it as being at a place where this no longer bothers you. You understand who you are, and who you are is not your thoughts, or your emotions. You allow them to come in and out like the normal flow of these things. Some you might like more than others, but the ones you don’t are still just thoughts, or still just emotions. You experience them without judgement. As a result, those ones you don’t love likely will fall away more and more, but this is an effect of the work you’re doing, rather than the goal.
To me, recovery means you make healthy choices over and over. You realize that you have the choice, and that in and of itself is empowering. And you continually choose to take action in line with your values and how you want to show up in this world, no matter what random thoughts might pop into your head, or if you’re feeling an emotion that’s not your favorite. YOU become the driver of your life, not OCD or anxiety.
In order to be recovered, I think this means creating a life where you’re taking care of your mental health everyday. You don’t get to just recover and then be done with it – Being recovered and healthy means changing your habits for good and changing the way you live, forever. It means making mental health a regular part of your everyday, in whatever way works best for you – expressing yourself authentically, feeling your emotions, journaling, yoga, meditation, exercise, eating healthily, doing something you’re passionate about everyday, working with a coach or therapist, spending time with your friends and family, getting sleep, taking trips, having fun, relaxing… whatever mix of this and/or other things you need personally for your mental health and to live the life you truly want to live.
It’s also important to not be so fixated on a “recovery” goal that you lose sight of how far you’ve come and where you’re at! Give yourself credit every single day. After all, this is life. Right now. This moment. Feel it and experience it! Then lean into how it is you want to be living and where you want to be, and take action towards that. Work on your recovery, yes, but I love the idea of as early as possible shifting the focus to health and creating the life you desire. What do you need to do today in order for that life to be the truth in one week, one month, one year… ? What do you need to practice?
I see the goal more as a focus of radical self-acceptance, complete trust in yourself, and continuing to be more and more who you know you’re meant to be in this world, and what you’re meant to create. A focus of health and living the open, expansive, amazing, free life you’re meant to live. Ultimately the goal is health, not just recovery. Living free, not”getting rid of” OCD. When you focus on what you want to create and how you want to show up, rather than what you want to get rid of, you bring what it is you truly desire into your life.
So what does recovery mean to you? Are you there? Are you still working on it? Either way, keep going. Know that what’s in your heart is there because it’s meant for you, and keep your eye on that place of health and amazingness where you’re headed. Before you know it, it might just be here for you 🙂