In an ideal world, when we’re diagnosed with depression or any other condition, we would be able to put our entire lives on hold to prioritise our recovery. Unfortunately, the reality is that for many of us, recovery can’t be our sole focus. There are other things in our lives which we have to factor in.
Reasons It Can’t Be Our Sole Focus
There are so many different things that can stop us from being able to make recovery our sole focus. This could include, but isn’t limited to, looking after our children, work commitments, having other illnesses, upcoming benefits assessments, illness in our family, caring responsibilities, and educational commitments or exams.
Some of these might be things that we can do something about. For example, if lack of childcare is one of the things preventing us from getting to appointments, we could ask our friends or family to help out with it. Other things are less easy to mitigate. For example, if a member of our family is seriously unwell, then we might need to prioritise seeing them after work each night, reducing the amount of time that we have to actively focus on our recovery.
There Are No Perfect Conditions
It might not be possible for recovery to be our sole focus, but that doesn’t mean that there’s no room for it at all. Our health is important and arguably, the most valuable asset we have.
There might be some things that we can do in order to give ourselves more time to focus on recovery. For example, we could do some calculations around our finances and see if it’s possible to reduce the number of hours we work for a while. We might choose to spend one night a week working on the sheets that our mental health team have given us to fill in. Perhaps we could do a bit of commitment-juggling in order to get to our appointments and pick up our prescriptions, rather than ignoring the fact that we need to go to the GP and accidentally stopping our medication.
Nobody has a ‘perfect’ recovery. In fact, learning to accept ourselves as imperfect people can be a big part of recovery! We can only ever try our best at the things we do in life, and that includes recovery. Our best is different from other people’s best and it can also vary on a daily, or even hourly, basis depending on how we feel and what’s going on in our lives. We can only ever do what we can, and there’s no point in beating ourselves up for not being ‘better’ at recovery because that will usually just leave us feeling worse.
Recovery can still be part of our lives even if it isn’t our sole focus. It might mean that some things take a little longer, but there’s no rush. There’s no time limit to recovery.
When we’re pushed for time, doing micro self-care can enable us to fit self-care into jam-packed days. For example, there are lots of micro self-care tasks that could take about 5 minutes. When we’re pushed for time, we often forego self-care but self-care is an imperative part of recovery; self-care is healthcare.
There are lots of other ways that we can factor self-care into our day. If we get the bus to work then we could spend the journey reading a book or unsubscribing from newsletters that we never read. For those of us who struggle to fit in exercise, we could start cycling to work or walking the kids to school instead of driving (providing we live close enough). Creating a bedtime routine and making our bedroom a screen-free zone doesn’t take much time at all and can really improve our quality of sleep. Carrying a (filled up!) water bottle around can help us to drink more water. Saying ‘no’ to things that we really don’t want to do and don’t absolutely have to do, can free up time. If we have the money, then replacing worn-out items like socks and slippers, and buying nice bath or shower products can all be ways of being kind to ourselves and showing ourselves that we’re worth it. Sometimes we’ve had a rough day and it can help to let go completely and have a five-minute dance party to shake off our stress before we stick our pyjamas on.
There are lots of different ways that we can weave self-care into our day without it feeling like yet another chore to add to our ever-growing list of ‘things to do’. We’re all different and will all find different things helpful, so it’s always worth taking some time to think about the sorts of things that lift us up individually.
Fitting In Appointments
Fitting in appointments can be really tricky. In fact, it’s often one of the harder parts of recovery for those of us who have chock-a-block lives.
The majority of healthcare appointments are 9am-5pm, Monday-Friday. If we’re someone who works standard hours, this can make it hard to access them. Arranging our appointments in our lunch break can be an option for some, but many of us don’t work in the city we live in and an appointment can be a bit of a drive or a few buses away, making it impossible to fit it into the time allocated to us for lunch. It’s always worth speaking to both our healthcare professionals and our employer about what sort of allowances they might be able to make in order to help us fit our appointments in.
Our healthcare professional might be able to offer us the same time of appointment each week – this can allow us to build it into our work routine. Additionally, they might be able to see us somewhere closer to where we work so that we can fit in seeing them during our lunch break. They might be able to offer us their first or last appointment of the day which can cut our travel time in half.
When it comes to work, different employers have different rules surrounding health appointments. Some might ask us to take our appointments as annual leave, some might offer a flexitime policy, or ask us to make the time up at a later date, others might allow us to just have the time off altogether. If we’re having problems with our workplace accommodating us, it’s always a good plan to make sure that we know our rights, and to speak to our HR department (if we have one), or to go through Occupational Health if that’s available to us.
Some of us might struggle to get to appointments because we have no childcare. It might be helpful to see if any of our friends or family could look after our children for the duration of the appointment. If this isn’t possible, we could speak to our healthcare professional about whether they offer any childcare, whether there are any voluntary childcare schemes in the area, or whether there is anything else that they could suggest or provide.
For some of us, appointments can be difficult because we have other dependents, such as poorly family members or animals that we can’t leave. We might find it hard to get to appointments because we have no transport or can’t afford the necessary transport. It might be difficult to fit appointments around our job centre commitments.
There are lots of things that can make it hard to access appointments. We’re certainly not alone in finding it hard to fit them in. Rather than deciding that we can’t access any help or support, it’s always worth speaking to our healthcare professional about the difficulties we’re having. There might be things that they can suggest or do to make appointments more accessible to us.
Boundaries can feel uncomfortable to implement but they can make a huge difference.
Some examples of boundaries that can be helpful include things like sticking to a particular bedtime, having a rule that we have one busy day and one ‘chill’ day each weekend, and saying no to things that would be really inconvenient for us.
Boundaries can help us to carve out some ‘me time’, and time to focus on recovery. However, sometimes our boundaries can be restrictive and can isolate us, so it’s worth regularly checking in with ourselves to make sure our boundaries are helping not hindering us.
We know that our boundaries have been compromised when we feel uncomfortable about something. It might feel as though people aren’t respecting us, or as though we’re being taken advantage of. Straightening out our wonky boundaries can help us to remove some of the unnecessary pulls on our time, to feel more comfortable around others, and to feel as though we have more energy to be the person we want to be and to do the things we want to do.
Accepting help can be difficult. But we deserve help and support. We’re allowed to accept help. Many of us give so much time to others and wouldn’t hesitate to drop everything if one of our friends needed us, but struggle to accept the same help from our friends when we’re in need. Actively asking for help can also be difficult. It can take time and practice to begin to feel comfortable asking, but we deserve the help and support that we need to help us work on our recovery.
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