Ongoing Recovery — Blog Post #1
It is August of 2014, it has been four years since my last therapy session. Of all the symptoms that I had when I first went to therapy, only one continues. My throat still feels sore from time to time, usually when I’m stressed and anxious. There have been times when I’ve been really upset and very tired, but it didn’t feel like the unexplainable exhaustion that I experienced when I went to therapy. I haven’t felt the tightness in my chest in a long time. I never have any symptoms while I am exercising or focused on a task.
I am curious why my throat symptom continues, and sometimes it is frustrating, but I don’t know what to do about it. It doesn’t really bother me when it happens, it isn’t very severe. You can choose to say that therapy didn’t work because it didn’t make all of my symptoms go away completely. On the other hand, three of the four symptoms have not reoccurred and the one that remains is much reduced. I also wonder why my throat symptom, which I don’t remember ever having before the onset of all my symptoms, is the one that continues. Perhaps this is the way I experience stress now, but I can’t explain why only one symptom continues.
I have also noticed that I don’t experience the serenity I described back in the months closer to the end of therapy. This doesn’t mean I’m unhappy or that I don’t feel good and sometimes really good. I wonder if this reflects that I was feeling so bad when I first went to therapy that any time I felt better or good, that was such a change from what I was feeling most of the time, that I noticed it as serenity. Now, as almost all of my symptoms have receded, I think I’m feeling a lot better all the time. When I feel good it isn’t that unusual, when I feel bad I can usually identify the cause, so it isn’t scary. Perhaps it was like I was carrying a heavy weight around before I went to therapy and now, with that weight removed, I just don’t have times when I feel so much better that it seems noteworthy.
With the benefit of feeling much better for a number of years, I also wonder if the symptoms that appeared and caused me to seek therapy were present well before but I didn’t notice them. How much better would I have felt, if I had sought therapy earlier, all those years before the symptoms motivated me to seek help? I can’t answer that, but, as the time passes and it has been longer and longer since I left therapy, questions like this come up.
I think I spend a lot less time worrying about my symptoms. This makes sense since they have been greatly reduced, but I also think that I just don’t worry about them the way I did before I went to therapy. There are days when my throat is tight and sore, but I am able to get past it quickly. It isn’t scary as it was before. I have so much more mental energy (psychic energy?) now than when I was worried about my symptoms. I can get a lot more done each day. I encourage you to seek help for what is bothering you, if for no other reason, because all the energy you now put into worrying could go into things you like, things that make you feel good.
Earlier this year I started volunteering at a local railroad museum. I had thought of doing this for years but never made the time. I did have many other obligations, but most of those are gone now as our sons have become independent. I had volunteered at the railway over one holiday weekend several years ago so I had some experience as to how they worked. It was good to become more involved. At the same time, I had learned, through bitter experience, that I can easily volunteer too much and burn out. I was very careful this time, as I became more involved with the volunteers at the railway, to not volunteer and not allow myself to be ‘volunteered’ for anything I didn’t want to do.
I may want to be more involved in future, but that is up to me, not them. The competition for my volunteer time is immense so I can chose exactly what I want, not what any one organization tells me I should do. Within the first day of working at the railway I was asked to participate in the meetings for the board of directors. I immediately declined and made it clear I was scared from being over volunteered in my previous experience with my son’s high school marching band. I stood up for myself and did not let the needs of others dictate what I was going to do.
This is important to my ongoing recovery. My experience growing up was that I had to take care of everyone, that anyone could use me, and I had to make them happy. I couldn’t control things when I as much younger, but I can now. I have to stand up and say what I want, and say no to what I don’t want. I am very clear, first with myself and then with the volunteer organization, in this case the railway, that I am only going to volunteer as myself, that I am not responsible for organizing others, nor am I responsible for raising specified amounts of money, or making other people do things. I want to volunteer on my schedule, with minimal stress, because that is what I want, and what I want is important.
I could feel myself slipping back into old habits. Once I had volunteered for several weekend days in a row, I starting feeling I had to volunteer every weekend. I had to stop being the victim. No one was even asking me to volunteer every weekend, I was creating new guilt all by myself. I practice, often, asking myself, do I want to go to the railway this Saturday? And when the answer is no, I don’t go. I don’t count how many weekends it has been since I last volunteered, or how many hours I have volunteered. It can be that easy. Do I want to do something, yes or no. The volunteer organization is lucky to have my time, whatever and whenever that may be. They can’t make me do anything, and I have to stop worrying about how much I do, and what everyone else’s expectations might be.