When I was in the middle of a series of anxiety attacks a few weeks ago, I couldn’t think of much else that was going on that day. Fortunately, as it was the weekend, I had no work or plans, but my anxious symptoms made me feel like the whole day was a wash. But when I have some time to look back on that day, I now realize that I have dealt with the situation much better than in the past. I still haven’t enjoyed these symptoms and feelings of anxiety and depression at the moment, but I could see the progress I’ve made with hindsight. Unfortunately, it takes time to notice this progress, which can be difficult to see in a difficult psychological situation.
I always find it interesting to talk about progress. It feels like most of the time it is so easy to see in certain places and impossible to see in others. Plus, it’s easier to see progress in other people than it is in ourselves, and this is made worse when we talk about mental health.
My view of my mental health progress is flawed, but I also think it is quite similar to other people’s versions of their own progress. I minimize the things that I do well and my setbacks are massive and erase any progress I’ve made. Whether it is a problem of humility or a version of imposter syndrome, it is a common problem that appears in a variety of ways in people’s lives. Downplaying successes and minimizing progress are common enough, but mental illness will reinforce this approach and lead you to believe that there is no progress. Sometimes it is easier to visualize this feeling than to describe it. Therefore, my friend nodded to me at the point in time when I nodded in agreement immediately when my friend sent me this picture.
I often feel that my mental wellbeing is just spinning in circles. In my head, my experience is an endless cycle where I feel pretty good, feel down, have some sort of mental health spiral, have recovered, and feel pretty good again. Some might call it a cycle, but the term “going in circles” is easier to use as it means you won’t really get anywhere. But a circular, cyclical spiral that is trending upwards? That indicates progress.
Eight years of depression and anxiety made me think progress is a dirty word, but maybe I was too dependent on what that word meant. When I thought about progress, it meant that I would live a life without mental health problems, but progress could also mean that I am managing these problems more healthily than before. Psychological episodes will continue to be hard to deal with, but I would be lying if I said that I deal with these episodes the same way as I did when I was 19. Now all you have to do is remember it more than once a year!