Recovery is a Process - Prithiva Sharma

i. Therapy sessions were hard. I probably need therapy for my therapy sessions. For once, though, I felt okay enough to take the metro home; for the first time someone thought it okay enough for me to find solace in the fictional world as a way of coping with my withdrawal and depression. It was okay for me to be happy and bitter for and about fictional characters.

If it helps you not to smoke, you can dive into books and movies. Everyone feels emotional for certain fictional characters, its fine. You aren’t weird, Albeena. It means you have opinions and emotions. That it is a good thing. It is progress.

To be told I’m not weird for crying over Beloved is the sweetest thing anyone has ever said to me. I felt lighter, like I could go home and pick up the latest Alias comics without shame, instead of feeling like it was another insane coping addiction.

(If I think about it, I did have thoughts beyond I don’t know for the first time since my third relapse.)

I realized just how much I can like the air conditioner in the metro if I am not too tired to climb the stairs. This time, my mind was silent as I went back home, probably because I was debating plot points.

ii. “Chris Evans talks about his anxiety and depression.”

It feels like anxiety and depression is all around me; I might just be projecting and seeing it in everyone else. Projection is a defense mechanism employed by your subconscious to defend your conscious from negative thoughts.

My mind still parrots my psychology lessons at every possible moment. I haven’t learned how to control it yet.

Recognize the thought pattern and then work on distracting yourself. Slowly, work on altering the pattern into a healthier thought pattern.

Cognitive recalibration is hard. There must be something out there to change my mind altogether.

Electroconvulsive Therapy.

Distract yourself from unhealthy thoughts.

I focused on the actor talking about his experience with therapy. Shared experiences help create new neural pathways, I was told in the early stages. The actor on the screen is saying he did not want to go to therapy, and something inside me snaps. I wanted to rush to mom with the phone.

I need you to see that I am not the only one who was scared of it. I am not the only one who “rejected help” because they thought it wasn’t help. I need you to see that this person on this small screen who is a large enough figure for someone to be listening to him thought the same, Ma.

I did not go to her.

I haven’t gone to her for anything other than the bare minimum since my last relapse. I keep thinking two months is way too long for radio silence, but no one ever asked me why I relapsed; there was never any conversation. It feels too late to start a conversation now.

iii. So, turns out Chris Evans isn’t fictional. He is real, and anxious and does two movies a year and talks to hoards of strangers at events. The comments on his videos are flooded with gratitude.

He inspired me to give my 100% to my work and two weeks ago I got my first promotion.

He is such a great human being he taught me how to get over my fear of talking to people. I learnt so much from this video, today I work as a social manager for my dream firm.

A five minute video could change lives?

The guy himself took therapy for four years before he could talk about it, how does one get a promotion by listening to him for five minutes?

If you would listen and try to follow, maybe you would be able to achieve something too.

Unhealthy thought patterns. Self - deprecation. Personalization. Distract yourself.

I clicked on the video again, looking for that secret moment which gave people jobs and promotions. If five minutes could make lives so much easier, I could probably tell doc in the next appointment that she could recommend this to someone else too.

(With depression and withdrawal, you will latch onto the smallest of hopeful thoughts. As long as you do not resort to consuming drugs anymore, or lie to escape from home, it is alright to find hope in the little things.)

iv. It wasn’t a miraculous moment like I had hoped. There was nothing special in that five minute clip. I talked about it yesterday during therapy for twelve minutes, though, and doc was happy that I was initiating conversations about my life.

You did create some new neural pathways, it seems. Talking about your daily life and day-to-day experiences helps you to think about how big even the smallest of experiences were.

The traitorous part of my mind that still has a chain of unhealthy thought patterns has since been disappointed in me for wasting fifteen minutes replaying a video that was of no huge consequence.

It was a waste of time. I created new neural pathways. You learnt nothing. I smiled for fifteen minutes. You don’t even like the guy. I like the man now. He is real with his issues; at least he was for fifteen minutes.

I shut my mind and opened my textbook. Comics weren’t the only thing I could read, and no matter how much my college made me want to reach for a cigarette, I was determined to try to be half similar to at least one of the people who commented below the video.

(They looked for an example in the actor who was in the video. I was looking for one in them. Failure would be more acceptable that way.)

v. Chris Evans talks to so many strangers everyday despite his anxiety. The guy has to go through strict therapy but he does it nonetheless.

It’s his job. I am not obligated by job to talk to strangers. I don’t even have a job.

You won’t be able to hold one either.

Distract yourself. Don’t let your thoughts go towards self-deprecation.

I picked up my neglected phone, opened my messaging app and replied to the text my classmate had sent three days ago.

Yeah, I might come to college tomorrow.

I might not be able to go beyond the gate, but I will not take the left turn to the cigarette shack.

vi.Sometimes, the negative thoughts that taunt me constantly create a pattern that becomes helpful. Sometimes it happens outside of my brain too.

When you constantly focus on changing the unhealthy thoughts to healthy thoughts, you realize that catastrophization was more of an interpretation than a meaning.

Three weeks of being told to stay inside the house for I cannot be trusted with going out, two weeks of being taunted for being unreliable, nine days of being told about the importance of college and one marksheet with low attendance later, maybe it’s time to go back to that five minute video that I watched for fifteen minutes and scroll through the comments and maybe not taunt myself but maybe encourage myself.

It is fine. It isn’t that hard.

Thirteen comments later, giving in my 100% seems too daunting a task. Recovery is a process. I am aware that I have used it as a shield way too many times, but some days I am not 100% enough to give it all. I could, however, give my 40%. Maybe 45%.

I did text Srishti that I might come to college tomorrow. Maybe it was my 45% day.

vii. Therapy is hard. This semester was harder. I needed more therapy for this semester. I also watched more five minute Chris Evans videos this semester.

It is a nice voice. Maybe I could play it on repeat during a breakdown.

I ask my doc. She didn’t think it was too creepy, but that might have been because I have been giving my 60% - I showed up to class and didn’t smoke this semester. Recovery is still a process, and I use this phrase as a shield a little less now.

I also thought a lot less these past three months. That sounds silly, sometimes, but after years of constantly thinking about all the ways everything will go wrong and none of the way it will go right, after years of it all ending up with a smoke in my hand, not thinking was a privilege; a liberty.

Shhh, I’d tell my brain noise to quiet down with this, for its all useless thoughts that won’t ever help me.

Another video, this time a seven minute clip that I watched for three minutes.

(It was a bad day. I could not give even my 20%.)

He talked about his brain and his thoughts and his noise. Sometimes, I feel bad for every large figure out there who tries to express their less-than-perfect mental health, for then they are turned into public inspirations on how to battle your way to health, even if they haven’t found their mental health yet. I feel bad only sometimes, though, for the rest of the times the selfish side of me takes over and I am reminded of how watching videos of people sharing their depression is more acceptable and less addicting than any cigarette.

Dad also appreciated my budgeting skills; I’ve been able to save money now that I haven’t been spending 100 bucks a day on making a chimney out of my lungs.

viii. I got my internal marksheet to sign today, and I can now comment below that five minute clip that I first saw. I escaped low attendance by a total of 2%, for I found in that clip a way to brace myself to show up to class.

(I slept on the last bench, but recovery is a process.)

I made my first independent decision in three months today yesterday. Doc approved of it – it is a pendant I got for myself, engraved for myself, for my mind, every time my brain noise threatens my recovery.

It says,


Mom didn’t approve; she treats it as another addiction. I cannot talk to her about it, so we have a joint session next week. I will probably need therapy for that therapy session.

But recovery is a process, and one day this phrase will be 100% true and 0% justification for me.