By: Samantha

This story has been republished with permission. If you'd like to see more from Samantha, check out her blog Donuts & Depression. To see the original post, click here.

Happiness doesn't have a deadline... the same way it doesn't have a mold. You are still living life. Recovery, I feel, does not exist. You've just got to focus on living.

I meet lots of people who tell me that they admire how I've managed to deal with my mental health and that they wish they were at the same stage in their life. Unfortunately, I often have to explain that this is not the case and that behind closed doors I have the same shitty days as them. Sometimes I feel almost pressured not to have my bad days as so many people count me as someone to look up to and confide in.

I think the only benefit I have is that I have gained understanding of myself and my illness - and I've begun to separate them. That's the first step I think. Now I'm not an expert: the mental health team recently told me 'our sessions have not gone the smoothest - you have been non-engaging and irregular at times'. Yeah, not my proudest feedback BUT at the time I didn't even recognize this behavior. So that leads me to informing you that I am not perfect and that I have to try and work with what I've got. More than anything, I have found that researching, blogging and supporting those with mental health is what strengthens me as a person and what keeps me going. I still have dark days. Regular. Inescapable. But, nevertheless each time very much hidden. Except for a special few - who unfortunately cuddle me and tell me to 'man up' when my brain tells me that I just want to close my eyes forever. 

In case I don't say it enough, thank you for putting up with that - I know you don't have to but it helps me to reign my mind back in. I respect you all for that. 

What I try and explain to people that it's not a competition - there is no finish line. There is no right or wrong way to deal with life. We have to stop this expectation of how our good days should look. Especially those of us with long term deep ingrained problems. We have to stop accepting society's emphasis to be 'HAPPY' , and 'LOOK HAPPY' and 'FEEL HAPPY' all day every day.

No one can smile 24hrs a day. 

I'm sorry - this is merely my opinion from observation of myself and others. I always had this fixation on a fairy tale ending whereby I would be 'saved' and 'cured' as if this was just a phase and/or dream. I was naïve. And because of this, often did not acknowledge opportunities to make progress and take control of my emotions. 

Looking back, I would tell my naïve self that recovery is not acquired and is not a constant. Just like those dependent on alcohol and drugs - there is always the potential of a relapse. That's the reality. 

Instead of telling myself 'when I recover I will...' I tell myself 'when I am in recovery I will...'

At present, I am having a "relapse" - things are grey, dull, I am numb and overwhelmed with feelings of emptiness and anxiety. I know this will pass. This relapse will inform my next period of recovery which in turn will inform my coping mechanisms and knowledge to equip me for my next relapse. And so on, and so forth. 

Of course that is all very well if you put your new learned knowledge into practice. I keep that visual aim at the forefront of my mind in order to continue to reduce the impact and trauma of relapses in the future. To stay in control. To flourish as 'me' with or without mental health. A quirk and not a hindrance. We need to recognize the warning signs that are often so overlooked. Just like when cold or flu begins to take hold of your immune system or when you twist your ankle during a game of football. We need to acknowledge when something doesn't feel quite right with our bodies. I say this because I am panicking that when big - exciting - life events happen (promotions, engagement, marriage, pregnancy, birth) I don't suffer a relapse that is beyond my control. So I am putting in the foundations now. Just like we learn to know our own bodies... we also need to learn to know our own minds.

It took me until my last session with my psychologist to actually fully engage and come up with an idea that works for me. It may not work for you, but at the very least it will hopefully inspire you to make your own plan.

I hope you enjoy the images I have collated as I wanted to make this as interactive as possible. I hope that as part of Mental Health Awareness month this skill is something that you can perhaps pass on to other people who are in need. It's a little daunting sharing my own personal 'SOS' with you all, but it needed to be raw and real for you to understand how to engage in your relapse period and how to obtain the benefits from it.