For people struggling with mental illness, finding proper treatment is the most crucial step to recovery. It’s often difficult to find a therapist capable of providing proper treatment, to go through intensive therapy and to reach a point where you can consider yourself “recovered.” But what happens afterward? There is often little focus on discussing what happens after treatment.
After struggling with severe, undiagnosed obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) all through middle school, I finally received my diagnosis at age 15. From there, I went from months of weekly therapy sessions to three weeks of an intensive outpatient program. The intensive treatment was a success and I found my condition drastically improved, but it would be another two years before I truly considered myself to be in recovery.
The hardest part of life after treatment is learning to live again. Treatment is so life-altering that you find yourself in an extremely unfamiliar and unstable place afterward. I found my OCD symptoms to be greatly reduced, but I’d forgotten what it was like to live a “normal” life. It felt incredibly strange to me to begin school again after having taken several months off. The brief moments I truly felt “normal” again were both thrilling and confusing.
I fell into a deep depression once again. It’s ironic, since I had just been through successful treatment. I was suddenly able to go about living relatively normal again. My future was starting to look so much brighter, but it was all so overwhelming. I wish I could go back and tell my old self that it was OK to feel the way I did, that it was OK to take things more slowly, that I shouldn’t have put so much pressure on myself to act “normal.”
I didn’t realize at the time just how slow the recovery process can be. I didn’t realize you can’t jump straight back into regular life after being so unwell for so long. It takes time.
Recovery has been an amazing process for me, even with all its challenges. I was amazed to discover so much about myself I had never known before. So much of my personality had been suppressed by OCD for years and rediscovering it was like getting to know an entirely new person. I was suddenly gregarious and outspoken. I started to feel closer to the precocious child I was before OCD took over my life. I began to grow in confidence and to develop a new respect for myself.
Related: 7 Ways To Support a Friend With OCD
Now I can say I am mostly free from the grips of depression and OCD. They haven’t vanished; they are just quiet voices in the back of my mind that I take with me wherever I go. Sometimes they’ll still speak up, but I now know how to quiet them. I have brand new challenges in my life, like learning to drive, finishing high school and preparing for the next chapter of my life. Sometimes, they too can be overwhelming. Life after treatment is not all sunshine and rainbows. I have plenty of cloudy days, but I’ve learned that’s just part of life.
I’m proud of the progress I’ve made and confident in my ability to keep moving forward. I feel like no matter what happens now, I will be able to make it through. I’m looking forward to continuing to rediscover myself and seeing where life will take me. For the longest time, I never could have imagined any of this was possible, but now that I know it is, I hope to show everyone who is where I was what they can expect and all they can hope for.