Letters from Camp, Part 3

My dear friend,

Friday was my last day at campy. I am not exactly sure how I feel about leaving. Not ready, I guess. Also scared and uncertain. I had thought that going to camp would fix me; that the camp doctors would figure out what I had and what medicine I needed to take to make it go away and then I would be better. I was incredibly naive.

I now understand that there is no medicine in the world that will make my illness “go away.” It will always be with me. There are many things I can do to control it, including taking medicine, but it will never be fully within my control. I will relapse, no matter what medicine I take or how well I care for myself.

It seems the best I can do is to follow my doctors’ recommendations, take good care of myself, and be on the lookout for signs (aka “red flags”) that I may be falling apart again. By doing these things, I may be able to control how often I relapse and how long each episode lasts. That is my best case scenario.

Unfortunately, the camp doctors have also informed me that people with my particular illness need two lifestyle elements more than anything else: (1) structure and (2) sleep. I may have laughed out loud the first time the doctor said this. As the mother of three small children, my life has very little structure and even less sleep. I cannot tell you the last time I had an uninterrupted night of sleep; not to mention my own insomnia, which is (of course) at its worst whenever the kids are having a good night.

Still, all is not lost. As part of the process of leaving camp, I am required to prepare and share a wellness (or relapse prevention) plan with my main support people as well as the camp doctors. My plan is full of many admirable goals and related tools and actions to meet those goals. It includes points regarding changes in my relationships, the way I talk to and take care of myself, what my red flags are and how I will respond to them. Even better, I have to actually implement the plan for it to work. I have to have the hard conversations and build the boundaries and make the requests for help and support that I should have made years ago.

Having spent most of my life as a people-pleaser-conflict-avoider, this process is both terrifying and exhilarating. I finally feel like I have a more than valid basis to stand my ground and assert my own needs; to put myself first when I need to; to say no, I will not do that; to expect others to make changes to help me, rather than me always contorting myself around other people’s needs.

I understand that many parts of my plan will be difficult to implement. Changing long-standing behaviors and relationship dynamics is never easy. But I also believe these changes are necessary to my well-being, that without them I cannot sustain my own health or care for my family. So really, there’s no choice. No way out but through.

Hope you are well,





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