That's it. You have started the process of beating your mental illness. You have found a Doctor. You have found meds, therapy, peace, or a combination all of the above and you think you are ready to get back into the real world. Now What?
One of the hardest parts of recovery is getting back out socially. You really just have to be strong and make yourself do it. You have to be prepared to be anxious and nervous. If you are like me, you have to be ready to shake a little, stutter, or sweat the first few times. It makes it easier if family and friends are prepared that you have not been out in a while. It makes it much easier if they are supportive and assure you that you can just be yourself without judgment. Let them know it is okay to ask questions. Do not hide from the fact that you had, or have a mental illness. Own it, so it cannot own you. The first few times, or maybe the first 15 times may be difficult, however you will find that after some time you will get better at conversation and you will start to feel more comfortable around people.
It definitely makes it easier to start going for coffee with 1 person. Coffee shops and juice bars are much less intimidating than a club, bar, or concert. You can go to a friend’s place and watch a movie or just talk. Then maybe try to go out to a movie or dinner with a good friend or family member.
After a couple weeks, months, (or as long as you need) try and plan something that may take a half day or full day like a trip to go see a concert, sporting event, museum, or holiday shopping. While you are out grab a meal. Sit down. Soak it all in. You are out. You are being social again. You are already light years ahead of where you may have been a month ago. Congratulations on being patient. Patience is going to get you 1000x further than rushing. I promise you that.
Get used to going places that are further away from home. Get used to talking to people that you do not know like a salesperson or waiter. Remember that these people are not judging you. They deal with hundreds of people a day. And trust me, a lot them are much worse than you. Remember to smile. Remember to breathe. Be calm, be polite, and usually you will get that back in return. If by chance they are a rude and obnoxious jerk? Let it go and laugh about it on the way out. Do not be rude or obnoxious in return. Do not make a scene. You have already won by keeping your cool. Do not let someone else ruin your day. No one should get the best of you.
If you are feeling ambitious and would like to expedite the process, start keeping a journal of your experiences. You can keep notes about what things made you feel better and what you would like to change on your next trip out. You will be able to see your growth and maturity over time. Remember that everyone gets a little anxious, nervous, or lonely so do not let those feelings hold you back from living your life. There was a 3 year period where I felt glued to my home. I was scared to death to even go for a walk around the block. I did not go to holidays. I did not see anyone except a psychiatrist. If I could get back out I know that you can. I hope that these tips are the first steps in leading you back to family parties, high school reunions, vacations, or anywhere your heart desires. You can do it. I have faith in you. So please, have faith in yourself.
Joseph S. Fusaro
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