Every Step Is A Victory!

The journey to recovery can have its ups and downs. When you say it like that it seems really obvious, but as a concept it’s something I’ve struggled with over the years.

When I was under the Early Intervention in Psychosis team (EIP), I constantly felt as though I were stuck by my various diagnoses. I would have periods where I was doing really well, and then I would be completely floored by the more difficult times that followed.

I felt like I was putting in an impossible amount of work to succeed, and the idea that I could slip so easily made me feel like a total failure. Getting up every time I fell down became harder and harder.

I was so hard on myself, and truthfully it’s still something I wrestle with. It made me a feel a relentless sense of hopelessness, like I had nothing to live for, because all the work I was doing seemed to be for nothing. I was left with little self-worth and suicidal thoughts that, on a couple of occasions, led to serious attempts on my life. Any light at the end of the tunnel seemed impossibly dim, with the path to recovery stretching eternally.

This feeling made me feel completely isolated. Of course, my support workers and doctors told me that it was normal to have setbacks, that everyone experienced these feelings, but it didn’t feel that way. I looked around and saw other people making better progress than I was, and even though the concept of two steps forward, one step back seemed like a good one when you were talking about someone else, it didn’t feel as though it applied to me. It was more like one step forward, fifty steps back.

It was around this time that my support worker drew a simple picture on a piece of A2 paper for me. It took her about thirty seconds; there was nothing complicated about the diagram she laid out. But seeing it flicked a switch on in my head. It felt as though I was being given permission to have bad days, that it didn’t mean I was back to square one. That, actually, progress was never going to look like a straight line.

I don’t think my support worker had any idea what an impact her simple drawing had on me, but that single, fairly scruffy picture stayed on my wall for years, reminding me that setbacks are a normal part of recovery and of life. Just as I figure out how to deal with one thing, another will inevitably rear its head.

The more I think about it, the more I think that this doesn’t just apply to mental health recovery. There will always be someone who is more successful than me, whether it is because they are making more progress on their journey of recovery, or because they’re married with children, or because they eat healthier and make more money than I do.

I spent so many years comparing myself to other people, and I was always surprised and depressed when I came out unfavourably - even though I had set myself up to fail. I’ll probably struggle with this for many more years to come, but at least I know now that whether or not I’m doing it as well or as quickly as someone else, I am making progress.
Instead of comparing myself to my peers, maybe it’s time to compare myself to the person I was ten years ago. Because I’ve taken a thousand steps forward since then, and even if that means nine hundred steps back, I’m still further along the path than I was when I started. And that’s what progress looks like.

So remember, be kind to yourself; every step is a victory


  1. You're amazing at how far you've come and I'm sure your blog will help lots of other people. You're a very special person to come out the other side and the help you offer. Xxxx

    1. Thank you Auntie Caro, I hope you are having a well :)

  2. Sounds really good Nathan. I think that recently, you have achieved far more steps forward and fewer back. You should be proud of your progress and of yourself. I am.


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