I’ve been trying to lose weight the last few months. And several sources all recommended taking “before” photos, “after” photos, and photos along the way. And I’m not doing that because there is already enough stuff on my phone I don’t ever look at, I don’t need to clog the memory with more unneeded things. I do understand the purpose of it though, which is to see snapshots of a process that might be too gradual to see otherwise. And it occurs to me, there isn’t even the option to do that with mental health recovery.
Some of my “before” photos would likely look the same as I do now, because the mask I wore was good enough that you couldn’t tell the real smile from the fake one. I hid my depression and anxiety, and so what showed up in pictures was often not a true representation of me. Indeed, when I was at my best shape physically, there were warning signs looming for my mental health recovery that I was completely ignoring. If they’d have shown up in the pictures, they would have been gray storm clouds that just hovered over my head, ready to release the torrential rains of a major depressive episode that was just around the corner.
Instead, the pictures we take of ourselves during mental health recovery have to be internal. They have to be us noticing the times when we are more mindful of our emotions. The snapshots have to be captured in journals and therapy notes, in the interactions we have with those around us and in the recesses of our minds. We have to define our own before and afters and define the snapshots along the way that mark the progress.
And while I’m not taking photos of myself as I try to lose weight, I do try to be mindful of how far I’ve come in my recovery and how far I still have to go. Doing so is encouraging, and gives me hope when the darkness comes. And I hope, doing so can do the same for you.