What springs to mind when you hear the word recovery? Perhaps it’s that room they wheel you into after you’ve had an operation. Perhaps it’s getting your breath back after you’ve run a race. Perhaps it’s a road rescue truck, towing a conked-out car.
Recovery is one of those things we usually don’t think about until we need to, until we’re ill, exhausted, broken.
When I had post-natal depression in 2005/6, it was all about getting better and getting back to my old self again. I never really considered that there might be more to recovery than that – maybe that’s part of the reason I was so vulnerable to depression this time; I didn’t make any real changes to my life once I was better the first time. But thanks to the mental health unit I was admitted to in 2017, and to The Recovery College, I’ve learned that recovery is about much more than just getting back to the way I was before, and it’s not about being rescued.
What Is This Thing Called Recovery? was the third Recovery College course I attended. As it happens, it was almost a year ago to the day. Over the course of three-ish hours, we dug into the concept of Recovery and what it means with regards to mental illness. We looked at what clinical recovery is – the amelioration of symptoms – and we looked at what personal recovery is, and that’s what I want to focus on in this post: personal recovery.
With illnesses such as depression and anxiety, you might say that someone is clinically recovered when they no longer feel depressed or anxious, but for many people with long term mental health issues, some or all of their symptoms may never go away completely. And even depression and anxiety can linger in lower levels for years. Does that mean that all these people can’t recover or be in recovery? If so, what hope do they have? Well, one of the many turning points in my recovery was realising that personal recovery is not about the the amelioration of symptoms; instead:
A person with mental illness can recover even though the illness is not ‘cured’. Recovery is a way of living a satisfying, hopeful and contributory life even with the limitations caused by illness. Recovery involves the development of new meaning and purpose in one’s life as one grows beyond the catastrophic effects of mental illness.
– Bill Anthony, the father of the Recovery Movement (1993)
When I first heard that, it blew me away, and I knew that my recovery had to be about growing beyond the catastrophic effects of depression and anxiety, about developing new meaning, new purpose, and about living a satisfying, hopeful, contributory life, even though I might still be experiencing the symptoms of depression and anxiety. I realised I didn’t have to wait to be cured or fixed before I could get on with my life – I could start living again right away!
Moving on: one of the actvities we did on the course was to come up with as many words as we could to describe recovery. I jotted them all down in my bullet journal. (Click on the image for a closer look.) See how positive, exciting, hopeful those words are? And they were all suggested by a bunch of people living with mental illness. I think that’s pretty amazing!
Anyhoo … throughout the course, many more quotes about recovery were shared, and you know how I love my quotes, so here are a few more:
Recovery is …
… a journey, not a destination.
… about having a satisfying, fulfilling life as defined by the individual.
… not fixing what’s broken; it’s finding wholeness, meaning and purpose.
… a reconnection to self, others, nature and spirit.
… a willingness to forgive, openness to reconciliation, a search for peace.
And here’s the biggie, the one that this blog is all about, the one that’s defining my recovery:
Recovery is not managing illness; it’s discovering wellness.
I know this post is a bit thin on details, but I just wanted to share the concepts I’ve embraced over this last year. In my next post, I’ll talk a bit more about how I’m manifesting these concepts in my life.
Thanks for reading! Back soon. xxx
You can read more of my Mental Health Monday posts here.