Hello! and welcome to another Mental Health Monday post! Last week, I shared some of the recovery concepts I’ve embraced over this last year. In this post, I’m going to talk about some of the details and how I’m manifesting recovery in my daily life.
First-up, there are a few posts that have already addressed some of this, so I’ll link them here and you can have a read if you like.
- The Nine Pillars of a Balanced Life – how I’m making sure I take care of my whole self.
- Self-Compassion Parts One, Two and Three – how I’m learning to be kind to myself.
- Unhelpful Thinking Habits – how I’m training myself to think in more helpful ways.
- Gottman’s Tasks – how I’m ready to deal with distress.
- Holding the Hope Parts One, Two, Three and Four – how I’m finding hope in the everyday.
- Soul Space – how I’m discovering wellness through mindfulness, meditation and prayer.
Probably the simplest thing would be to tell you just to rummage through this blog, but I want to try to distill it down for you! This week, I’ll talk about some common recovery themes and add a little detail as I go.
Hope is a central aspect of recovery and, the Recovery Movement goes so far as to say that recovery is probably not possible without it. Hope is what sustains motivation and supports the idea that an individual can live a fulfilling life even with the limitations caused by illness. I find hope in the everyday – in birdsong and blue skies, in the sound of the sea and the smell of fish ‘n’ chips, in the laughter of my loved-ones and the paint in my pallet, in the rising of the sun and the setting of the same. I keep a gratitude log and, every day, I write down a few things I’m grateful for. I surround myself with sights, sounds, smells, sensations, colours, work and people that nourish me, and I remind myself that I’ve made it through difficult times before, and that God is with me. This too shall pass, and I’ll be all the stronger for it.
Agency is another aspect of recovery. It refers to people having a sense of control over their lives and their recovery. It’s about people taking control of their own problems and the service they receive. It is about self-management, self-determination, choice and responsibility. Realising that I could be in the driving seat of my recovery was a big turning point for me. My wellness wasn’t solely in the hands of the medical professionals – I could make decisions for myself and direct my care. This has manifested itself in a number of ways, from telling my doctor and pharmacist that I wanted two months’ supply of medication at a time, rather than one, to feeling okay about resting and not doing things that I know will tire me out thus making me more vulnerable to unhelpful thinking. I don’t go to church every Sunday because sometimes I need to just be on my own and recharge. I don’t often go out in the evening because staying home and journaling is more nourishing and revitalising than going to a connect-group or the pub. If I’ve had a busy day, I write ‘rest day’ in my planner on the following day and then stay home. I say yes when I want to say yes, and no when I want to say no. Having a sense of agency is empowering – it says that I am the expert on me, and I know what I need, and I don’t need to feel guilty about making sure that my needs are met.
Opportunity is the third main aspect of recovery. It links recovery with social inclusion and people’s participation in wider society. As a general rule, those of us with mental health issues want to be part of communities: to be valued, to contribute and to have access to the same opportunities as everyone else. I realise that what I wrote about Agency makes me sound like a bit of a recluse, and in many ways I am, and always have been. I’m your classic introvert: likes people but finds interacting with them draining and needs a lot of post-socialising down time to recover. However, there are times when I want to stay home, but know it will do me good to get out, so to maintain a balanced life, I go to church most weeks, I try to get to my husband’s gigs once in a while, I go to parties with the proviso that I might only stay an hour, I meet friends one-to-one or in small groups for coffee and a chat. And I enjoy it! I’m always glad I went. I feel included and part of the world around me.
As far as contributing goes, I’ve cut back. Before I was ill, I was a busy bee. I was heavily involved in church: co-running a monthly craft club, administering the church website, occasional preaching, delivering all-age talks, teaching Sunday school, leading an Alpha Course small group, singing in the music team, co-leading the youth group and running a toddler group, and while all of those things were enjoyable and fulfilling in their own way, my life was very skewed. What with looking after my home and family as well, I didn’t have much time or energy for what figuring out what it was I actually wanted to do with my life, let alone actually doing it. If one good thing came out of my recent episode of mental illness, it’s that it made me stop, drop all my commitments, and take stock. And, very, very slowly, I’ve taken back some of my church-related jobs: I still help with the craft group, I still manage the church website, and I sing, once a month, in the music group. That’s it. It’s a healthy level of contribution for me at the moment. This last year has also given me the time and energy to figure out how I really want to contribute to the wider world. Right now, that’s arting, crafting and making greetings cards – spreading a little joy – creating papercraft projects for a couple of design teams, and sharing about Recovery on my blog, YouTube, Facebook and Instagram. I feel as if God, through the gradual unfurling of my creativity and recovery, is slowly unfolding new meaning and purpose in my life.
So that’s where I’m at the moment. I hope you’ve found something helpful here. Next week, I plan to write on some more recovery themes and how they’re playing out in my life.
Thanks for reading! Back soon. xxx
You can read more of my Mental Health Monday posts here.
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