Mental Health Monday: What Is This Thing Called Recovery? Part Three

Hello, and welcome to another What Is This Thing Called Recovery? post. This week, I want to talk about some more of the recovery themes I’ve embraced over the last year, and how they are playing out in my life on a daily basis. (Catch-up on parts one and two.)

In my last post, I talked about the umbrella themes of Hope, Agency and Opportunity. In this post I’m going to give you a brief run-down of some of their sub-themes and what they mean to me:

Turning Point of Acceptance

One of the Recovery College course facilitators often points out that he thinks this theme should be Turning POINTS of Acceptance, rather than POINT. I completely agree. I think acceptance is an ongoing process, just as recovery is an ongoing process. I’ve had to accept that I was ill, that I needed help, that I needed to go into hospital, that I was ready to come out of hospital, that I could recover, that I could take responsibility for my recovery, that I could live a satisfying and contributory life even within the limitations imposed on me by illness, that sometimes I can’t manage to do everything I want to do in the way I want to do it. Every day, I have to accept that the only certainty we have in life is that uncertainty is part of life!

Valued Identity, Relationships and Roles

Mental illness can deeply undermine a person’s identity. It did for me. Before I began to recover, I frequently questioned what the point of me was. I felt useless and burdensome. Part of my recovery has been examining and rediscovering who I am, who I believe myself to be, and what I can, and should, contribute to the world. I now know that I have to be creative, I have to make things with my hands. I also know that just because I’m able to do something well, doesn’t mean I need to do that something. The Recovery College runs a whole day course on identity which I’ll talk about in my next post, so I’ll leave it at that for now.

Purpose and Active Participation in Life

This theme is sister to Valued Identity, Relationships and Roles. Our sense of purpose and the way we participate in life comes from, and informs, our identity, relationships and roles. Knowing that I need to be creative, and that it’s okay to not do everything I once did, has freed me physically, mentally and emotionally to explore new avenues of expression and contribution. Making and selling cards, telling the story of my recovery, working on design teams … I could never have imagined this two years ago, but it’s where I am and where I want to be. Recovery has made these things possible, and these things are making recovery possible.

Support

Where do I start? There are so many people I want to acknowledge that this paragraph could end up sounding like an Oscar acceptance speech! Obviously, there’s my husband and my children, my mum, sister and brother, my amazing parents-in-law, my best friend, my church family, my online friends, the hospital staff, my GP, my community support worker, the pharmacists, God: Father, Son and Holy Spirit … I’m bound to leave someone out. The point is, I’m not doing this alone. It’s a team effort.

Self-Management and Responsibility

I wrote in quite a bit of detail about this topic in my Regaining Control – It’s Up to Me Post, so I’ll encourage you to have a read of that, but in short: I am taking responsibility for my recovery by choosing hope, by living intentionally and mindfully and by getting into and maintaining daily habits that promote wellness. I can’t really go into any more detail here because that’s what this whole blog is about! Just have a rummage through my other posts …

Choice and Information

I don’t think I’d be where I am today without all the information I’ve acquired over the last year or so. Everything I’ve learned about recovery, I’ve learned in hospital workshops, on Recovery College courses, through the wise counsel of family and friends, and through my own research – mainly via TED Talks on YouTube. It’s all this information that has equipped me and allowed me to make informed choices about my care and my recovery.

Individuality and Creativity

I’ve touched on this already, but I think it’s worth saying that recovery is a very individual process. We are all different, so everyone’s recovery nitty gritty is going to be different. What helps in my recovery might not help in yours. Not everyone is going to find purpose, meaningful occupation and a sense of utility through designing and making greetings cards, but I firmly believe that everyone is creative – it’s God-given. It’s just a matter of finding the time, energy, support, materials, inspiration, channels that you need … not a tall order then!

Seriously, though I’ve come to realise that loss of creativity is one of my mental illness early warning signs. About a year before I became really ill, I stopped creating and struggled to write anything. That should have rung alarm bells, but I didn’t know then what I know now. Anyway, my creativity came back slowly. It began in hospital with fine-liners and colouring books, and continued with zentangling and then with card-making and now with writing on this blog, design team work, planning, journaling, bible journaling, scrapbooking and making YouTube videos about it all. As I have recovered, I have become more creative, and as I have become more creative, I have carried on recovering. Creativity isn’t just about arts and crafts, though; it’s about problem solving and health management and work and, well, the whole of life. Creativity is an approach to life.

Spirituality

I’m not going to go into detail about Spirituality here because I’ve got a whole blog post planned on the topic, but I will say that I believe we are all spiritual beings, that there is more to us than flesh, blood and bone, and that we need to nurture this facet of ourselves. My faith has played a big part in my recovery, and I believe that God has been with me throughout. It’s important to me that I don’t dress up my struggles to make them more presentable and palatable to the world. I don’t want to share my stories as if they are complete, all wrapped up in pretty paper and tied with a flashy bow. Recovery stories are messy and difficult to contain, and so are faith stories. My recovery story and my faith story are intertwined and inseparable and require a lot more room to tell properly, so stay tuned!

So that’s it: a whistle-stop tour of some common recovery themes and the part they’re playing in my life. Next week, I’ll be back with a post about mental illness and our sense of self. Until then …

Thanks for reading! xxx

You can read more of my Mental Health Monday posts here.

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