“What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us.“Ralph Waldo Emerson
I’ve been thinking a lot about mental health recovery and what it means for me. There are people out in the world who are of the mind that mental health recovery doesn’t exist. I am not one of those people. I have to carry a belief that my life can improve and get better; that I won’t be ruled by a faulty brain for all of my life. However, mental health recovery looks different than a lot of other types of recovery and, for that reason, it leaves a lot of unanswered questions.
What does mental health recovery look like for me? How do I know when I am “officially” in mental health recovery? How do you mark the date? Was it the first time that I walked into Dr. W’s office? The day she gave me a list of diagnosis’? Will it be when I finally get my medicines right or after I finish my trauma therapy? Is it when I finally feel in remission? Will I ever feel like I’m in remission?
Mental Health Recovery
Mental health recovery is the process wherein you change your life for the better. You improve your health and wellness, are able to direct and maintain your own life, and you work at reaching your full potential. Through a combination of medication, therapy, and life modifications, many people are able to recover from mental illness and live a full, meaningful, and satisfying life.
There are 4 major dimensions of mental health recovery. They are:
- Health – making healthy choices that lead to a healthier life; taking care of yourself properly
- Home – ensuring that you have a stable and safe environment to live.
- Purpose – finding a purpose in life and participating in meaningful daily activities
- Community – building and cultivating relationships and support networks; they will be your support safety net.
It is important to successful mental health recovery that you have good relationships with the people around you, fulfilling employment, that you strive for and are open to personal growth, and that you have a safe and healthy place to living environment.
Mental Health Recovery Fundamentals
There are 10 fundamental components to mental health recovery:
- Self-direction – Only you can determine your recovery path. You should be vocal and clear about what you want out of recovery and where you are going.
- Person-centered treatment – treatment should be person-centered; meaning the patient does most of the talking and the therapist lends a non-judgemental ear.
- Empowerment – being empowered to participate in all aspects and all decisions in your life.
- Holistic – Recovery should be evident in all aspects of a person’s life; mind, body, spirit, and community.
- Non-Linear – Recovery is not a step-by-step process and there is no “correct” way to get there. Each person’s path will be different and there are no hard and fast rules to healing.
- Strength-based- Recovery should be based on your strengths. You should value and build on the capabilities, coping mechanisms, and social networks that you already have.
- Peer support – it is important to have a strong support network that you can rely on during hard times.
- Respect – there should be a mutual respect between you and your care-givers, but also you need to have respect for yourself in order to recover properly.
- Responsibility – you need to take personal responsibility for yourself, your decisions, and your actions.
- Hope – All mental health recovery must first spring from hope.
These should all be present during your recovery and your treatment. You should have a therapist or psychiatrist who allows and encourages all of the items listed above.
What does my mental health recovery look like?
I stated before, in my post about goals and apathy, that I have a hard time with goals because I have a hard time seeing into the future. Life has taught me that even the most carefully laid plans can be derailed in the blink of an eye. It makes me skeptical of my dreams and their likelihood of coming true. Also, I can always see the big picture, but I have a hard time figuring out all the steps in between me and the goal. This becomes a problem when it comes to mental health recovery.
I need to work on all four of the major dimensions of recovery; health, home, purpose and community. As far as the mental health recovery fundamentals, I can already apply most of them to my life. The ones that I need to work on most are the holistic aspect and the peer support.
I’ve been doing a lot of work on my mind lately, but I’m still making poor choices for my body. I don’t eat right or rest enough (I sleep plenty, but sleeping and resting are not the same thing). When I do eat, I’m not making the healthiest choices. I for sure, without a doubt, do not drink enough water.
As far as my spiritual side, I have been neglecting that part of me lately. There are some good reasons why and I’ll talk about them in another post, but I haven’t been nurturing my spiritual self in the ways that I know I should. Sometimes I feel like there isn’t enough time in a day to give care to all the aspects of my life that I would like.
Community and peer support go hand-in-hand here. I need to build my community back up. After losing some friends and having my support system fall apart right when I needed it, I find myself in short supply of the kind of people I need in my life. I’ve been working hard to put myself out there and try to make new connections, but the pandemic makes it hard to meet people face to face.
I’ve been clinging to my long distance relationships for well over a year now; most of my very best friends live out of state, which is hard. They love and support me with everything they have, but they have to do it from a very long distance.
Health, Home, Purpose and Community
I need to take a hard look at the core life-dimensions of mental health recovery and really figure out what each of them means to me, what I can do to improve each area, and what I want each of them to look like when I’m in recovery. Lets look at each of them individually. Shall we?
As I said before, I don’t always make the healthiest choices. My eating is disordered and I drink too much soda and not enough water. I tend to slip on self-care. Though I have lost a lot of weight recently, I’m still 30 lbs overweight. I don’t exercise at all, especially not in the cold months of the year. My smartwatch recently rated my activity and told me that I have a “sedentary” lifestyle. Oops.
I’m working on this now; trying to schedule mealtimes so that I don’t forget to eat and make sure that I am snacking on healthier food choices when I binge eat. I’m also trying to start scheduling some movement in my day; I plan to start taking my kiddo and my dog on a daily walk once the weather permits. We also enjoy hiking in the warmer months and the weather now is perfect for it. We might just go this weekend!
Eventually, I would like to be healthier; eating right, exercising regularly, drinking plenty of water, and making healthier choices all around. I would like to lose some more weight, but only in a healthy way. I have a lot of work and improvement in this area, but I’m working on it and I’m trying to keep reminding myself that you have to start slow.
This one is already starting to fall into place, but it’s tricky. My family moved into a new home and we’ve spent the last year or so fixing it up and getting it to feel like ours. We’ve decided that we’re actually pretty happy here and we’d like to stay a while. We’re renters, so my ultimate goal is for us to own our own home some day, but I can still recover if I’m still working toward this goal. As long as we’re all healthy and happy, I’m fulfilled.
My marriage needs work, as most marriages do. We’ve been through a lot and we’re not without our bumps and bruises. But, we wake up every day and we find a way to make it work…even when we hate each other. We’re both working on ourselves and trying to find ourselves. It’s hard to wake up one day and realize that you’ve entered adulthood, but you still don’t feel like an adult; like time just kept marching on but you stayed the same inside. But we’ll get through it; we’ve been through tougher spots.
This is another facet of my recovery that I’ve been working on for quite some time. Finding my purpose…or maybe it would be better put if I said finding some purpose. For the longest time, my days have been exactly the same. Log on to work, parent my child, take care of the house, go to sleep. Lather, rinse, repeat. I have no purpose outside of my child. I think this is something that a lot of parents go through…losing yourself in parenthood.
The blog and advocacy has definitely given me purpose and I hope to branch out once COVID-19 restrictions are lifted. But purpose doesn’t have to be big. It’s finding meaningful ways to engage in world and in activities that you enjoy on a daily basis. It can be knitting or fishing or Pampered Chef. It can be PTO meetings or walks in the neighborhood. You can have drinks with friends or join a local softball league. I just need to find ways to put myself back out in the world, as I’ve been pretty withdrawn for the last few years.
As mentioned above, building my community is something that I am working on. In fact, it’s part of the reason that I started blogging in the first place; to create a sense of community for people with ADHD and mental illness. But I know that I need a support network closer to home. I’ve struggled with meeting new people since I’ve gotten older, but I’ve managed to reach out to some aquaintances and make much deeper connections with them.
I hope to start creating a network within the local mental health community. I live in a college town and I have to believe that there are some great resources and volunteer opportunities in my area; a great way to meet like-minded people. I used to take acting classes, what feels like a million years ago, and I’ve thought about enrolling again, just for fun. There is also an ample writing community centered around the college. You never know…I just might go back to school and make new friends there.
As you can see, I’ve got a lot of work today on my road to mental health recovery. I’m well on my way, in some aspects. During my last appointment with Dr. W, I realized for the first time that things aren’t going too bad for me right now. I still have a long row to hoe, but for the most part, I’m happy. I’ve chosen to spend my time building something that I love and care about. My family is safe and loved and fed and clothed. Though I’m not exactly where I want to be, I’m a very long way from where I came and I have a lot of fight left in me.
If you’re on your own journey to mental health recovery, keep these things in mind. Sit down and write out where you’d like to see yourself in each of these aspects? What does your life look like now? What would it need to look like for you to feel “recovered” from mental illness? If these were a marathon, what do you want your life to look like in the end? Then you just have to figure out how to get there. It won’t be easy. It requires hard work and sometimes even pain. But in the end, it will be worth every single secoond of the ride.
That’s all I have for today. Be sure to subscribe by email so you don’t miss an update. You can also follow me on Twitter or join our private Facebook group, The Winter Of My Discontent: ADHD and Mental Illness Community.
Love and light. Keep fighting the good fight! 💜💜