Thursday, May 30, 2013

Recovery Requires the Right Kind of Support

Recovery Requires the Right Kind of Support
By Diana
For me, it’s all about moving forward
I used to think of myself as mentally ill, or manic-depressive. I lived my life as if I were my illness. As I experienced recovery, I learned that I had potential for much more. I began to think of myself as a person with an illness in my brain.
When the right medications came along and fixed the broken parts of my brain, I was able to finally overcome the thoughts and feelings that had defined me as an illness. I discovered I was human like everyone else and I deserved a good life. I also discovered it was up to me to make my life good and to make it count. I began by placing a different set of expectations upon myself.
My journey with mental illness began soon after the birth of my baby in 1981. I was hospitalized for what would be the first of many times. What we thought was to be a short hospitalization turned into a year and a half of medications, psychotherapy, suicide precautions and hallucinations.
I was dependent upon the hospital staff to meet my every need; and I was frightened by that same loss of control over my environment. However, nothing was more terrifying than my own loss of control over my thinking and behavior. I was tormented by voices that shamed my every move. I felt hopeless.
For the next fifteen years, I was hospitalized over thirty times due to (thankfully, failed) suicide attempts and my inability to care for myself. Most of that time was spent in a reality that no one else could understand. I often referred to myself as “Queen of the Alphabet."
In retrospect of those years, I recognized a foundation of hope, which I fiercely protected, in order that I would someday lead a life outside of my illness. I yearned to be like other adults who worked and supported themselves. I craved financial independence and dreamt of a home that I myself could pay for without the aid of my parents and social security disability insurance. I wanted a partner to share my life with and I wanted friends with whom I could feel comfortable and be myself with—friends who would like me for being me. At this time in my life, I am happy to say that my wishes have come true.
My recovery from this illness did not occur overnight, nor did it happen in a vacuum of the right medications and my own motivation. Granted, I needed (and still need) the right medications to clear my thinking and balance my wild emotions, but without people in my life who believe in me and give me the chance to believe in myself, I would not have come this far.
There is one pivotal moment that stands out when the direction of my recovery changed. I had recently started a new medication that was working well and I asked my therapist how to live the life that I wanted. She began her answer with, “Well, I don’t want to give you any false hope.” That statement was all I needed to hear to trust my own inner knowing. I see now that she was focusing on my illness instead of my wholeness and my instinct to get well and stay well. I walked out of her office and removed myself from that way of thinking and have never looked back since. There is no such thing as false hope.
In this past year, memories of abuse surfaced after twenty years of lying dormant within my mind. I had to quit my job in order to move through the trauma. But, this time I had more emotional and mental strength.
If I use all the resources available to me, I trust that my journey will be smooth and steady. I often experience feelings of hopelessness around recovery, but I take very good care of myself and do whatever it takes to rediscover hope.
My prayer is that all persons with serious mental illness can reach a level of wellness that they never imagined possible. Recovery means something different to every individual, and while there is no cure for serious mental illnesses, there is support, medication, education and advocacy available for us all.
Let us move forward to expect Recovery—from ourselves and our family, and our mental health delivery system.

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