What is recovery


What is recovery

What is recovery

What is recovery? Is recovery being free of medication? Is it having no symptoms any more of a given psychiatric condition? Is it never having any relapses? People interpret the term ‘recovery’ in various ways, and this includes different interpretations or meanings among people with lived experience along with health professions.

What is recovery? According to an article from www.rethink.org in 2014, (Rethink, 2014), recovery is a word with two meanings. :

  1. Clinical recovery (based on the medical model) is an idea that has emerged from the expertise of mental health professionals, and involves getting rid of symptoms, becoming stable on medications, and in other ways ‘getting back to normal’.
  2. Personal recovery is an idea that has emerged from the expertise of people with lived experienced of mental illness, and means something different to clinical recovery. It involves living a fulfilling and rewarding life while living with mental health challenges, and NOT necessarily being symptom-free (Tondora, Miller, Slade & Davidson, 2014, p. 1)

What is recovery according to Wikipedia? Wikipedia (2014) describes the recovery approach to mental disorder or substance dependence (and/or from being labeled in those terms) as an approach which emphasizes and supports a person’s potential for recovery. Recovery is generally seen in this approach as a personal journey rather than a set outcome, and one that may involve developing hope, a secure base and sense of self, supportive relationships, empowerment, social inclusion , coping skills, and meaning. Other names for the concept are recovery model or recovery-oriented practice.

There are other recovery models such as the ‘Broken Leg’ model and the Symptom Control Model. Others see recovery from various ‘lenses’ or ‘frames’ such as the biological, psychological and trauma ‘frames’. Just as one person may find ‘brain exercises’ more beneficial, therapeutic and more relevant on a personal level, and as another person may find that doing physical exercise serves the same purpose, the same could be said about how people interpret recovery or what their meaning of recovery is, and how it can be personally tailored to ‘achieving’ their own and individual aspirations or visions.

What is recovery

                                    What is recovery


Personal perspective of recovery:

There is a general consensus that recovery is very individualistic and unique to not only people who are facing particular adversities in life in terms of psychiatric diagnosis or problems, but something that is also seen in unique ways from others such as carers. People will aim for various outcomes and management of living daily with a given diagnosis. One person may aim to be symptom free (or close to it), yet another person may aim to live life to the highest quality while enduring ongoing symptoms.

Personally, recovery from my own perspective and also from my own individual situation in my dealings with psychiatric conditions, is that recovery need not be expecting myself to be totally symptom free and never have a need for prescribed medications ever again, but living my life in where I can live with reduced symptoms and negative impacts on my vocational aspirations, my personal relationships, social life, spiritual life and my general psychological well-being and emotional disposition. Recovery is living life or being on a journey, regardless of whether there is a ceasing or a reduction of signs and symptoms of a mental health diagnosis, where one will experience personal fulfillment, improved sense of self and growth, and the gaining or re-gaining of purpose and meaning in one’s life, and where hope, optimism and belief in in reaching one’s potential or to get out of life what the individual person wishes, and to what is realistic for the person.

What is recovery

                                   What is recovery? To some it might be having peace.

Recovery is also a journey which will likely have its ups and downs. There will likely be times where things seem to go backwards or downwards. There may be times when the vision of recovery is clouded or lost. There will be hurdles and obstacles along the way. There will be barriers to break down, overcome or navigate. The seas may be stormy. Times may feel lonely and sometimes there seems nowhere else to turn. Sometimes a person may feel that they are just too much of a ‘burden’, or feel hopeless, helpless, worthless, useless, insignificant, or just plain ‘no good’.

Recovery has no time limits, as one may be travelling a road of recovery for the remainder of their lives. Recovery may have different meanings to the same person as time goes by. Recovery may take a different focus.

Personal perspective of my own recovery (what is recovery):

I could never expect all of my symptoms of OCD to ever completely be gone. In comparison of a scale in which 10 would have been the peak/ the worst of my own OCD (not where 10 would be the worst possible case of OCD) and where zero would mean a complete ceasation of OCD, my symptoms, intensity, and overall distress from OCD would now only rate at about 0.5 to 1 at the most. Despite my early beliefs which I thought I could never ever possibly live a life of even remotely reduced symptoms and distress, my life has turned around from the midst of no hope and severe depressive symptoms to a stage where I experience my once troublesome symptoms to a much, much lesser degree. The difference is enormous. I would never have believed this could have been even remotely possible several years ago.

I was attended a support group and told the members that they just didn’t understand and could never understand. I told them “I am too far gone, you can’t do anything to help”. Maybe they could never understand all of the exact intricitives of my mind, but they did understand recovery. They understood that recovery is possible. I was very wrong in saying and genuinely believing that my life was ‘down the toilet’, and that I was too far gone to live a life in which I could work, attend social gatherings, achieve my goals, and not live every single day feeling that a knife was being stuck in my head (piercing headaches) and many, many other severely troublesome problems I lived with. Recovery is real. It is possible.

I still need to take medication as advised by doctors and mental health professionals, but to me, recovery is not about being medication free. It is about living a life where my illness is in the back-ground, and that it does not completely rule and dominate my life. It is about living a life where I can set and achieve goals and plans, even though it may be just bit by bit. It is about being able to have conversation with my wife without being bombarded by intensely invasive obsessions. My recovery involves being able to wake up in the morning without my mind spinning and going into ‘panic’ mode due to obsessions. It is about being able to enjoy a cup of coffee and to be able to clean my teeth without the tormenting pain of obsessions.

It is so much more, such as being able to drive a car again. Recovery to me is an ongoing journey and a journey which brings me from the midst of despair to living a life which has purpose and meaning as seen in my eyes. Recovery to others may resemble my experience and interpretation, yet is may be very different, and that is fine. Each person on their own distinctly unique journey, will develop their own ideas, beliefs or interpretations of recovery, and according to humanistic principles and beliefs, every person does have their own ability to use their own inner-resources to live a more fulfilled life with personal meaning to the person themselves. A person may have talent, potential and ability, but sometimes we can get stuck when life presents various issues, problems or challenges. At these times, we can benefit from others, by feeling acknowledged, supported, and by other means such as not feeling judged. This is where the input and support of others can prove to be so valuable.

Supporting people in their recovery:

The first thing that comes to my mind when thinking of supporting others in their journey of recovery is empathy. Through a lived experience, a person may be better equipped to understand others, and through this understanding, take it a step further to actually experience the other person’s world as to what is humanly realistic.

Understanding and empathy is a start. By actively listening to a person, they may feel acknowledged or validated or heard. The person on their road of recovery may feel that their situation is not so ‘abnormal’ as they may have interpreted. Building a connection could be a cornerstone or a platform to ‘work with’. Be your natural self. Try to practice the principles of Person-Centred Therapy focusing on congruence, unconditional positive regard and empathy.

Employing a humanistic touch is important, yet other factors would come into play such as having insight into stereotyping and stigmatization and day-to-day challenges of living with a mental disorder or illness. The roles and significance of others such as carers and family members can be a vital part of effective support. Having an awareness of what other support options are available is important. There are many aspects of supporting a person in their recovery and you will find your own ‘bag of ingredients’ and use them in tandem with other as you go.

Recovery involves utilizing ‘tools’ or ‘ingredients’ from various resources. This may involve:

* Psychotherapy.

* Connections with other mental health workers such as support workers.

* Social support such as support groups.

* Medications and other medical treatments.

* Contact with a General Practitioner.

* Natural therapies.

* Self discipline, a commitment to getting better, determination and self-belief.

* Support and understanding (or at least acceptance) from other significant people such as family members and friends.

* A spiritual connection or faith.

* Allowing yourself to make mistakes. Accepting that sometimes we seems to go backwards a little.

* Educating yourself about your disorder or illness.

* Taking care of yourself physically.

Would you like to add anything to ‘what is recovery’? Please write to me at  paul@beyondmylabel.com.au (or below) if you would like to contribute anything to this article or indeed this site.

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Rethink. (2014), Retrieved from https://www.rethink.org/living-with-mental-illness/recovery

Tondora, J., Miller, R., Slade, M. & Davidson, L. (2014). Partnering for recovery in mental health. UK: John Wiley & Sons Ltd.

Wikipedia. (2014). Retrieved 19, 01, 2014, from en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Recovery_approach


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