10 Things You Should Know About... Mental Health Recovery

1. If you have been self-harming or engaging in dangerous or unsafe behaviour the recovery doesn't necessarily mean you'll be 100% safe. Right now, I don't want to self-harm and I'd like to think that I never will again but sometimes you can't guarantee your safety because you don't know what might happen in the future.
2. It's often not at all what you imagined or how professionals might have led you to believe it would be. Stereotypical recovery is usually thought of as being safe, medication at the right dose etc, better coping strategies, the ability to work or study, less or no hallucinations, a stable mood and all round healthy lifestyle, but these may not apply to everyone and there could be aspects that don't have to change for you to be in recovery. Your idea of recovery is also often affected by professionals and the particular changes in your mental health that they encourage and highlight or the way in which they recognise your improvements.
3. Mental Health recovery is a unique and individual process as not everyone has the same diagnosis, not everyone is physically unsafe, each person is at a different point in their journey before embarking on recovery, there's different causes for each person's mental ill health, there are different ways in which an individual can be deemed to be in recovery, and individuals may have different experiences throughout their recovery such as a trauma or change in medication etc
4. Recovery doesn't necessarily mean that you'll be taking no medication. This may be the case for some, for others it might be that your medication is gradually being reduced, or that you're now on a medication and dose that works best for you.
5. It's bloody hard work! No matter how many changes you need to make, and the speed in which you make them. The way I looked at it was that I put so much time and effort into self-destruction, it was understandable that it'll take the same, or twice as much effort, and time to rectify all of that. I kept reminding myself that it'd all be worth it. And since my recovery initially meant being sectioned to a hospital miles from home, I had to realise that each day, each month, even each year (I was hospitalised for two and a half years) was worth it in the long run, to have my life back.
6. If you're thought to be 'in recovery' that doesn't always mean that you no longer have a mental health diagnosis. For some disorders, if you're no longer experiencing just one of diagnostic criteria then your diagnosis will no longer apply. However I do know that with my diagnosis of Borderline Personality Disorder, you have to have been symptom free for five years before the diagnosis can no longer be applied. And that's frustrating; that you could be completely different to the person you were when you were diagnosed, yet the label is still sticking.
7. No matter what your diagnosis, your symptoms, the severity of your disorder, the causes of your mental ill health, the treatment required and the support system you have, everyone has the chance at recovery. At one point, during the years before hospital, almost all professionals; namely A&E staff, our local Crisis Team and the Police seemed to have given up on me. I would often admit that I could 100% guarantee that I would hurt myself again. I could admit it because I knew that they wouldn't care. Wouldn't stop me. They had accepted a long time ago that nothing was working. Nothing could make me better. Ironically I had hope until the professionals didn't. And I'd like to think that someone who the professionals had given up on, still making it into recovery, is a massive example of recovery being possible for anyone. Have hope.
8. Having someone talk to you who is perhaps 'ahead of you' in the recovery process, could feel completely and utterly demeaning, or it could give you hope and provide inspiration for your own recovery. Ultimately, it is your mindset that determines which way you'll react. If you're angry at the world then your reaction may be that you believe this person doesn't have a clue about how bad you feel and how determined you may be to self-destruct. If you're eager to get better then you'll thank the person. Either way, when you're in recovery (because you will be, no matter how long it takes) you'll be telling others to have hope and will be so incredibly frustrated to learn that people do shrug you off. Believe me.
9. Don't belittle your own recovery when you hear how well others are doing. Being an inpatient often meant some patients being admitted after you and still getting discharged before you. Eventually, I realised that recovery doesn't necessarily mean you have to be discharged from hospital. As I said before everyone's journey through recovery is unique and so it takes different things to illustrate your recovery. So don't compare yourself to others. So long as you feel that you're moving forward - even if it's just baby steps, you're recovering. It's not a race.
10. Mental health recovery is worth the effort.
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