Hope, Inspirational, Mental Health, Mental Health Treatment, Recovery

Individual Mental Health ‘recovery’ – what does it mean for us (including professional and our issues) & what do we do?

I’m writing this in attempt to give us who battle mental illness some hope. It stems from my insight over the years from coping with trauma, 3 suicide attempts, a diagnosis of Bipolar (type 1), ADHD and what to expect through understanding what’s what in the business of mental illness.

This is a hugely relevant topic to anyone of us managing our battle with mental illness. I’ve been wanting to talk about it for a while now. I’ll say now it’s not covering my journey, more so information. I’ll cover my journey and thoughts another time.

This is a long post, so sorry! Hope it’s not boring but helpful 😂 Here we go:

To begin with… there’s a huge focus on the ‘recovery’ model here in the UK (& elsewhere) which unfortunately many professionals (psychiatrists, psychiatric nurses, psychologists etc) in mental health care can sometimes have trouble understanding and/or agreeing with what it actually means; what the ingredients of the recovery model is and how it’s implemented. It can cause confusion with care delivery complicated by the ongoing inclusion of the medical model conflicting with the recovery model. How can they work together well? Tricky in my experience from being on the receiving end of care and as a mental health nurse myself – e.g usage of the mental health act whilst still trying to build trusting therapeutic relationships with us suffering. The result? Too many of us who are ill then also get confused & sometimes mistrustful.

Also the difficulties with the medical model is the expectation of ‘cure’. How many times have you been told about brain chemicals being accountable? Too much dopamine in psychosis = antipsychotics, too little serotonin = antidepressants, mood stabilisers for bipolar? So you’ll often be told that if a prescriber finds the right medication (& dose) you’ll eradicate symptoms mainly. A pill for every ill. So we expect a return to their old selves, thinking it’s possible to rid mental illness completely. If you’re lucky it might work, or work for a while until it bums out. The expectation of full recovery usually creates our suffering more as it’s often unrealistic and unattainable. Hope (if you had it) starts to reduce or disappear. In desperation we may over self analyse about our past and present, berate ourselves searching for answers but this, dare I say, is pointless & very counterproductive.

Consequently it create further pain, unrealistic expectations, maybe increased worthlessness, guilt, hopelessness and so cycle of continuous. There’s also whole raft of information discussing the ‘Self-Analyse Trap’. I’m going to digress a bit now as I feel self analysing is important & deserves addressing. Therefore here is an article written by a person experiencing this.

‘The Self-Analysis Trap: Stop Dissecting Your Every Thought and Action’ (courtesy of tiny Buddha.com)

“I thought of myself as my own personal therapist, totally capable of unearthing the intricate details of my inner psyche”.

She was told by her teacher:

“You don’t have to understand. No one can really understand everything that they say or do. We aren’t supposed to figure everything out, because life is messy and not everything can be analyzed and justified. Some things are just incomprehensible.”

She realised that by accepting that you cannot know or explain your whole self, you liberate yourself from the constant burden of rumination. You are free to control what you can control—your reactions to thoughts—and to let the rest come and go.

Her concluding sentence: They say that the only thing as complicated as the universe is the human brain. Both are chaotic, awe-inspiring, rife with contradictions, and impossible to fully comprehend. That is what makes them—and, by extension, life—so exciting and beautiful.

Anyway, back to the meaning of recovery.

What is the concept of ‘recovery’. The model developed over the last decade or so?

Many ppl hate the word ‘recovery’. I do too. The reasoning being for some it sounds & implies that full on recovery from mental illness is possible whereas in a lot of cases this is not so. Recovery actually means learning about ourselves as an individual; a lifelong journey of adaptation. Recovery isn’t a destination (unless you’ve had one episode & unlikely to not have another). I suspect most of us here have episodic periods & or lingering symptoms to cope with hence why we share our battles, support & learn from each other. We connect through social media.

Anyway here is a excerpt from a document titled ‘mental health recovery’ which addresses the components of recovery often suggested and what is really means. (Courtesy of recoveryinnovations.org, 2004):

• Hope:

1. Hope is the beginning.

2. It’s a thought that things can get better, a feeling of courage with a spark of new energy.

3. Hope creates a “turning point”.

4. Hope means, “I can have dreams”.

5. It’s a vision of a better future; learning to focus on the positive.

6. Someone else can hold the hope for us. “And there was this person”

• Choice:

1. Recovery is a choice.

2. Making choices is how we can discover who we are.

3. Making choices can be risky. We have the right to take risks. This is how we learn; from our 
own experience.

4. In fact, we are the experts in our own care.

5. We do best when we choose our services, our service provider, and our service plan.

• Empowerment:

1. Recovery is the person’s job. Give them the power to do it!

2. Resist taking the power by doing “to” or “for”. Give the person the lead role.

3. Creating a “valued role” promotes empowerment.

4. Teach self-advocacy skills that get good results.

5. Promote self-advocacy — support each person in taking the lead and not giving their power away.

6. Put each person in the helping role so they remember that they have a contribution to make.

• Recovery Environment:

1. Stay on the “recovery side” of the “Recovery vs. Non-recovery Environment” chart.

2. Healing happens in relationships. Value and nurture relationships based on kindness and mutual respect.

3. Maintain a “level of consciousness” of love.

4. Avoid gossip and negativity.

5. Celebrate diversity.

6. Create a “community” with valued social roles for everyone.

• Spirituality; Meaning and Purpose:

1. Connecting within and beyond the self.

2. Using “The Force” to move recovery forward.

3. Find our own answers to the mystery of spirit.

4. Develop spiritual pathways.

Some of my favourite quotes on recovery:

The task is not to become normal. The task is to take up your journey of recovery and to become who you are called to be” (Patricia E. Deegan – famous SU).

“Recovery is a deeply personal, unique process changing one’s attitude, values, feelings, goals, skills, and/or roles. It is a way of living a satisfying, hopeful, and contributing life. Recovery involves the development of new meaning and purpose in one’s life as one grows beyond the catastrophic effects of psychiatric disability” (Dr William Anthony, 1993)

“Recovery is remembering who you are and using your strengths to become all that you were meant to be”

QUESTION: So, what if you were to change the name of the ‘recovery’ model, whilst retaining its ethos, would you suggest to reflect it more accurately? I’m not sure but here are some words I thought of:

* Trauma focused Care (this is currently a hot topic amongst professionals as a better description)

* Supporting identity and survival

* Living hope and survival

* Adjusting to mental adversity

* Regaining self empowerment

* Retaining identity, empowerment and hope

Or something like that lol. Bit of a mouthful.


A YouTube TedTalk by Eleanor Longden called ‘The voices in my head’:

Eleanor was diagnosed with schizophrenia whilst studying psychology. Then for years her mental health declined through the mental health system. She then overcame her diagnosis of schizophrenia to earn a master’s in psychology and demonstrate that the voices in her head were “a sane reaction to insane circumstances.” She is now a top research psychologist.

I wrote a piece on recovery that you may like to read on my mental health blog. It’s my last assignment for my mental health degree. Link on my profile.

A RECOMMENDATION (honestly again) to use the following tool to learn about yourself and your recovery journey:

I cannot stress enough how brilliant this is to support your ‘recovery’. It’s a widely used Wellness Recovery Action Plan (WRAP) developed by a famous & respected lady called Mary Ellen Copeland. Mary has a diagnosis of Bipolar disorder, provides peer support and is an author. The document is completed by you as an individual designed to help you get well, stay well & make your life what you wish to be. It includes stuff like what you’re like when well, unwell, what helps you & your crisis plan. I’d thoroughly recommend it as do professionals & mental health sufferers around the world. Helping to support self exploration and your personalised ‘recovery’ journey. Have a google if you so wish!

Babble over! Well done and thank you if you made it this far!!!

Hope all this helps & comforts at least one person.

Much love, B xxxx

3 thoughts on “Individual Mental Health ‘recovery’ – what does it mean for us (including professional and our issues) & what do we do?”

  1. Well, remember that conversation I had with the crises team nurse? I’ll copy it here as relevant then reply with another comment to this wordpress reply from you. SO HERE READERS OF AN EXAMPLE OF POOR ‘RECOVERY’ ADVICE FROM A CRISIS HOME TREATMENT NURSE:

    A: what are you doing today? Have you done your goals?

    J: My mum is visiting. I don’t feel very well today and actually the goals are too many to do all at once.

    A: Well, I’ve been doing this job for a very long time. If you don’t do anything then you won’t get better.

    J: I find that really patronising. I know what I need to do to get better and they were your goals for me not mine. Aren’t you supposed to work with the person to set achieveable ones? Have you had severe depression ?

    A: I’m not disclosing my personal business

    J: of course I don’t expect you to. I doubt you have bipolar though and I’ve had this for years. If you have severe depression and taking the medication I’m on then you’d understand why it’s hard. Some have horrible side effects. I’ve taken loads of different medications over the years. This current depression is very different than the others I’ve had. I struggle to do anything. As I said the other day all the other ones I was able to make myself to all the things I did when not depressed even though I felt really low and numb.

    A: That’s why we asked you what you want from us?

    J: As I said that day I find that question really difficult and I thought it meant what can the team offer. It’s hard to talk to someone you don’t know as trust hasn’t built up. I’ve only met you once when I was training and I’m not stupid, I’m a mental health nurse as well.

    A: I know you are.

    J: I know I’ve recently qualified but I know how to talk to people. That’s what counts so I don’t care whether you’ve been nursing for years that doesn’t make you a good nurse. Not that I’m saying you’re a bad one.

    A: Well your brain isn’t working properly at the moment.

    J: I still know what I need to do. You started teach me about CBT the over day. I’ve learnt CBT at Uni, taught it to groups and received a lot of it as a patient and I also have a WRAP plan in place so I know what I’m like well and unwell.

    J: I’m still having suicidal thoughts almost daily, which I’ve often had before. At the moment I’m able to reason with them as they’re passive, the thought of leaving my 4 children, partner and loved ones I would never do that to them while passive.

    A: well that’s what distraction techniques are for.

    J: Yes but this doesn’t always work because they can very quickly turn from passive to active, which professionals might see as impulsive. Once active I don’t want to contact anyone because I truly believe it’s the right thing to do for everyone. Like a fixed false belief. I think I’ve maybe lost capacity at that point.

    A: well I’ll pass your message on to eamon and someone will be out to you tomorrow at 2.30pm. I can’t guarantee who it will be.

    J: OK, thank you.

    A: Have a nice day!

    J: and you.

    Then she hung up.

    Notice how she didn’t validate any of my points nor say sorry for any misunderstanding or how I feel. Most importantly at the end when I talked about suicide she didn’t address it bar the suggestion of distraction. Plus the ‘Have a nice day’ right after it.

    What do you think? I wonder what she said aftee she hung up and what she wrote it my notes. Luckily I have written it all down.


  2. I like reading your posts – I always learn stuff.

    I can see the need for a better term than ‘recovery’ as it doesn’t mean the same in mental health as it does ordinarily. Recovery to most people means they’re going to be cured ie ‘a return to a normal state of health, mind or strength’ (Oxford Dict.), so patients and service users can get disillusioned because their ‘recovery’ is taking longer and is harder than they expected, and their recovery can actually reverse because what they originally believed isn’t happening nor is it likely to happen. Even if it is explained to the patient/service user that ‘recovery’ is a process and not a result, there’s no guarantee that the patient will ‘get it’.

    It doesn’t help that the professionals can’t agree on what it means.


    Liked by 1 person

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