Finding Recovery in Spite of Mental Illness

While it would be great if recovery from mental illness meant that the illness would disappear and never return, for many of us living with mental illness the reality is that it’s just not going to go away. That means adapting the concept of recovery to fit with our own individual realities.

Earlier in the course of my depressive illness, I was able to achieve full remission between episodes. That was the idea of recovery that I held onto, confident that I’d be able to achieve it again even if it was a slow and difficult process.

Since then, though, my illness has become treatment-resistant. It’s been 3 1/2 years since I was last in full remission. That old definition of recovery is no longer serving me, so I was faced with a choice: keep hanging onto that notion of recovery for dear life, or redefine it so that it became more useful for me.

It was hard to let go of the old idea of recovery, because it required a shift of identities. No longer could I distinguish a sick and a well self; there was just myself who was sick.

The upside, though, of shifting perspective is that it’s a lot more empowering to be able to conceptualize recovery in a way that works for me. Recovery is now less of an endpoint and more an ongoing journey. It’s about finding meaning and purpose in new ways rather than getting back what I lost.

Now, even though my illness is present in my everyday life, I can shape how I approach each day to move as much as I can in a recovery direction.

That’s what recovery is for me. In these excerpts from my new book Making Sense of Psychiatric Diagnosis, some of the book’s contributors share what recovery means for them.

I think it’s important to share our recovery stories as well as our illness stories. It’s easy to get discouraged, but by sharing our stories we can help to lift each other up.

Mental health blogger | Former MH nurse | Living with depression | Author of 3 books, latest is Managing the Depression Puzzle | mentalhealthathome.org