What is recovery ?

Recovery can take many forms. Its a period of time, following an episode of illness,where you take steps to get back on your feet. It isn’t just relevant to mental illness, it also applies to any one who has a short or long term health condition  where there may be bouts of increased severity of symptoms at certain times. It could be recovering after surgery or an operation,following a period of chemo or radiotherapy,it could come after getting chickenpox or a common cold,following a period of stress, a  bereavement,the list goes on.

In today’s society (my opinion) it seems that you ‘can’t be ill’ ,its a sign of weakness, you can’t take time off, you’ve bills to pay and kids to sort out and friends to counsel and shopping to do and washing and ironing and socializing and important meetings to attend, and you need to get up at the crack of dawn and walk the dog and get in the office early and leave late and have an argument when you get home because your not spending enough time with the family, and it goes on and on and on.Constant pressure, constantly having to ‘do’ to ‘be someone’.Where is the time to recover in all this, when there is no time to be ill !

But we do get ill, stress weakens  our immune system, and we become more susceptable to illness(physical and psychological).When we should be taking a couple of days off to get over that cold, we end up going to work, spreading our germs, other staff go off ill and you end up with a cold that last several weeks turns into a chest infection and your still in work because you have to cover other staffs absence. Its not really of benefit to any one to do this. If you took 3 days off, rested,recovered and got back to full health and then went back to work, not only would you be doing yourself a huge favour ,but you’d be doing others a favour too.

This is obviously a quick example, but it can be applied to any situation where you don’t look after yourself first.Recovery is about taking responsibility for your own well-being.

Its a process that can have a few or many steps depending on your circumstances.This is my own idea of the steps,as I see them that can help towards recovery, its not from a medical text book but personal experience and you may have a different view,which is fine.

The first step is to ACKNOWLEDGE THERE IS SOMETHING WRONG.

You are not weak,feeble,incapable,lazy,stupid, or any other derogative you can come up with,because you have acknowledged something isn’t quite right. You are human and you’re allowed to not be perfect, or superhuman.If there is never anything ‘wrong’ with you you’re probably in denial.

Once you finally manage to admit there is a problem (it took me 15 years to get to this point) the next step is to SEEK ADVICE AND SUPPORT FROM OTHERS.

I spent half my life avoiding doing this because of all kinds of fuzzy thinking . No one will believe me, i wont be taken seriously, i’ll loose my job, i’m a let down, inferior, why can everyone else manage and i can’t , etc etc etc.When i finally did seek advice and support, it turns out, that non of the above applied. The GP was understanding, my mum and dad didn’t have an emotional melt down or blame themselves for my illness, they were very helpful and supportive. My dad put me in touch with a local recovery group and this had been really beneficial because i’ve met others learning to live with long term mental illness.

It may be you need to TAKE SOME TIME OUT. Get off the carousel ,let the dizziness subside, and get your balance back, before you try going back on, otherwise you’ll just fall over.

This part can be very hard for some people to get to, because they are so busy being all things to all people. Any illness requires TIME to get through. Allowing yourself some time to slow down,have a think about where you are and where your going isn’t a bad thing. Its sometimes the best thing,Of course some people prefer to keep going and not stop .My mum is one of them. She will be bouncing around the house a day after surgery thinking she’s fine and then end up off for several weeks feeling crap because she over did it, which leads nicley to my next stage..

TAKE IT EASY

Don’t over face your self, be honest about what is ‘enough’ for you to be doing or not doing. Your head may say everything is fine, but if your body is tired, or sore, or stiff, or vice versa,your brain is fuzzy, you can’t think straight ,you feel tired and unmotivated,its a sign you need to take a break. If you only do one thing today. At least you’ve achieved one thing. Better to build up slowly than try doing 7 things in a day, achieve 3 and then spend the rest of the day beating your self up and feeling guilty because you think you haven’t ‘done enough’.

BE HONEST WITH YOURSELF AND OTHERS

If your finding it difficult,tell someone, if you had a crap day, say so, if you need more help then please ask for it from those you know will be supportive of you. If you have no one to support you, seek outside help from GP’S,community groups,counselling,charities such as MIND and SANE or Macmillan or whoever offers support for those in your situation. There is a whole network of support available if you are brave enough to reach out for it.

DON’T JUDGE OR CRITISIZE YOURSELF.

You’re human,life can be hard and your entitled to feel the way you feel.Please don’t beat yourself up because you have this idea in your head that you should be in a better position than the one you’re in at present. Life is cyclical.We have ebbs and flows, ups and downs,lefts and rights, round and rounds, it will pass.Things will improve.Don’t panic.

REMEMBER ALL YOUR GOOD POINTS AND YOUR STRENGTHS

Its more useful to spend your mental and emotional energy remembering the good bits,this can be hard when you don’t see any  but if you follow the step above, you will find it easier to do this one.

BE REALISTIC

You need to know what you can and can’t manage. As you go through the recovery phase only  do what you can realistically acheive without it causing a relapse.(easier said than done but it gets better )

AVOID WHAT MAKES THINGS WORSE

This may sound obvious but I have tripped up here on many an occasion and I know i’m not the only one.For an example, whenever i felt miserable and like i didnt want to be here anymore, i would go out and get very drunk and take drugs. This wasn’t making me feel better. I felt vacant,empty,depressed,angry ,guilty and a load of other emotions .I lost weight, couldn’t hold down a job didn’t eat properly and lived on a diet of caffine and fags.

It wasn’t helping me.It was making things harder.I was doing it because I’d lost the ability to give a shit about myself,lost my self worth and self respect because of the very things I was doing to try and mask the way I was feeling(drinking and taking drugs) It can be very difficult to change learned behaviours even when we know they are harming us.You will need help and support do over come this and you may need the in-put of a counseller, psychologist, psychiatrist or other profession to support you. It is worth the effort to keep trying. you will ‘get it’ eventually and be really proud of yourself for doing it!.

REMEMBER IT ISN’T JUST YOU

We all fall down.Its part of being human.There are others out there going through what you are going through.By helping others we can often help ourselves.

I’m still in a process of recovery. I’ve gone through many changes along the way,which at times can be quite scary. I’m better now than I was 15 years ago,But I still have times when it all gets a bit much.Medication has helped alot with this. I avoided it for years , for many reasons but have found it benficial to me personally. I will always be susceptable to mental illhealth but as the years go by I get better at managing it and that is was recovery is about.It isn’t always the case that you make a full recovery, sometimes its about learning how to manage better something you will have to live with for the rest of your life.It is important not to give up on yourself, you matter,and you deserve to live a fulfilling existence.So my last step would be NEVER GIVE UP.

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