The majority of the general public see the word “Recovery” (Recovered) to mean cured, but this is not the case in its use for Mental Illness and many other health related conditions. You can also extend the alternate meanings to those with addictions, for example “Recovering Alcoholic”.
In my world of living with a mental illness and being a mental health advocate, I have been privy to a wide array of individual personal perceptions of what the word ‘Recovery’ means to each individual. As such, I have come to see a person’s perception of Recovery to be their personal goal on where they want to be, what they want to achieve in relation to the management and stability of their mental illness.
For myself ‘Recovery’ means achieving a state of stability that I can manage and maintain, which allows me to function at a level acceptable to me. It is a state where I can achieve things, socialise, actively engage in relationships, community and activities and feel a sense of satisfaction, positive self-worth and accomplishment.
It does not mean I am cured, well or even stable, in the general sense of these words. For many with a mental illness, our individual sense of being stable is different for us all. For instance, for a very long time my ‘stable’ was functioning on the depressed side of ‘the Stable Line’ within the scope of mood levels (see below diagram). Later after starting a new medication, this changed to become the upper side of ‘the Stable Line’. My ‘Stable Line’ at these times weren’t necessarily what I wanted, but what I had to accept. This was because all that could be done with medications, therapies etc in my treatment regime, had and was being done. I had to learn to accept this was my lot in life and do what I had to do to maintain it.
Therefore my personal definition of ‘Recovery’ had to be adapted to accommodate these new experiences of my ‘Stable Line’ and my coping strategies and techniques to main that stability revised. Of course, that could only occur once I achieved a level of acceptance of my functionality, abilities, comprehension, emotions, etc, etc, encountered with my new ‘Stable Line’.
As I said earlier, the meaning of ‘Recovery’ is unique to each individual. For some it is working towards their ‘Stable Line’, maintaining it and then working towards weaning off their medication. For those of us who cannot function without medication, it is often maintaining our ‘Stable Line’ with medication. For others, their perception of and goals associated with ‘Recovery’ is staying alive. Each day they survive and do not action their plan to take their life, is a huge accomplishment. Given this, our individual perception and goals of Recovery are not static and will shift and change with whatever we are experiencing at the time; whether they be illness or externally triggered.
There are different definitions of Recovery for a person with Mental Illness, so I have included the following webpage links if you would like to read more.
I hope this information helps you learn what ‘Recovery’ might mean to you and how to put it in to words so that you can better work with your treatment team, family, friends and Carers.