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Mental Health Recovery To Me

Yesterday, in group we had a discussion about recovery- what does it mean to us, how other organizations define it, and tips to reach recovery. I heard various understandings of what recovery means- change, growth, restore what was taken, etc. In addition to getting everyone;s opinion on the meaning of recovery, we read SAMHSA's 10 Fundamental Components of Recovery.

My definition of recovery is focused on action. First and foremost, recovery to me is accepting my diagnosis of schizophrenia, and taking ownership of my well being by seeking treatment and support, and getting involved in my treatment plan with health care professions. It involves speaking up about needs and asking questions. In other words, advocating for myself.

Recovery is accepting change and learning the new Ashley after receiving a mental health diagnosis- that is being real with self and capabilities by revising my needs and goals. For example, the "new Ashley" is aware of limitations as a result of the illness; I understand that I should Not work or go to college full time for the moment until I reach another phase in my recovery, which is possible!

My personal recovery plan includes sharing my knowledge with others and educating myself about mental health. Additionally, it is volunteering and performing outreach to help reduce stigma and to promote awareness.

At this point in my recovery, I am loving my recovery! Now, I am open about my diagnosis. I am comfortable with the progress I've made, however, I am continuing to strive to improve. I am hopeful that I will achieve my many goals despite living with this illness.

In my experience, my recovery has helped me mature. It has taught me some of the lessons of life that I may not have understood unless I have gone through something as intense and emotional as mental illness.

For instance, I have learned that I am not immune to a lot of things- I guess that philosophy of being immune to things comes with youth but goes away with experience and time. I would have never thought I would encounter mental illness and the things that go with it, in my experience that includes: bizarre thoughts, incarceration, and therapy; and following a regular medication regimen; and the whole recovery process, to list a few things related to mental health.

For me, recovery involved a lot of support from health care professionals, social workers, case managers, family and peers online and in-person. I am thankful for the strong foundation I experienced- the outpatient treatment program and housing arrangement, the group therapy, and NAMI (the National Alliance on Mental Illness).

Finally, I do Not believe recovery comes with a time limit, and that it is the same journey for everyone. To me, recovery does Not equal perfection or is problem free. In my opinion, recovery does Not mean a person is "cured" of the illness. Instead, recovery is managing the mental illness which is an ongoing process that demands a lot of attention and support. However, I do believe the level of progress in one's recovery depends on the individual.

What does mental health recovery mean to you? How has recovery changed your life- whether you are a family member or a person living with a diagnosis?

To learn more about schizophrenia visit Embracing My Mind, Inc., the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), Schizophrenia Society of Nova Scotia (Canada).


SSNS said…
Great post, Ashley. All the best for 2011! Steve
Ashley Smith said…
Thank you, Steve! Happy Holidays!

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