What Does ‘Recovery’ Mean?

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The word recovery means very different things to different people. The word is problematic and can ultimately be damaging. When people talk about recovery it marginalises those that can’t.

Some people use the word to describe the process and not an actual milestone. Some see it as having a positive outlook, that they see as a form of recovery. Others actually mean being in a stable place and free from mental illness. ‘Clinical recovery’ is a term many mental health professionals use to describe someone who no longer presents symptoms of their mental illness. I think many people think of this when we hear the word recovery and this is my main problem with it.

I prefer to say manage rather than recover.

Managing to me signals acceptance. That the person has come to the point where they’re no longer in denial. They’re now willing to find a way to manage the condition they’re faced with. This isn’t a phenomenon categorised just for mental illness, but for many physical health problems. Managing diabetes and other long term illnesses comes with similar challenges.

Ultimately it’s about building something new for myself. 

I can’t go back to who I was before. I don’t recognise that person. For a start, she was a young teenager and without mental illness and its impact I would be an entirely different person. Would I even want to be that person? I have no idea.

If you’re not seen as moving forward, you end up feeling like a failure. There is so much pressure to be better, to be able to work and socialise, to be a productive member of society. The impetus is put on recovery above helping those that it isn’t feasible for. It’s this unattainable goal that is set for us that so many with severe and enduring mental illness will fail at. Why isn’t there more support for those that need and want to manage a mental illness?  There’s this idea that we can recover if only we tried hard enough. For some of us it’s an impossibly high standard to measure up to.

I’m not here to be an inspiration. I’m not someone that’s going to miraculously be better and totally stable for the rest of my life. It’s not realistic. I can’t pretend that everything is going to be ok. I can’t pretend to be in some form of recovery, because I’m not, and I don’t think I ever will be. I’m managing bipolar and psychosis and it will also be a part of who I am.  I don’t intend to recover from bipolar and psychosis, because it’s just not an option. This is an illness that I will have for life. It’s severe and chronic and I’ve had to accept that. It’s part of my life. I can be miserable and hate the fact, or I can learn about it, start to understand it and find ways to manage it.

 

7 Comments

  1. livementallywell November 10, 2018 / 12:37 pm

    I enjoyed ur post. I think the term “recovery” was borrowed from Alcoholics Anonymous. A recovering alcoholiis an alcoholic for life but continues to improve and heal over time.

    • Katie Conibear November 11, 2018 / 10:21 am

      Thank you, I didn’t know that’s where the term came from.

  2. ashleyleia November 10, 2018 / 1:48 pm

    I think it’s important that recovery be considered from the perspective of the person with mental illness, not whoever’s standing around on the sidelines. I also don’t see myself getting back to who I was before the illness, but if I could re-establish more meaningful connections that’s something I can see as a big step towards recovering a sense of purpose in life despite my illness.

    • Katie Conibear November 11, 2018 / 10:24 am

      I agree. We shouldn’t be expected to recover by others. Living meaningfully with mental illness should be our own personal journey.

  3. Alison November 11, 2018 / 9:13 am

    I would like to say how brave you are posting your experience of bipolar on here and you are very lucky to have a supportive family
    Regards alison

    • Katie Conibear November 11, 2018 / 10:24 am

      Thank you so much x

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