the recovery journey

Recovery is a process and a goal – it is learning to successfully manage mental illness, having control over symptoms and having a quality of life. It involves overcoming the negative impact of mental illness despite its continued presence. It can be described as a way of living in order to make the most out of life. Just as each person is unique, so too will their recovery journey be unique.

Recovery is not a cure. It is a journey. There is no timeline. It is living life to the fullest despite challenges.

With new treatments and a better understanding of mental illness, the majority of people living with mental illness will experience significant recovery.

In recovery, people reclaim their sense of self, their connectedness to others, their power over their own lives, the roles they value, their hope for themselves (Center for Psychiatric Rehabilitation,

...A person with mental illness can recover even though the illness is not ‘cured’...Recovery is a way of living a satisfying, hopeful and con- tributing life even with limitations caused by the illness. Recovery involves the development of new meaning and purpose in one’s life as one grows beyond the catastrophic effects of mental illness (Psychiatric Rehabilitation, 2nd edition, W. A. Anthony et. al., 2002).

The recovery journey often happens in phases. At first, your family member may be in shock, denying that anything has changed or happened. She may go through grief, despair and depression, as the meaning of her situation sinks in. Over time, this often gives way to anger and then acceptance. Finally, your family member may develop a sense of hope, coping and empowerment as her recovery strengthens.

“Recovery is a journey that helps us gain some control over our lives and our illness – by finding our own way to deal with it. Recovery includes hope, encouragement and support. It is also about being honest and learning to take responsibility for yourself.”

Part of the recovery journey involves working with a care team and sticking to a care plan that addresses the person’s life, not only the person’s illness. It also involves reviewing the plan to be sure it is helping your family member through her journey. Care plans should be revised if something isn’t working. Encourage your family member to become an active partner with her care team and to manage her care plan. This can’t be stressed enough. If a person plays an active role in developing her care plan, it will contain the elements that she knows she needs to recover. She will have a sense of ownership of the plan and will be more likely to follow it. The more your family member learns about her illness and treatment options, the better able she will be to make decisions about her health and well-being.

Supportive families are central to their family member’s recovery. While your family member may be all too aware of the trauma of mental illness, you may minimize the fact that you have suffered too. As your family member gets better, you celebrate. But you may, yourself, need to recover. Having a family member living with mental illness can sometimes mean months or years of frantic worry, terror of suicide attempts, trips to the emergency room and financial burdens. You may have endured seeing your family member homeless. It is important for you to recognize that you may need to take a recovery journey of your own.

“ Recovery has given me hope for a future I can create myself. ”

“I now exist beyond the diagnosis of a mental illness – I’m living well again.”

For people living with mental illness who are severely ill and struggle with delusions or hallucinations, recovery may have to begin with the tiniest of steps. For a time, supportive family members and others may lead recovery planning because their family member is simply too ill to make choices. Here, the contribution of recovery is that it provides hope. Even those who have the most severe forms of mental illness can do better. The most important part of their recovery is to be surrounded by people who believe in them and in their future.