Cassie as a Recovery Tool

Sue Bergeson Health Guide
  • My little dog Cassie would strenuously object to being called a recovery tool. She is after all a diva, a princess, the most wonderful little dog in the entire world. Any of those titles would do just fine. But a recovery tool? Way too mundane for my little piece of doggie wondrousness.

    DBSA President Sue Bergeson's Dog Cassie

    But in fact, she is my source of unconditional love, my early warning system and my adjunctive mood stabilizer all in one. She forces me to get up in the morning, to take my meds (what would happen to her if I got really ill, after all), to get some exercise (play is seriously important to her), and to have sit down time so she can be properly held and petted. All of which are pretty important to my recovery.
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    Just what is recovery, anyway? DBSA defines recovery as “a full life in the community, where my illness does not rob me of things that are important to me.” Notice it does not say anything about not living with my illness for the rest of my life. Instead, it talks about illness management.

    The Center for Mental Health Services, as a division of the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMSHA) and the United States Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), has issued a consensus statement defining recovery (one I got to be part of developing by participating in a meeting). The statement can be found here.

    Focusing treatment on recovery instead of just system reduction is a big issue in the mental health community these days. By its very nature, a recovery orientation assumes that I can have a life, that there is hope for me and I can expect more out of my life than sitting in a hospital or day treatment center. Consumers are asking for, and demanding, that we have treatment plans that focus on our strengths, that use the skills we bring to the table, that lead us to a full life in the community.

    And that’s where Cassie comes in. She, in her wondrous furry splendor, enables me to do many of the things I need to do to move forward. And she loves me even when I can’t do anything. Even on bad days when everything feels painful to me. She just is. And she thinks I am great. What a gift.

    I hope you have found your own set of recovery tools, Cassie-like or otherwise. As Mickie states in her story:

    “Over the past three years I have struggled with my moods and suicidal ideation. My medications have been changed several times, and I now feel my moods are under control most of the time. I can even notice the swings, the hypomania and deep depression for what they are - symptoms. This doesn’t make me any happier, but I know that the pain and thoughts will subside. I am now sober, and taking my medication religiously. I cannot imagine going back to where I was three years ago. Today I am no longer ashamed of my past. I use my moods in a creative way - writing poetry, stories, working out. There is hope, but it is hard to recognize at first. But, I am so glad I made my way through all this and hope others can do so, too.”

  • Cassie and I do too.
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    So tell me your story. Who is your wondrous recovery tool furry, feathery, or otherwise?

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    *DBSA’s definition of recovery is “a full life in the community where our illness does not get in the way of our life” and that is what I wish for all of us.




Published On: February 02, 2007