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Introduction to Recovery

By John McManamy

You have finally owned up to the fact that you have a mental illness. Now what?

In many respects, the worst is behind you. You are out of denial. You have acknowledged reality. You have identified the problem. You are being treated. Things can only get better, right?

Ummm ... You're no longer bouncing off of walls and ceilings or thinking of throwing yourself off a bridge, but you're probably in no shape to go back to work or resume relationships. You are struggling inside yourself. Each day poses special challenges. You are alone and isolated.

On top of that, you are likely to be dealing with the fall-out of your most recent episode. If you're lucky, maybe you only caused a scene and can make amends. But too many  of us have to contend with a lot worse.

Plus there is emotional trauma to deal with, an illness episode that turned your world upside down and perhaps left you for dead. The shell-shock can be severe.

Maybe your situation is a bit different. Maybe you have been seeing a psychiatrist for years. Maybe you also see a talking therapist. You are better than you were before, but you are not well. In many ways - especially if you are putting up with meds side effects - you may be feeling a lot worse. Is this it? you may wonder. Am I doomed to live the rest of my life - like this?

Maybe you're one of the lucky ones. The meds work like a charm. The talking therapy is just what the doctor ordered. You quickly return to your old life. But a nagging thought persists: What if my illness returns? Will I be able to survive it? Will I be able to hold onto my job? Will I stay solvent? Will my friends and loved ones stand by me?

Regardless of where you stand, it all comes down to these two simple questions: Will I get well and stay well? What do I need to be doing?

The Treatment-Recovery Continuum

Recovery is a non-starter without medical treatment. Conversely, medical treatment works much better if both you and your clinician are thinking in terms of recovery.

During your initial phases of treatment, you are likely to be a passive recipient of care. You're not thinking entirely rationally, after all. You know next to nothing about your illness, much less how to manage it, much less your treatment options. Your clinician needs to be calling the shots. The meds will be doing the heavy lifting.

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