Recovery: Defining It and Living It

  • In here, I'd like to start a dialogue about recovery: what it means to you, how you define it, and what you do to stay healthy. I believe everyone has her own "recovery style" that works for her. The best way to succeed in your recovery is to use your personality and talents to achieve your life's purpose. What is your life's work? When you find out, it opens doors. How do you find out? By assessing what you value so that you can set priorities, and then make the choices that reflect what you need to do to keep in balance and honor your values.


    This is a slippery slope. I'm not saying not to try new things, like new foods or hobbies that you've never done and would like to pursue. And I don't believe you necessarily have to say, "This behavior doesn't fit into my life and my style, so I can't do it." Like buying a wool sweater if you ordinarily shop in K-Mart, or supporting a charity that isn't one you would contribute to. You get the idea.

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    I recommend Caterina Rando's book, Learn to Power Think. I found it on the book sale table at a library. This is my favorite self-help book of all time. I urge you to read it. She does coax us to try something we're usually unlikely to do. For me, that would be cooking a gourmet meal. I'm simply not a cook. I didn't inherit my Italian mother's love of cooking and skill with recipes. (You can tell your Mom loves you when you fail at making sauce, and she doesn't disown you.)


    So I'm interested in hearing from others about what you do to stay well and keep healthy, even if you have symptoms. I want to make this perfectly clear: though I consider myself "recovered from" the schizophrenia, that's one moment in time in my life. I'm not so foolish to think I could never relapse again. Under the right conditions, if my life was out of balance, I could possibly have difficulties that I'm not experiencing now. My big mistake when I went off meds was thinking, "This is it, the end of the illness. It's over with."


    Recovery involves two things, and if you master them, you're on your way to a better outcome. It involves the conscious devotion to a positive lifestyle, and acting in a loving, nurturing way toward your authentic self. You want to be true to your nature. It takes too much time and energy to be false to yourself. If you like who you are, it shows, and other people want to be around you.


    The concept of wellness needs to be expanded. "Normal" is a loaded word that has the potential to do damage when used against those whose lives don't mirror how people live in the mainstream. Could someone still have symptoms, and be recovered? I dare think so. Is recovery possible for most people? Yes, and each person gets to decide for himself whether he's at the place he wants to be, or needs to continue down the road a little farther.


    Those of us dealing with psychiatrists, social workers, and others in the mental health system know that we too often can't rely on those "experts" to believe in the possibility that we can recover. Find someone who does, if you meet resistance. It's worth the effort.


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    As I've said, you know in your heart when something's out of balance, and needs tweaking. You also have the right to determine how you want to live your life. I call myself "recovered from" because I want others to know they shouldn't have to go through hoops and endlessly try to improve, only to have a doctor or other person pooh-pooh your attempts. I love proving such nay sayers wrong! If you believe in yourself, that's all that matters. You're the only one you have to impress.


    I suggest you read my blog entry titled, "Optimism and Hope for Successful Treatment Outcomes." The truth is out there. Remission from schizophrenia could happen in as little as six months. Recovery is ongoing, and can happen at any time. It's a process, not an endpoint. And it could happen even if you're not in remission.


    One thing I want to make clear: this expert's blog, my memoir, my articles for Schizophrenia Digest, and anything else I write isn't about promoting myself and what I've done. Rather, I consider myself a guide-a scout, if you will-who's been out in the field and wants to bring back the knowledge she's gained to share with others who could benefit. One day, when you find your own voice, I hope you have the courage to speak out.


    Let's talk. I'd love to hear your take on this hot topic. Do post comments. I will respond.

Published On: September 24, 2007