What Does it Mean to Be in Recovery From a Mental Illness?
Updated: Sep 21
It’s Recovery Month! When people hear “recovery,” many only think of recovery from substance use disorders. However, recovery applies to mental illness as well. Some people may experience passing episodes of depression and/or anxiety due to a current life situation, however, the majority of mental illnesses are lifelong. So if you are living with the illness for the rest of your life, what does it mean to be in recovery?
According to MentalHealth.gov, recovery is a process of change in which individuals:
Improve their health and wellness
Live a self-directed life
Strive to achieve their full potential
The Four Dimensions of Recovery
Health: Individuals overcome and/or manage their illness and symptoms. They are able to make informed decisions that support a healthy lifestyle, both physically and emotionally.
Home: The person has a safe and stable place to live.
Purpose: The individual is able to participate in society by working to obtain income, take part in meaningful daily activities and be independent.
Community: The ability to develop and maintain healthy relationships and social networks that provide support, friendship, love and hope.
Adapted from list on MentalHealth.gov.
The Role of Hope & Resilience in Recovery
Hope, which is believing that the illness can be managed and that a fulfilling life is possible, is the foundation of recovery. There is not one “right” way to get to recovery; there are many paths and everyone’s recovery process is different. When a person obtains a diagnosis from a mental health professional and begins to receive the proper treatment and support, they are able to begin to feel hopeful.
Another critical component of recovery is resilience. Any life-long mental illness is going to come with setbacks and relapses of symptoms; this is normal and to be expected. The key is learning how to navigate life and “bounce back” when those setbacks happen. Resilience is not a personality trait. Anyone can learn how to be more resilient, but it takes practice. The American Psychological Association identifies four core elements of resilience: connection, wellness, healthy thinking, and meaning. Here are some strategies they suggest to build resilience:
Join a group
Take care of your body
Avoid negative outlets
Move toward your goals
Look for opportunities for self-discovery
Embrace healthy thoughts
Keep things in perspective
Maintain a hopeful outlook
Learn from your past
Learn more about each of these strategies and how they build resilience by visiting the American Psychological Association website.
Locally, Silver Hill Hospital has a wealth of resources related to resilience. In response to the pandemic, they developed the Community Resilience Campaign (CRC), which is an initiative that offers resiliency coaching to school faculty and leadership, law enforcement agencies, healthcare facilities, and other organizations. They also have downloadable resources and tips for the general public on their website.
Remember, It’s a Process!
As mentioned before, recovery is a process that is different for everyone. There is no right or wrong way and everyone reaches recovery at different speeds. Even though it can be frustrating at times, don’t give up. Lean on your support network and get help when you need it. There are many local resources to help you on your journey to recovery.
NAMI Southwest Connecticut provides a variety of peer support groups for all ages.
TurningPointCT provides SMART recovery groups specifically for young adults.