For many people, recovery from mental illness is a very real possibility. Constant fine-tuning of psychotherapeutic practices informed by clinical research means that more and more people are benefiting from therapeutic engagement. Before a person recovers from a mental illness however they must overcome significant obstacles including but not limited to, addressing the fact that they need help, finding the right source of support, committing to and engaging in that source of support, and eventually working through and overcoming their difficulties. The latter in particular can be an extremely lengthy and arduous process. Once a person feels that they have overcome or learnt the skills required to manage their difficulties, they may consider themselves to be recovered and ready to pick up where they left off or start a whole new blank slate.
Unfortunately this is often easier said than done. Recovery is most certainly an uphill battle, but the ground doesn’t always level out when you think you’ve gotten to the top. For many people who have experienced a mental illness, recovery comes with the task of rebuilding what they previously had. Often times, suffering from a mental illness can alter our behaviours so much that we lose or damage relationships, careers and even our sense of self. Rebuilding can take time and considerable effort and therefore an individual who is in recovery should be prepared for future challenges. Similarly, an individual who as part of their recovery has been inspired to make significant changes to their lives, such as remove themselves from unhealthy living environments and relationships or build a new career for themselves, must also be prepared an execute effective planning strategies that will allow these changes to occur.
These aspects of preparation can occur during the recovery process itself and will often be incorporated into goals of treatment. Nevertheless for some individuals, particularly those whose lives may have been most affected by their mental illness, this process may continue for some time after that individual identifies as being recovered. The main issue under these circumstances is that if the challenges of rebuilding or restarting become too much, there may be potential for relapse.
For instance, if an individual who is in recovery from depression is aspiring to relaunch a career in a new field but is consistently rejected or knocked back, this individual may slip back into negative thinking cycles which contributed to his or her depression in the first place. In order to avoid this, that individual must firstly accept that a relapse may always be a possibility and so in some sense they must understand that their mental illness may always be a part of them. Secondly, they must try to maintain confidence is what they learnt throughout their process of recovery. Maintaining a connection to or at least knowing where to access support if it is needed is a crucial component of post-recovery. By remaining aware of what you have overcome in the past but also understanding the limits to your recovery, you can help to insure that your ability to face whatever life throws at you will remain strong and intact.
Ms. Niamh Allen, M.A. B.Sc.