I have a confession to make. I struggle with the idea that one day in the future I’ll be able to say, “I have Recovered from Depression and Anxiety.” Don’t get me wrong, I am completely on board with the idea of Recovery. It’s just I have this nagging doubt in my mind. It keeps asking me, “Can you really believe you’ll ever recovery from mental illness?”
So I did what any good blogger would do; I headed off to the Internet to find the answer! After all if it’s on the Internet it must be true. Right?
I guess the best thing to look at first is what the word Recovery means. Let’s face it, if we don’t know what Recover means then how can we ever hope to have or achieve it.
Recovery: late Middle English (denoting a means of restoration): from Anglo-Norman French recoverie, from recovrer ‘get back’ – Oxford English Dictionary
I think we would all agree that we pretty much know the definition of “Recovery.” But here it is just in case you needed a refresher.
The Oxford English Dictionary defines Recover as: a return to a normal state of health, mind, or strength.
Hmm… If that’s the case then the prospect of one truly recovering is pretty dismal. And what’s “a normal state…” anyways?
But maybe that has more to do with us looking in the wrong place than having the wrong definition. Let’s take a look at what the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM for short) has to say about Recovery.
After a period of time in full remission, the clinician may judge the individual to be recovered and, therefore, would no longer code the disorder as a current diagnosis. The differentiation of In Full Remission from recovered requires consideration of many factors, including the characteristic course of the disorder, the length of time since the last period of disturbance, the total duration of the disturbance, and the need for continued evaluation or prophylactic treatment.
AHA!! So recovery is possible! (Come on! You know you want to do the happy dance! It’s okay! No one’s watching.)
But why is there a difference between Full Remission and Recovery? Does that mean I could be symptom free but not “Recovered?”
I think that’s exactly what it means.
See, we spend so much time focusing our lives on being “normal” or getting “well” that we tend to forget that even though mental illness IS AN illness. It’s not exactly like physical illnesses. And it’s that difference we need to take into consideration when we talk about things like Recovery.
I read a definition of recovery once that finally put it all into perspective for me by William Anthony, PhD.
[Recovery is] a way of living a satisfying, hopeful, and contributing life even within the limitations caused by illness. – William Anthony, PhD.
And what makes Dr. Anthony so special?
Nothing much, just that he practically wrote the book on recovery when he wrote Recovery from Mental Illness: The Guiding Vision of the Mental Health Service System in the 1990s. And then there’s just this little fact that the’s the Executive Director of the Center for Psychiatric Rehabilitation at Boston University.In this paper Dr. Anthony laid it all out for us to easily understand and hopefully share with our own supporters, family and maybe even our doctors if need be.
The concept of recovery from our mental illness does not mean that the suffering has disappeared. Nor does it mean we’re symptom free and functioning like we did before we got sick.
NOT AT ALL!!!
The concept of recovery from physical illness and disability does not mean that the suffering has disappeared, all the symptoms removed, and/or the functioning completely restored. – Harrison V.
Instead Recovery means something even more radical! Something so radical we can’t even tell you on this website for fear the FDA will shut us down! (Nah! I’m just joshing!)
But think about it. What Dr. Anthony tells us is that we SHOULD forget about getting back to “normal.” Not that it’s impossible and can’t happen. But that we shouldn’t be focusing on “Normal” or being “Symptom Free.”
Instead of adding all of that anxiety and maybe even feeling like a humongous failure, Dr. Anthony frees us. His definition of recovery allows us to focus on healing and living a satisfying, hopeful, and contributing life.
I don’t know about you, but based on that, I truly believe Recovery is not only possible, but something I CAN and WILL achieve one day!