By Julia Cardoso
Those of us with mental illnesses often face this confounding question at some point in our lives: Is this illness a life sentence? I once believed that there was no hope for me after receiving a mental health diagnosis until I came across the word “recovery”.
Recovering from a mental illness involves an internal movement in which a person decides to live their life to its full potential. This process also encompasses the ability to use your struggles to your advantage by transforming them into hope. Those who are in recovery amend every aspect of their lives, which includes their health, family, and commitments. Recovery and treatment is not the same thing. Treatment of mental illnesses engages professionals who intervene the course of your illness. On the other hand, recovery is a personal journey which enables someone to transform their despair into optimism. One of the first steps of recovery is to accept your illness and live happily with it to the best of your ability. Another important step is to make sure your family and home life is safe and stable. Also, a very vital transformation is to get rid of negative and toxic relationships at home, work, or in your community.
Hope is the main determinant of one’s recovery. With hope, one can feel some sense of mental empowerment to change their lives. The empowerment stage of recovery also includes social inclusion, self-motivation, and the belief that you can actually have a life past that diagnosis. Hope brings about the courage and will power to make the best out of each day that we are given.
Recovery also entails remission, which is the absence of symptoms for several months with the continuation of treatment. With remission there is no clear restrictions between health and illness. Similarly to recovery, those in remission from mental illnesses can live a positive healthy life. The one thing that needs to be clarified is, although some in recovery or remission may seem “cured” that is not the case. Having a mental illness under control does not indicate that the illness has gone away. Another important thing to note is that recovery is not a straight line. It involves relapses and setbacks. What really matters is how you react once you go through such bad times.
There is a life after the diagnosis. This mental illness does not have to be a life sentence. The diagnosis of a mental illness produces stigma and social isolation. With recovery you are able to transform the negative outcomes to live a life full of positivity and beauty. Recovery enables people to no longer be defined by their diagnosis; instead it promotes self-definition the diagnosis.
Listen to Episode 2 of my podcast Anxious Ramblings:
This week’s episode will focus on my personal recovery from anxiety. We will hear from a teen suffering from social anxiety and depression and its associated stigmas. The episode will conclude with me sharing the positive and negative effects of living with a mental illness.