Today is World Mental Health Day. As I was trying to decide how I wanted to honor this day for myself, I realized that it was time for me to write about the next topic of my journey. My recovery.
I am fairly certain at one point in my life, I thought “recovery” was a word used solely to describe the journey of sobriety from drugs and alcohol. Now that I have personal understanding of Mental Illness, I have a broader definition of the word.
According to the SAMHSA definition, “recovery” is a process of change. A change by which people better their lives. One of my favorite things about this definition is where it says; “live a self-directed life”. This phrase hits me in all the feels when I think back on my journey. This is because, I truly believe I would still be a patient in a psychiatric facility if I hadn’t made the decision to regain control of my mind and actions by confronting the voices I had been hearing.
I didn’t know it at the time, but when I was in that last psychiatric facility, and I told my voices that I could no longer connect to them, I took my first step in recovery.
IMPORTANT: I want to be clear about something upfront. I do not think it is necessary for all voice hearers to cut off contact with their voices in order to live healthy lives. This was just the path I had to take initially. This was part of my self-directed path. I had been connecting to voices in a manner that was unsafe for myself and my loved ones. Therefore, this is was the avenue I decided take. Further into my recovery, I’ve learned to connect to voices differently. I now chose to recognize them as parts of my own being that need tending to. They no longer have control because I see them as my needs and wants verses spirits who have power beyond me.
My first step of my recovery was confronting the voices. The next step was coming to the realization that the voices may have been created by my own mind. Ouch. That was a painful pill to swallow. It meant that everything I had believed while I was in a state of out of consensus reality (also called Psychosis), may have been false. My brain lied to me, and in turn, it made me lie to others. As a person of high integrity, this was devastating and embarrassing to me. I started to realize that I was responsible for inflicting trauma on my loved ones while in this state. I started to realize that I was the catalyst to my own undoing. It was extremely painful, and I knew if I stayed present in consensus reality, these were things I’d have to face. I made the decision to face the ugly. I never wanted to be institutionalized again…and I knew that had to start with me.
Once I was released from the second facility, I had to start living again. I wish there had been a map from my future self that told me how things needed to go, but there wasn’t. I just did the best I could. I started getting back to my strengths, finding support, confronting my issues, having uncomfortable conversations, and making all the changes necessary to put my life back together in a way that I could live safely. Soon, a map of my recovery began to form, but I had to go through all those steps first. I had to find my own recovery.
Recovery has been a step-by-step process, and it looks different for everyone. It hasn’t felt good all the time, but by staying on my path, I have been able to live my life in a way that provides me stability, safety and most importantly…choice. It is my most sincere hope that everyone will find this for themselves. With or without mental illness, we all have a path.
What does recovery look like to you?