It is possible to recover from mental health problems, and many people do – especially after accessing support. Your symptoms may return from time to time, but when you've discovered which self-care techniques and treatments and work best for you, you're more likely to feel confident in managing them.
If you're experiencing a more serious mental health problem, it's still possible to find ways to manage your symptoms. For many people, recovery doesn't necessarily mean going back to how your life was before, but learning new ways to live your life the way you want to, and gaining control over areas of your life that might have felt out of control before.
However, it's important to remember that recovery is a journey and it won't always be straightforward. You might find it more helpful to focus on learning more about yourself and developing ways to cope, rather than trying to get rid of every symptom of your mental health problem. What recovery means to you will be personal, but for most people, the most important thing is to find ways to live the kind of life you want.
Everybody is different and experiences of recovery will vary from person to person, but some common challenges surround acceptance, control, and interdependence.
“When I was diagnosed with depression I was the first of my friends or family to experience a mental health illness. I felt so alone and like I couldn’t talk to anyone because how could they possibly understand what I was going through if I couldn’t understand it myself. For a long time the only person I spoke to about how I felt was a doctor, in a white coat”
During recovery you may experience changes in the way you live life, your attitudes and expectations, and a growth in your self-awareness and sense of identity.
Acceptance from other people such as your family and friends is really important and promotes a sense of belonging.
Feeling accepted allows you to develop a sense of purpose and feel it is possible to contribute to your life and to the life of others.
“For a long time, I hid behind the words ‘I’m fine’ and it wasn’t un till I accepted I had a problem that I was able to seek the help I needed to get better. There were times I physically could not pull myself out of bed and often referred to myself as ‘lazy’ and ‘weak’. The truth is I was neither of those things, but I was ill and with the support of my family and my GP slowly things started to get better”
Taking control of your life is a very important element of recovery.
Self-management techniques can help. Self-management refers to organising your life to maximise your health and avoid unhealthy behaviours or triggers that can cause you to regress.
In order to self-manage you need to develop self-awareness, especially of your mental health and factors that aid your recovery.
There may be side effects that will make you feel unsure and powerless. However, support and understanding from professionals and those close to you will help you to regain some sense of control.
“I have learnt that depression is nothing to be ashamed.
I had to learn a lot about myself and change some of my behaviours in order to get better. I used to have poor coping skills like drinking, binge eating and saying yes to things that I couldn’t do to seek the approval of others.
Not I have a healthy balanced diet, I exercise regularly, and I work hard to keep an effecting routine that I know works for me. Learning to say ‘no’ changed my life”
Interdependence is a key element of recovery.
When you have felt unwell it is easy to find yourself in a position of dependency on other people, both on services and on friends and family.
But when you are feeling well you may have been driven, deliberately or otherwise, towards an artificial independence which can result in isolation.
Recovery means finding a balance between this dependency and independence, which will vary according to the situations and relationships you find yourself in.
Taking greater control over your own treatment can help to develop an interdependent relationship with mental health workers.
“I wouldn’t be where I am today without the support of my GP and the love of my family. But I also wouldn’t have survived if I hadn’t put in the work. You can ask for help but accepting it and using it is a different story. We all need help from others but we need to be able to help ourselves as well”.