Individual Mental Health ‘recovery’ – what does it mean for us (including professional and our issues) & what do we do?
By Bipolaretaeus

I’m writing this in an attempt to give hope to those of us who battle mental illness. It stems from my insight over the years from coping with trauma, three suicide attempts, a diagnosis of Bipolar (type 1) and ADHD. Also it comes from what to expect through understanding what’s what in the business of mental illness.

Individual Mental Health Recovery

Our battle

This is a hugely relevant topic to any one of us managing our battle with mental illness. I’ve been wanting to talk about it for a while now. I’ll say now I’m not covering my journey, but rather, giving information. I’ll cover my journey and thoughts another time.

This is a long post so, sorry! I hope it’s not boring but helpful. 😂 Here we go…

To begin with … there’s a huge focus on the ‘recovery’ model here in the UK (and elsewhere). This unfortunately means many professionals (psychiatrists, psychiatric nurses, psychologists etc) in mental health care can sometimes have trouble understanding and/or agreeing with what it actually means. They don’t always understand what the ingredients of the recovery model is and how it’s implemented.

This can cause confusion with care delivery, complicated by the ongoing inclusion of the medical model conflicting with the recovery model. How can they work well together? It’s tricky in my experience from both being on the receiving end of care and as a mental health nurse myself. For example, dealing with the mental health act whilst still trying to build trusting therapeutic relationships with those of us suffering. The result? Too many of us who are ill then also get confused and sometimes mistrustful.


Also the difficulties with the medical model is the expectation of ‘cure’. How many times have you been told about brain chemicals being accountable? Too much dopamine in psychosis = antipsychotics; too little serotonin = antidepressants, mood stabilisers for bipolar? Therefore you’ll often be told that if a prescriber finds the right medication (and dose) you’ll eradicate symptoms mainly. A pill for every ill.

So we expect people to return to their old selves, thinking it’s possible to get rid of mental illness completely. If you’re lucky it might work, or work for a while until it burns out. The expectation of full recovery usually adds to our suffering as it’s often unrealistic and unattainable. Hope (if you had it) starts to get less, or disappear. In desperation we may over self-analyse about our past and present and berate ourselves, searching for answers. But this, dare I say, is pointless and very counterproductive.

Consequently it creates further pain, unrealistic expectations, maybe increased worthlessness, guilt and hopelessness. And so the cycle continues. There’s also a whole raft of information discussing the ‘Self-Analyse Trap’. I’m going to digress a bit now as I feel self-analysing is important and deserves addressing. Therefore here is an article written by a person experiencing this.

‘The Self-Analysis Trap: Stop Dissecting Your Every Thought and Action’ (courtesy of

“I thought of myself as my own personal therapist, totally capable of unearthing the intricate details of my inner psyche.”

This ‘self-analyser’ was told by her teacher: “You don’t have to understand. No one can really understand everything that they say or do. We aren’t supposed to figure everything out, because life is messy and not everything can be analyzed and justified. Some things are just incomprehensible.”

She realised that by accepting that you cannot know or explain your whole self, you liberate yourself from the constant burden of rumination. You are free to control what you can control—your reactions to thoughts—and to let the rest come and go.

Her concluding sentence: “They say that the only thing as complicated as the universe is the human brain. Both are chaotic, awe-inspiring, rife with contradictions, and impossible to fully comprehend. That is what makes them—and, by extension, life—so exciting and beautiful.”

The meaning of recovery

Anyway, back to the meaning of recovery.

What is the concept of ‘recovery’? The model developed over the last decade or so?

Many people hate the word ‘recovery’. I do too. The reasoning being for some it sounds and implies that full on recovery from mental illness is possible whereas in a lot of cases this is not so. Recovery actually means learning about ourselves as individual; a lifelong journey of adaptation. Recovery isn’t a destination (unless you’ve had one episode and are unlikely to have another). I suspect most of us here have episodic periods and/or lingering symptoms to cope with. Hence why we share our battles, support and learn from each other. We connect through social media.

Mental health recovery

Here is a excerpt from a document titled ‘Mental Health Recovery’ which addresses the components of recovery often suggested and what it really means. (Courtesy of, 2004):


1. Hope is the beginning.

2. It’s a thought that things can get better, a feeling of courage with a spark of new energy.

3. Hope creates a “turning point”.


4. Hope means, “I can have dreams”.

5. It’s a vision of a better future; learning to focus on the positive.

6. Someone else can hold the hope for us. “And there was this person…”


1. Recovery is a choice.

2. Making choices is how we can discover who we are.

3. Making choices can be risky. We have the right to take risks. This is how we learn; from our 
own experience.

4. In fact, we are the experts in our own care.

5. We do best when we choose our services, our service provider, and our service plan.


1. Recovery is the person’s job. Give them the power to do it!

2. Resist taking the power by doing “to” or “for”. Give the person the lead role.

3. Creating a “valued role” promotes empowerment.

4. Teach self-advocacy skills that get good results.

5. Promote self-advocacy — support each person in taking the lead and not giving their power away.

6. Put each person in the helping role so they remember that they have a contribution to make.

Recovery Environment:

1. Stay on the “recovery side” of the “Recovery vs. Non-recovery Environment” chart.

2. Healing happens in relationships. Value and nurture relationships based on kindness and mutual respect.

3. Maintain a “level of consciousness” of love.

4. Avoid gossip and negativity.

5. Celebrate diversity.

6. Create a “community” with valued social roles for everyone.

Spirituality; Meaning and Purpose:

1. Connecting within and beyond the self.

2. Using “The Force” to move recovery forward.

3. Find our own answers to the mystery of spirit.

4. Develop spiritual pathways.

Some of my favourite quotes on recovery

“The task is not to become normal. The task is to take up your journey of recovery and to become who you are called to be” (Patricia E. Deegan – famous SU).

“Recovery is a deeply personal, unique process changing one’s attitude, values, feelings, goals, skills, and/or roles. It is a way of living a satisfying, hopeful, and contributing life. Recovery involves the development of new meaning and purpose in one’s life as one grows beyond the catastrophic effects of psychiatric disability” (Dr William Anthony, 1993).

“Recovery is remembering who you are and using your strengths to become all that you were meant to be.”

QUESTION: So, what if you were to change the name of the ‘recovery’ model, whilst retaining its ethos, would you suggest you could reflect it more accurately? I’m not sure but here are some words I thought of:

* Trauma-focused Care (this is currently a hot topic amongst professionals as a better description)

* Supporting identity and survival

* Living hope and survival

* Adjusting to mental adversity

* Regaining self-empowerment

* Retaining identity, empowerment and hope

Or something like that. Bit of a mouthful.

A recommendation (honestly) to watch:

A YouTube TedTalk by Eleanor Longden called “The voices in my head”:

Eleanor was diagnosed with schizophrenia whilst studying psychology. Then for years her mental health declined through the mental health system. She then overcame her diagnosis of schizophrenia to earn a Master’s in psychology and demonstrate that the voices in her head were “a sane reaction to insane circumstances”. She is now a top research psychologist.

I wrote a piece on recovery that you may like to read on my mental health blog. It’s my last assignment for my mental health degree. Link on my profile.

Learn about yourself

A recommendation (honestly again) to use the following tool to learn about yourself and your recovery journey:

I cannot stress enough how brilliant this is to support your “recovery”. It’s a widely used Wellness Recovery Action Plan (WRAP) developed by a famous and respected lady called Mary Ellen Copeland. Mary has a diagnosis of Bipolar disorder, provides peer support and is an author.

The document is completed by you as an individual and is designed to help you get well, stay well and make your life what you wish it to be. It includes stuff like what you’re like when well, unwell, and what helps you and your crisis plan. I’d thoroughly recommend it (as do professionals and mental health sufferers around the world). It helps to support self-exploration and your personalised “recovery” journey. Have a google if you so wish!

Babble over! Well done and thank you if you made it this far!!!

Hope all this helps and comforts at least one person.

Much love, B xxxx

Reproduced with permission, originally posted here:  Individual Recovery

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