The word ‘recovery’ seems to get thrown around everywhere. A few years ago if someone asked me what ‘recovery’ meant I would say ‘not poorly any more’- but recently I’ve changed my mind.
We’ve had several discussions about this at university & each time someone comes up with a new suggestion. The truth is: everyone is right (or if you’re feeling a bit pessimistic today- nobody is). Even in the dictionary the definition of ‘recovery’ isn’t very concise. Let’s break the general definition down in regard to Mental Health.
1. The act or process of recovering, especially from sickness, a shock, or a setback; recuperation
Technically, mental health symptoms are symptoms of an ‘illness’- which can be solved before a diagnosis is made (in a similar way to physical health) and can fluctuate in severity. Let’s put this into perspective. Do you know anyone who has a diagnosis of Asthma? They probably went to the GP at the very beginning, struggling with breath, wheezing and coughing. They might even have learned that it worsens when they participate in exercise. From this point a diagnosis can be made with a treatment plan or a short-term intervention can be provided. For example, they may be given an inhaler to take whenever they feel necessary. This could unexpectedly flare up when you visit your Grandma & her many cats. Why on earth is she talking about Asthma? Well. Let’s turn that into Mental Health. A person experiences low mood, loss of pleasure in hobbies, fatigue and appetite changes- so they attend the GP. The GP suspects depressive symptoms and chooses one of their many options. The person may leave with another appointment with the GP for a fortnight later, some anti-depressant medication or a referral to talking therapies. The only difference here is that there is no ‘how to’ guide to mental health. What works for one person may not work for another. On the other hand, it could make them feel so much better. BUT, just as Asthma can flare as cat fur floats around the air, Mental Health can fluctuate too. You might just find yourself feeling low again, understandably, if a negative event has occurred in your life.
This definition of recovery suggests that recovery is a process. Some people ‘recover’ completely. Some people’s health, whether it be physical or mental, changes depending on circumstances. Unfortunately, despite everyone’s wishes, there is no miracle drug that can rid of all mental illnesses. For this reason, a definition including ‘full recovery from sickness’’ may not bode well with many people.
2. Restoration to a former or better condition
To me, this is the most appropriate definition of recovery from a Mental Health perspective- but who is to say what ‘better’ actually means? If this definition is to work, I believe that the definition of ‘better’ should be created by the person who is experiencing the mental health problems. This way, they are in charge of their own recovery process.
Again, let’s give a few examples here. One person may believe that recovery is the absence of ALL symptoms & requests to change their medication frequently as it ‘doesn’t work if they can still hear the voices’. Where as someone else may consider auditory hallucinations as part of them, and as long as they are controlled and allow the individual to live their life the way they want to, that is recovery. Some people may even believe recovery is living without symptoms for a certain period of time. It is different for everyone. Do you see what I’m getting at here?
3. The regaining of something lost
There are probably lots of way to explain this with a Mental Health emphasis- but the first thing that pops into my mind is Depression. I don’t know how much you know about Depression, but many symptoms revolve around loss. Loss of pleasure, loss of motivation, loss of energy, etc. In some respect, this means that this definition is correct also. When someone experiencing depressive symptoms regains something they have lost- it shows positive progress and a pathway to recovery.
What about a condition like Dementia? Again, a condition surrounding loss. The loss of memory. Currently, the world of modern medicine has not devised a cure for this particular Mental Illness. Does that mean we should never promote recovery with these people? No. Of course not. Because for them, recovery could be to simply live in a similar way that they used to. To continue to participate in daily activities that were always enjoyable to them. To gain pleasure in life & enjoy it in the moment- not simply to regain their memory.
As we head off into 2018 & beyond, intelligence may improve & recovery may be linked to a higher expectation of what can be done. What ‘should’ be done. I find this idea fascinating. I’d love to hear about your idea of what ‘recovery’ is. If you feel comfortable to, please write your ideas in the comments section below.
Have a wonderful day,
Kayleigh Rose x