Recovery is a Process not a model


You may have noticed my tweets recently asking about whether your local mental health NHS trust has a recovery strategy or recovery policy statement in place. I’m asking because I am part of a working group within my local trust considering this but it has got me thinking when I have had lots of retweets but not one person has been able to confidently reply and say that their trust has one in place.

So maybe I ought to start by asking myself what recovery is? I’m a third year student mental health nurse so often hear people talk about working with a ‘recovery model’ but I dispute this; recovery is not a model it is a process.

Recovery as a process, which belongs to the individual, has been hijacked somewhere along the line and translated into the academic ‘model’ which practitioners are so fond of professing. They don’t own recovery though, the service user always owns their recovery process.

I reflect upon my own journey and recognise that not having defined recovery early on in my illness hindered my progress. I was striving to achieve a return to the person I had been prior to a major episode of mental illness which had turned my life upside down. I was so convinced in this mythical ‘model’ which the professionals kept telling me about that I felt any less than this would let myself and those around me down.

I failed to pause and take stock. All life events, positive and negative, impact upon us as individuals and can alter our outlook, this could be a new relationship, a bereavement or a diagnosis of a physical illness. Once a major life event has occurred we can never make it unhappen, it will always change us even if that is in a small way. Maybe we become more cautious or maybe we decide to lose weight? What I’m trying to convey is that mental illness can and does change us. It changed me.

Mental illness altered my life in many ways, I lost my career to mental illness, I lost a year of my life, I lost some people I had previously classed as friends but equally I gained some wonderful evidence of how true other relationships are. My experience of mental illness is that it made me realise that life is short and we must grab every opportunity it offers us. It made me realise that self care is more important than salary and that getting well then staying well is always the most important thing.

It took many years for me to realise that it was impossible to return to being the person I used to be before mental illness as it had indeed changed me just like any other life event would have. My recovery began the day I realised I could live a full life whilst accepting my mental illness.

Once I realised that my mental health condition was here to stay and that I had to learn to manage it and live with it on a day to day basis it became easier. Self acceptance was the most important task for me. I hope once, as an organisation, my local NHS trust has a recovery strategy in place with recovery well defined it will enable more service users to work towards better mental health and make recovery a meaningful process rather than a corporate buzz word which I feel it sometimes is used as. A utopia where clinicians appreciate the recovery is different for every single person and where every service user is supported to defined their own recovery goals is on the horizon I feel sure.

I redefined my recovery as things changed, as my mental health stabilised. When I started this degree I was only five months out of hospital and still quite fragile although if I’d been challenged on this I would have likely vehemently denied that fact. I have taken care to ensure I have managed my mental health carefully, I realised that tiredness can have a huge impact on my mood sending me at the speed of light crashing into either pole not even sure of which one I’ve hit until it hurts. I ensure that I get enough sleep, if I have a busy fee days I know I need a ‘rest day’. I include things I enjoy like meeting friends for lunch as busy days as I still need to take days to myself to ensure my wellness. That sounds rather indulgent reading it back but it’s what keeps me well so I have to do it.

It’s taken years for me to realise the true benefits of good diet and exercise too, I’m not saying that a fruit smoothie and a swim twice each week will cure mental illness but those things are certainly a great prophylaxis treatment. I can feel when I have allowed myself not to eat well or to be a bit too comfy on the sofa, I try to listen to my body these days. The stakes are higher, I am a mammy, I owe it to my child to do everything possible to stay well.

I am near the end of my nursing degree now and the pressure is mounting so self care has become even more important. I lost my last career to my poor mental health and I am determined to stay well long enough to complete this qualification despite all the stress these last few months will bring. I will be a nurse soon and hopefully I will be a good nurse based on the training I have been fortunate enough to receive but also due to the lived experience of mental illness I have. I have passion in my belly to make a difference as a mental health nurse and if I can ensure that keeps burning by taking care of myself then I will make that difference.

13 thoughts on “Recovery is a Process not a model

  1. I was directed to your blog and I’m glad they did. I’m struggling with the very early stages of recovery and I’m beginning to realize that I can’t really “go back” and it’s hard. I’m trying to cope and accept with being who I am right now, but there’s still a part of me that wishes I was “that” person again and not “this” one. :/ I’m gathering strength through the experiences of others and it’s wonderful to read posts like yours because they offer so much hope and strength. Thank you for sharing!


  2. Thank you for showing me where to read your blog. It is an amazing story full of hope and values. It’s a hard journey for anyone let alone when we battle with the demons that invade our minds. Each day is a battle, but it’s one we choose to fight because we have lived through it. Our past is the foundation of our future. We are What We have experienced. We can choose to let it rule us or we can fight to conquer the changes we need to make the merge existence we accept as our lives.
    I am sure you will make a fantastic nurse because of what you have been through. Life isn’t always easy but by facing it head on and showing it you mean business. Thank you for sharing a snapshot of your life to me. We are both fighters, you cannot go through what we have and come out without being a fighter. We can and should continue to fight those demons each and everyday to make our lives better and improve the systems for those who haven’t quite reached where we are now. Good luck with the nursing and your future health, I have no doubt you will be a fantastic nurse, keep fighting and smiling. Xxx Debs xxx


  3. I am out trusts service user lead for Recovery. Lost my physiotherapy career at 23, spent 30years on benefits (now working and loving it). Recovery is an ethos a whole person approach led by the service user themselves not a one size fits all as is suggested by a model. Recovery is about self acceptance, grieving for things we have lost, and learning about ourselves and how we tick. It is a daily process about managing the line between doing too much or too little and when one needs space. 🙂
    ImROC Conference in Harrogate tomorrow, bed til then!


  4. Recovery has to begin with self-awareness and self-acceptance. It took me a long time to “make friends” with myself and to accept my panic attacks as part of me. Once that happened I became less afraid of them and now when I (very very rarely) have one I am able to let them crash into and over me and wait for them to pass. You my friend WILL make the difference you so want to xx


    • You are right self awareness and acceptance are absolutely the key. Thanks so much for reading and I’m so pleased to hear your panic attacks are controlled these days x


  5. Omg I completely agree with what you’re saying. Recovery is definitely a process.. A journey.. It’s not a destination. It’s what we do each day to make our lives better! I need lots of sleep and rest days too if not I can’t function which means I then can’t manage my illness so well. You’re doing so well!! Xxx


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