All that I am, all that I ever was…

I am more than my mental health. I am more than my homelessness. I am more than any one aspect of me. I am Addy. And this is…

What does recovery mean to you?

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As one half of my psyche lurks in the dangerous yet intoxicating world of nostalgia; recanting the painful, pleasurable and painfully-pleasurable events of the last five years, the other half of my psyche continues on its journey down the road to recovery. This week, I will be looking at what my future holds – and the various methods, attempts and therapies I am undertaking to get me there.

What does recovery mean to you?

A few weeks ago I was filling out a referral for a mental health organisation called Mind. One of the questions on this form was what does recovery mean to you?

Much umming and ahhing ensued until I decided upon:

Recovery means living; not existing or surviving.

And then I got a bit carried away, as I am prone to do from time to time:

Recovery means allowing myself to be better version of myself. To not be controlled by the demons, anger and confusion of the past. To accept that these events happened and that I was strong enough to not let them drag me into the undertow. To understand that mistakes were made and to learn self-forgiveness. To give myself permission to move on from these mistakes and not let them define me.

Recovery means learning how to love myself. To accept that I do not deserve to be alone for the rest of my life because I am a caring, loving, talented and passionate human being with much to offer the world. To not allow the abuse I received to continue defining my personality. To understand that I am a wonderful person who deserves everything his heart desires.

Recovery means believing in myself. To set realistic goals that I can work toward; goals that I know I deserve to achieve. To stop endlessly belittling and playing down my achievements and realize that I am a man of many talents and skills. To give myself permission to be the man I know I am in my heart.

Identifying the roadblocks

Although sabotaged by oscillating moods and deeply embedded abuse trauma, over the years I have been working as hard as I can to repair not only my sanity, but my life. In doing so I have identified a number of roadblocks that are hindering my road to recovery.

One of the central roadblocks  is my social anxiety and isolation. It is hard for some to understand how infinitely more complicated everything becomes when you are on your own; when you have no-one to share your problems with, no-one to hug or touch you, no-one to love or care about you, no-one to offer guidance or distraction through the rough patches of life we all have to face.

Hence why this roadblock is the one I need to hurdle before anything else.

Over the last few months, alongside this blog and Twitter, I have been trying to navigate this roadblock on several fronts.

Front #1: Disability Support Pension

I am mere weeks away from discovering if I have been granted the Holy Grail of the Disability Support Pension. For the last two and half years I have been surviving on the pittance that is the Newstart Allowance (a benefit that even the Australian Government announced yesterday was too low given the cost of living increases in Australia, but simultaneously announced they have no plans to raise it.)

This payment has made the triple whammy of rent-bills-food almost impossible to meet and have lumbered me with several hundred dollars’ worth of unpaid energy bills, an inability to purchase clothing or footwear and rendered haircuts and medication luxury items. This making socializing and entertainment an impossible dream.

I’ve been told to expect a decision by mid-November, so until then I must play the waiting game and demonstrate my innate patience.

Front #2: An impending munch

I have mentioned in the past a social network I have been using to try end this insidious isolation. Although I’ve some headway in connecting with people online I have yet to meet anyone in real life. Last night, it came to my attention that a gathering has been organized for Thursday evening; a gathering that I have tentatively announced to the network I will be attending!

Given my desire to build new social connections (and knock ‘item 1’ off the bucket list) this munch is something I’m looking forward to – but I’d be lying if I said the evening wasn’t filling me with anxiety fuelled dread already.

We shall just have to wait and see what happens come Thursday :)

Front #3: GT House

GT House is an organisation in my locality that offers counseling services and support groups for those suffering from mental health problems and social isolation. After several months of languishing on the waiting list I had my first meeting with them last Thursday.

One of the aspects discussed in that session was the view that labels – although they have their place – are not the be all and end all of mental illness. Sometimes symptoms overlap, sometimes the way an illness presents in one person is different to the way it presents in another, so the best course of treatment and therapy will differ from person to person. Therefore GT House looks at the needs of the individual rather than the needs of the illness.

Following a follow-up meeting with them this morning I have registered for three of the groups:

1) Pool: where we gather and spend a couple of hours socializing and playing pool.
2) Stress: where we gather and work through ways to reduce and control our stress of day-to-day life.
3) Scrabble: where we gather and spend a couple of hours socializing and playing scrabble.

As well as expressing an interest in attending three other groups once I have increased my self-confidence and feel more comfortable.

Front #4: Hearing Voices Group

Given the voices I hear have increased substantially over the last several years, and given it is an area of my mental illness few have ever wanted to go near, I’ve registered interest in attending a weekly Hearing Voices Support Group.

The thrust of this group is about learning to understand the voices I hear and developing ways to control such behavior, as well as socializing with other people who experience similar issues.

Although at the present time I haven’t committed to attend – I must be wary of taking on too much in fear of mentally collapsing – it is something I’m working toward for the future.

Front #5: Disability Employment Service

This organisation is supposed to work closely with me in order to help me access part-time study, part-time work, voluntary work and other avenues I want to pursue so I can create the future I deserve.

The drawback with this organisation is that it is closely linked to the DSP and I’m unsure if I qualify for their services if I don’t have this payment approved.

Thus, as mentioned in front #1, all I can do for the time being is be patient.

One of the things I have always been proud of is my determination to work toward a better future for myself. All that I have achieved over the last five years has been out of a stubbornness to give up; something I could easily have done on hundreds of occasions.

Although physically I am in the same (if not worse) position than I was in five years ago, the trials and challenges I have been through have altered my thinking and mental state in ways I had never thought possible.

So as one side of my psyche continues to analyze and work through the events of the past (a necessary part of my recovery), the other will continue, as always, down the long road of recovery toward that beautiful destination named ‘The Future’.

‘The Road to Recovery’ continues tomorrow with:
The Ballad of the One Who Got Away

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4 thoughts on “What does recovery mean to you?

  1. Recovery is a tricky word. Recovery to me means the process toward refining wellness and optimal mental health. It can’t mean getting better. That insinuates that we can go back to the place where we were before we were symptomatic. There is no going back. There is only forward. “Getting Better” means we’re getting to a place where we are symptom free. And I don’t necessarily believe that mental health is a thing with a “cure” per se. There is no state of better, there is always a state of progression of “getting better”. That’s what recovery is. A road. A journey without a particular destination.

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    • Thanks for the comment. I completely agree with what you’ve written here.

      Just to clarify (in case people get the wrong idea) when I wrote ‘a better version of myself’ I didn’t mean better as in ‘curing’ (for want of a better word) the mental illness, as I know there is no cure, but my goal to reach a state where I can be a more confident, functioning version of myself. A state where I feel I’m in control of my future, instead of feeling as if my mental health issues are controlling me.

      “A journey without a particular definition” < love this :)

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      • Oh no, I know what you meant about a better version. I wrote a piece awhile back called, “A Better Version of Me” inspired by the Shinedown song. I was working toward transforming my body and my mind. Unfortunately, I hit a wall, and ended up in a darker place than ever. Nevertheless, I tried. And I think that’s something that we should all be striving for in recovery.

        I actually wrote a post that’s coming out this morning about it. Thank you for being my inspiration once again!

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  2. Hi Addy,

    I remain hopeful that your application for DSP is approved. I think the support groups you have registered for are a great idea, and I hope you make some positive friendships out of this, in addition to focusing on support and recovery. Best of luck with everything, and I look forward to reading about how it’s all going.

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