The Journey of Recovery

Recovery is a tricky word.

re·cov·er·y /riˈkəvərē/

  1. A return to a normal state of health, mind, or strength: “signs of recovery in the housing market”.
  2. The action or process of regaining possession or control of something stolen or lost: “the recovery of his sight”.

First, what exactly is “normal”?  I typically refrain from using that word, because there really is no standard definition of normality that is not relative to a societal standard.  In mental health, there is no standard.  There is no “normal”.  Everyone remains precisely unique in their own conscious and subconscious cognition and emotional regulation and processes.  No neurology is identical and no biochemistry is identical either.  Therefore, normality cannot be judged against anything.

I would rather substitute words like “typical” and “average”.  Typical describes a certain relativity, but does not fail to include atypical presentations as something that might be “normal”.  In addition, the word “abnormal” carries such a heavy stigma.  The other words carry a connotation of individuality, as seen in our uniqueness as humans, being part of the human condition.

Secondly, I would deviate from using the second definition.  I am not reclaiming possession of anything.  There was nothing lost in the first place.  There was a dysfunctional state of mind and being.  The only thing that was disrupted was typical functioning.  I would refrain from claiming that there is any possession in function.  It provides a definition of a standard of control that is impossible to achieve, even at the highest and best of functioning.

It is impossible to describe it as the process of “getting better”.  That insists that I can return to the state of mind and living prior to the onset of symptoms.  In fact, for me, I am not entirely certain that such a place even exists – I have been symptomatically in one way or another for longer than I can recall.   There are no U-turns in this journey.  The path does not allow for that.  There is only forward.

Getting Better has the wrong meaning when it is being used.  “Better” is often thoughts of a permanent state of wellness where we are devoid of symptoms entirely.  It may be a daunting thought, but I do not necessarily believe that mental health disorders have a solution or a “cure.” No such state of “better” is in existence.

Recovery to me means many things.  I can describe it best as a process toward refining overall wellness and optimal mental health.  There is always a state of progression of “getting better”. That’s what recovery is.  A road.  A journey without a particular destination.  There is no end of the road, just the road itself.  Sometimes, it’s smooth and flat, and other times it winds, laden with potholes and detours.

The responsibility rests on me to navigate this road as best as possible.  I should anticipate these hazards.  When I’ve lost my route, I can plan to reroute with the help of certain guide posts and road markers.  I should understand that everyone loses their way.  Everyone gets a flat from time to time.  And there is no shame in stopping to ask for directions or calling roadside assistance.  These people exist for a reason.

And above all else, it’s my own journey.  No two journeys are alike.  It’s irresponsible to hold my journey against another as the standard.  And even when the weather is bleak and I am on a turbulent road, I should always look forward and keep my eyes open for clear skies.  The journey itself is all that matters.