What Recovery From Mental Illness Really Looks Like

By Katie BelcherMay 4, 2017

It is wishful to assume that the process of coping with anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder, or addiction takes place at a steady incline; that one counseling session, a single dose of medication, or familiarizing oneself with a breathing exercise will propel you forward at a constant rate. Unfortunately—more often than not—that is a naive assumption.

It is rarely that easy.

It is rarely that simple.

It is rarely that seamless.

The rate at which life comes at us is inconsistent, unexpected, and sometimes messy. Recovery and healing from mental illness unfolds similarly.

A rollercoaster of sorts, recovery includes inclines and declines that come and go, and transition at unanticipated moments. It can manifest in the form of returning to therapy after having been out of counseling for several years. It can translate to maintaining sobriety, but having to restart when the world knocks you off balance. It can exhaust the coping skills you’ve developed, forcing you to reinforce the foundation you thought was impenetrable.

Through my own experiences and working with others, I’ve learned that recovery is about becoming better equipped to deal with setbacks. Rather than hoping to experience an absence of difficulties on the road to recovery, it is important that we do not see missteps as definitive mistakes. Needing to start over, hit the pause button, or rewind is not going to derail all of your efforts to get better.

When a trigger presents itself, throwing a wrench in our progress, we grow discouraged and frustrated. The hurdle can even surprise those around us who have seen the lengths at which we’ve gone to get better. It’s never easy to feel ourselves regress, nor to witness a loved one’s concern that we might be reverting back to old ways.

But that’s the complex nature of mental health at work. It’s confusing and exhausting. It takes time. It takes effort. And it can, and may very well, require a reboot.

So while we can’t expect it to be steady and linear, recovery from mental illness is undeniably possible. No matter the number of times we take one step back, there are always steps forward awaiting to be taken.

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Comments (8)

  1. Abbie


    Reply  |  
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  3. Alyx

    I like this. Speaks truth we need to hear.
    We may step back but we can always step forward again:)

    Reply  |  
  4. Monica

    Was just reflecting the other day about my recovery (what I thought it would like look versus what it is)…thanks!

    Reply  |  
  5. Kathy

    Thank you for your words Katie! We just had that very experience after 7 years. I’m the “loved one”. Your words expressed exactly how my daughter and I felt. I will carry your words with me always

    Reply  |  
  6. Haley

    This was great to see as I was just thinking about my recovery a few years ago and how I feel as now I have been regressing. It takes time to recover. Focusing on my mental health.

    Reply  |  
  7. Evelyn

    Beautifully and perfectly worded. Thank you.

    Reply  |  
  8. Karli

    This is good to know as I am starting the road to recovery, so thank you.

    Reply  |  
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