Angela: what recovery means to me

22nd March 2019

Angela tells us what recovery means to her.

Sky, cloud and lakeI’ve had many recoveries in my life, since the age of fifteen onwards. Recovery, overall, is an ongoing process for me with steps backwards and forwards, times of adjustment and constantly managing my illness.

The last time I was acutely ill I thought I would never recover. I thought that was it, that I was condemned to live with hallucinations, delusions, fear, depression and agonising highs until the end of days. There was only one alternative…and I was saved from that.

Hospital was the right place for me. A safe place sheltered from the outside world, a world full of threat and danger. A place where symptoms were brought under control and, eventually, the all-consuming, abject fear began to leave me, and the world became clear again. But that was just the start. I was still living in a winter, the world was still somewhat hostile, and I was crippled by anxiety from well over a year of social isolation. The hard work began.

First it was walking. Just walking. Once a week, with a group of people with whom I didn’t speak for around a month, having lost my ability to converse. Then I started to open up. I laughed. Laughter! What a thing that is.

Delusions, highs and lows would creep up on me, but with support I was able to manage them. I was able to take some control. I kept walking. Hope still eluded me. Mental illness had taken everything from me. My friends, my relationship, my job and even my home. How was I meant to come back from that? These are the aspects of rebuilding a life that we often don’t think about when we mention the word ‘recovery’.

I desperately wanted to feel ‘normal’ again. But I had no hobbies, no interests, nowhere to go, nothing to do. No job, no money, no future. I didn’t trust my brain. When would it rebel again?

Over the months I engaged with an employability team at Lanarkshire Association for Mental Health. They changed my life. They started to help me fill my calendar with meaningful activities. Suddenly I had purpose again. I was proving to myself that I had the capabilities I thought I’d lost. From that sprung hope.

Hope, that elusive, sacred thing pulled me through the rest. It, along with the help of others, has got me to where I am today. Working. With friends, interests and all the usual things, but crucially with the ability to manage my symptoms before they escalate.

I have a relapsing psychotic illness with bipolar disorder. It is an ongoing challenge. But today I am well, and I can live my life managing the illness day by day. That’s recovery for me – taking control, adapting, managing and accepting.

Read other contributions to the ‘what recovery means to me’ series