Rachel Bottomley: what recovery means to me

20th September 2018

Rachel Bottomley tells us what recovery means to her.

For the first 2 thirds of my life I believed that recovery meant getting better as quickly and quietly as possible. Quickly so that I could get back to ‘normal’ as soon as possible and quietly so that nobody found out there was something wrong with me.

A few years ago I went through what I would call ‘having a major wobble’ for the 3rd time in my life. A psychiatrist has since told me what I experienced is called a mixed affective state. Whatever it was, it made me realise that my mental health problems aren’t going away. They are a part of me and it’s time to start talking about this more openly and stop being ashamed of who I really am.

In the years since making this decision the response I’ve had from family and friends, most of whom had no idea what I’d been going through, has been over whelming and really supportive. It spurred me on to keep taking steps towards being more open and I’ve since spoken at a couple of public events and volunteered for awareness campaigns.

What recovery means to me now is very different to what it meant in the past.

Recovery for me is about continually working on myself and letting go of this idea that I should live up to a false ideal of what others think I should be. What my life ‘should be’ like. It’s about surrounding myself with a support network that understand, don’t judge and when I’m having a bad day or week, they just let me deal with that in the way I need to.

I’ve learnt more about mental health recovery since I stopped hiding my illness than I did in nearly 20 years of quiet suffering. I know what my triggers and warning signs are and I have coping strategies in place to help me when something knocks me off course. I also have a much better understanding of how individual we all are, that what works for me may not work for others and this is just one of many reasons why it’s so important we all listen to each other.

I have an amazing job helping others with their mental health recovery journey, a boss that is understanding and supportive when I need them to be and family and friends that know it’s ok to ask me “and how is your mental health?” None of this would have happened if I didn’t start talking.

My recovery is now about being able to look to the future with hope and excitement, accept that I may become unwell again but it will be ok.

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

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