Rebecca Baird: what recovery means to me
29th June 2017
Rebecca Baird, a psychiatric nursing student at Robert Gordon University, tells us what recovery means to her.
Whilst currently being on a psychiatric ward for my second-year placement and reflecting back on my practices, I had come across a TEDTalk online of Eleanor Longden’s experience of being diagnosed with schizophrenia whilst in university. Throughout watching this, Eleanor explains that whilst receiving support for her diagnosis, her psychiatrist had said to her; “Eleanor, you’d be better off with cancer than schizophrenia as it’s easier to cure”. Indeed, this being a particularly controversial statement, this instigated me to start thinking more in-depth about “cures” for mental disorders and the well-established idea of recovery.
The Scottish Executive (2006) suggest that recovery is a long-term journey in which an individual is able to self-manage their problem or disorder, in enablement of living fulfilled lives in order to contribute towards their society. However, does this suggest that an individual who is unable to self-manage their symptoms or problems is not undergoing a recovery journey?
The Scottish Recovery Network (2016) state that recovery is to live a good life, as defined by the person with or without symptoms, recovery is person-centred and focuses on the individual’s strengths, as oppose to weaknesses.
I believe throughout my own reflections and observations of others, how an individual may define their recovery journey is an individualistic reflection and can be interpreted in many ways.
Perhaps when considering patient diagnosis and their recovery outcomes, mental health professionals may have an underlying preconception that individuals with say bipolar affective disorder or schizophrenia have an enhanced sense of recovery and wellbeing as oppose to patients with dementia or chronic illnesses. However, it is crucial to remember that recovery journeys are indeed possible with any patient group or diagnosis and not to assume otherwise. I have just attended a dementia awareness talk and the content suggested that utilising cognitive stimulation therapy or reminiscence therapy in order to reflect back on their lives to happy memories, this too can be defined as recovery.
Recovery to me means to work towards achieving an individual’s dreams and aspirations, in spite of living with the mental health disorder they may have. A recovery journey can be aided by professionals or without professionals, there are many people on their recovery journey who do not engage with mental health services but have developed their own support networks and ways to manage their wellbeing.
Recovery can merely be the individual having a duvet day, mentally and spiritually working through an overwhelming time. Recovery isn’t a linear journey, it isn’t always positive or negative, it’s a bumpy roller-coaster journey, not the same ride but new ones every day, new experiences, feelings and reflections. Recovery requires risk, determination and ultimately hope instilled by supportive social and healthcare networks.
To refer back to the TEDTalk from the start of Eleanor’s experience, she expresses such a powerful statement; that if it weren’t for the hope and support she received by her social circles, she wouldn’t have finished her training. Eleanor is a respected researcher, mental health activist and research coordinator of Intervoice, The International Network for Training, Education, and Research into Hearing Voices. Eleanor continues to support people, instilling hope and guiding those throughout their own recovery.
SCOTTISH EXECUTIVE., 2006. Rights, Relationships and Recovery: The Report of the National Review of Mental Health Nursing in Scotland. Edinburgh: Scottish Executive.
SCOTTISH RECOVERY NETWORK., 2016. What is recovery?. [online]. Glasgow: Scottish Recovery Network. Available from: https://www.scottishrecovery.net/what-is-recovery/ [Accessed 4 March 2017].
TEDTALK, 2013. The voices in my head | Eleanor Longden. [online video]. 8 August. Available from: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=syjEN3peCJw [Accessed 4 March 2017].