Suzanne Baines: what recovery means to me

24th January 2018

Suzanne Baines founder of the You Matter Always initiative tells us what recovery means to her.

When I consider the term ‘recovery’ I tend to think of regaining or reclaiming something. However, sadly there are some things that you can never reclaim. So, instead I look at who I became.

I am a mum, wife, friend, colleague and volunteer who appreciates, first-hand, how unfair and unjust life can be. But, rather than continually highlighting the problems, I strive to focus on finding solutions. I do so by working alongside some amazing individuals, groups, communities and organisations who are dedicated to making positive change in how mental health is perceived, addressed and supported. These people are working collaboratively to raise essential funds, end mental health stigma and discrimination and reduce health disparities. In the words of Henry Ford “don’t find fault, find a remedy; anybody can complain.”

I have also spent the last couple of years creating and developing You Matter Always. YMA is a simple tool of empowerment and self-management that respects the rights of the individual to have a greater sense of choice and control over what matters to (or can help) them when they need it most. It’s a concertina style card which cherishes memories and messages from loved ones and reminds people of their strengths, abilities and potential. It aims to empower and encourage people to reach out for support, make connections and get immediate access to help. It seeks to promote recovery, instil hope and save lives.

The YMA Facebook page aspires to be participative, informative, supportive and encouraging. It is based on a peer education/learning approach which values everyone’s contributions, provides a platform for people to talk and share ideas and recognises that attitudes and behaviours can be changed, more readily, when we learn from each other.

Getting to this point has been a trek. Not a nice wee stroll or upbeat walk…a trek. It has involved a lot of trudging, tenacity and transformation. However, it has also contained a strong sense of self-discovery, strength and achievement.

In the words of JK Rowling “rock bottom became the solid foundation on which I built my life.” And, this was certainly the case for me. Following decades of childhood trauma and sexual abuse, serious assault, a horrendous but successful court case, family feuds and fall outs and a great deal of loss…I hit rock bottom with a thud. It was the scariest place that I have ever been (and I have seen, heard and experienced some appalling things). It affected me, and my family, emotionally, physically, psychologically and financially. We lost a lot, but gained so much more.

As I said earlier, some things can never be reclaimed. For me, these are primarily my childhood, innocence and aspects of adulthood. But, with time, love, support, kindness and determination I can, at last, begin to accept the woman I have become.

So, I guess for me recovery is about hope, resilience, self-worth, self-determination and acceptance. It’s about knowing that my value doesn’t decrease based on someone else’s inability to see my worth.

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