RECOVERY: How Do You Get Yourself Going?
Since her recovery from diagnoses of acute paranoid schizophrenia, schizoid affective disorder, and manic depression, Andrea has been involved in promoting mental health. Currently, she is Chief of the Consumer Affairs and Development Section for the Illinois Department of Human Services, Office of Mental Health.
How do you get yourself going in the recovery process? There are basic actions that are elementary to begin the process: (1) Recognize that you are out of control and your life is unmanageable; and (2) Begin a self-inventory of yourself. Take as much time as you need in assessing yourself. This is a very important step in the process. It calls for honesty and is necessary to the recovery process. It’s important to understand you are taking an inventory of what is going on inside you, or your psyche. This is introspection. You are not assessing what is happening outside yourself. Life outside yourself is unmanageable because you lack self-control inside yourself. The work of recovery begins inside you through a self-inventory and assessing your psyche.
When I did my self-inventory through introspection, it was as follows:
|Loner||Low self-esteem||Isolated||Sick thinking|
This was not an easy thing. I certainly had a hard time being honest about what has going on inside myself. When I recognized the hate that was in my psyche and assessed it further, I discovered I hated myself and a lot of things outside myself. Hate is very self-destructive.
Once I determined what was going on inside, the next step was acceptance. Acceptance is simply that you recognize and/or acknowledge this inventory as an accurate assessment of what’s going on in your internal world or reality. As the process of recovery was happening, I discovered these were false beliefs I had about myself. They were created within my psyche as a response to life’s problems. In other words, the experience of mental illness was an internal build-up over time of unresolved problems that diminished my true-self.
There was one more action step that was necessary. This is the springboard for the action in producing recovery. I took the self-inventory and asked the question: What is the opposite positive item for each negative item on my self-inventory list?
My next list looked like this:
Fear - Faith
Complaining - Praise
Arguing - Discussion
Self-pity - Compassion
Depression - Happiness
Guilt - Honesty
Self-indulgent - Self-control
Blame - Forgive
Hate - Love
Passive - Dynamic
Aggressive - Assertive
Self-righteous - Humility
Low self-esteem - High self-esteem
Negative self-image - Positive self-image
Sick thinking - Healthy thinking
Loner - Friendly
Isolated - Mingles
As recovery progressed, I discovered that the positive items were in reality my true-self. They already exist in each of us, but they are covered or diminished by our negative beliefs about ourselves. My job was to recover my true-self. I did this by consciously choosing each positive item and learning how to act on these truths. Every time I made this choice and took action, an inner-healing of my psyche took place producing recovery. As the motivational speaker Zig Ziggler points out, “you have to do a check-up from the neck-up and get rid of stinking thinking.”
These action steps are worth repeating:
1. Recognize that you’re out of control and your life is unmanageable.
2. Begin a self-inventory of yourself.
3. Accept your inventory as an accurate assessment of your inner world.
4. Determine the opposite positive for each item on your self-inventory list.
5. Consciously choose and act on the positive truths on your new list.
My goal was to recover my mental health. I discovered that the false beliefs were opportunities for recovery and growth. Recovery develops the whole person and its focus is on potential. Basically it’s survival. People survive by overcoming the odds. People with mental illness are living with the potential to recover their lives. Life becomes manageable as you recover by developing the necessary internal controls to heal your psyche. The journey of recovery is through choice and action.
© Andrea Hercha Schmook All Rights reserved