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What does recovery mean to you?

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The word 'recovery' can mean different things to different people.

Taken literally the Macquarie Dictionary says it's 'to regain a former (and better) state or condition'. But in the world of mental health recovery is more nuanced than this.

So to find out what recovery really means, we asked people living with mental illness what the word meant to them.

Doing the best that I can do

Recovery means growing to know what I can do, and focusing on all the positives in my life. I have schizo-affective disorder bipolar type. I know I may never be symptom free, but recovery means I do the best I can do with all I have been given. 

I help by educating those around me, people with and without mental illness. I believe positivity works both ways in my life, to heal my mind and to look to the future to the best recovery possible.

– Jenni Forbes

I can reflect and restore my life

I have bipolar and recovery feels like I've just woken up from a bad dream. When I'm unwell everything feels surreal. When I'm recovered I feel like I didn't even have the illness… well apart from a little anxiety, which I tend to think is normal. 

Recovery gives me a chance to reflect and catch my breath as an episode can be so damaging to my relationships and reputation.

Over the years I've learnt to accept my fate and have faith in myself and these are the reasons I keep going. I am an optimist and I will never give up hoping that there is a future for me and I just need to be softer on myself whilst I heal.

– Diahann Lombardozzi

A long battle, that's not over yet

Understanding my place in the world

I've had many diagnoses over the years, PTSD, DID, attachment disorder, adjustment disorder, psychosis, BPD. To me, recovery means relief from the chronic suffering, loneliness, and deprivation I experienced. 

I still hurt. I still have experiences that are at time difficult and painful. But I'm no longer drowned by life circumstances or my own distress.

I have a life with rich and meaningful experiences and I understand myself and my world. Much of this recovery has been about surviving and growing through adversity to a better life, rather than dealing with anything broken or 'wrong' with me. My suffering was a normal response to harm.

– Sarah K Reece

Staying true to yourself

My rules of recovery are: staying connected with services, continuing with all I have learned, coming to terms with the fact that I just have to do some things differently, keeping body and mind occupied, and the hardest one, be as kind to yourself as you are to others. 

Someone said, 'the light at the end of the tunnel is an illusion, this is not true, the tunnel is.'

– Miriam


Moving forward

Having a sustainable way of staying mentally healthy. Be it medication, lifestyle, whatever. Being able to live without fearing you're going to wake up where you once were.

– Kate

Finding our triggers

Perhaps we can call ourselves recovered when we have accepted ourselves the way we are. Like people who have allergies, we have triggers that can set in motion a certain behaviour pattern.

When we have learnt these triggers, we can usually recognise the situation, are we can learn to manage them. Sometimes that means we need help and sometimes we need a friend to tell us we need help. And that's okay. Let's be gentle with ourselves and accept ourselves for who we are.

– Lana Mack

A backwards step is not a failure

For me recovery is understanding that a lapse is not a relapse. I'm just working to decrease the frequency and intensity of episodes.

– Jessica Cathcart


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