If you have been following the Extra Ounce for a while you might have noticed that I often tag my posts under the category ‘recovery’. I do this because it is a common term used in the mental health space. But it is not a word I feel particularly comfortable using in my daily life. I thought I’d share with you all why.
‘Recovery’ implies a destination. You are mentally ill. You go into recovery. And then one day you are recovered. It also implies a linearity to treatment that I don’t think is accurate or fair to put on to people. One of the best things my Psychiatrist ever said to me is ‘progress is not linear’. The journey to better mental health involves many twists and bumps and it is not as simple as going into recovery and becoming recovered. I prefer the term ‘management’. I am always managing my symptoms and ensuring they have less control over my life. Even now, being stable for over seven months, I could consider myself in recovery from Bipolar Disorder. But instead I consider myself to be playing an active part in the process by managing my condition daily.
Another issue with the term ‘recovery’ is how it may be perceived different by the outside world and the internal. I had an eating disorder for most of my teenage years. And whilst I have not considered myself to have Anorexia for perhaps four years I do not consider myself to be ‘recovered’ by any stretch of the imagination. To the outside world I am a perfect Anorexia recovery story. I am at a healthy weight. I play sport. I exercise. I love to eat and to bake. I do not deprive myself. But I am not recovered. The reality is that my eating disorder left many scars that I still deal with to this day. Whilst I no longer starve myself I still have many of the symptoms that accompany an eating disorder. I have bad body image issues. I spend far more time than I would like to admit staring at my naked body in the mirror and tearing it apart. I have days where I beat myself up for eating and convince myself I don’t deserve to eat. The difference is I don’t let these thoughts extend to me depriving myself of food. It takes constant work on my part to stop these thoughts leading me down the path they once did. I am not in recovery. Nor I am recovered. I am managing my self and my symptoms so that they do not control me like they used to.
I don’t mean to sound negative as if you can never move on from a mental illness. Nor do I mean to imply that managing my mental illness controls my life. But in reality, it does take up a large portion of my life. I just think it is important to highlight the need to work on one’s self in order to live well with a mental illness. That’s why I prefer the term management over the term recovery.