Saturday, November 08, 2014

MY MENTAL HEALTH RECOVERY JOURNEY - Part 1


According to mentalhealth.gov, “Recovery is possible. Most people with mental problems can get better. Treatment and recovery are ongoing processes that happen over time.”

I am a living testament that mental health recovery is indeed possible. For me, it was, and still is, an ongoing process.

Years ago, the notion of mental health recovery was difficult for me to grasp. I thought, “But I’ve been diagnosed with serious mental disorders. How will they ever go away?”

This is a popular misunderstanding. “Recovered” doesn’t necessarily mean “cured.”

Recovery from mental disorders is a process of change through which individuals:
--Improve their health and wellness
--Live a self-directed life
--Strive to achieve their full potential

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) has devised a working definition of recovery, which outlines Four Dimensions of Recovery:

--Health: Making informed, healthy choices that support physical and emotional wellbeing.
--Home: Having a stable and safe place to live.
--Purpose: Engaging in meaningful daily activities, such as a job or school, volunteering, caring for your family, or being creative. Work for independence, income, and resources to participate in society.
--Community: Building relationships and social networks that provide support.

Health
"Health" refers to one's holistic health--mind, body and spirit.

Working with my psychiatrist, I’ve found medications that work best for me, with minimal side effects. Also, I’m a big believer in talk therapy, so I attend regular counseling sessions.

I am no longer engaged in disordered eating habits. In the past, I experienced both ends of the eating disorder spectrum. For ten years of my life I was clinically obese, weighing between 175 and 200 pounds (I’m 5’ 3”). Then there were other periods of time when I over-exercised and under-ate, becoming very thin. It was always feast or famine for me. That is, until about two years ago. Witnessing my mother’s intense mental and physical suffering during the last year of her life had a profound effect on me. For as long as I can remember, Ma was a binge eater and compulsive dieter. She would gorge herself on sweets, then go on a starvation diet, such as The Stillman Water Diet or The Watermelon Diet. This yo-yo pattern continued until she became so ill she had to be institutionalized. She was diagnosed with vascular dementia. Unbeknownst to anyone, she had been having a series of mini-strokes for decades. The strokes were cause by atherosclerosis. All those years of binging on junk food clogged her arteries. Eventually, she was completely mentally and physically incapacitated and could no longer care for herself. She could no longer walk or even stand. She became psychotic and then nonverbal. I believe it was her disordered eating habits that destroyed her mind and body, and it was a definite wake-up call for me. With the help of a dietician, I began a well-balanced, properly portioned eating plan and have been on it ever since. Now my goal is not to be my thinnest, but rather my healthiest.

Since I have serious spinal issues, I devised an exercise plan that is gentle and kind to my body. It consists of walking, yoga and light hand weights. One of my future goals is to learn how to swim.

The most important aspect of my health is my spirit. For the past four years, I have been part of a lay Catholic community. These people are very important to me and have become my surrogate family. Attending Mass, scripture study, spiritual reading, meditation and prayer, all have been an important part of my spiritual life. My faith is my foundation and without it, my recovery would not be possible.

Home
I live in a decent apartment with a rent I can afford. I keep my home clean and organized. My kitty cat, Pinky, keeps me company and gives me comfort. I work hard to make my home my haven, and as such, it is a place of calm peace.

Purpose
Between 2008 and 2014, my purpose was to make an autobiographical documentary with the talented Michel Negroponte. AN AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF MICHELLE MAREN is now finished. I believe it will have a positive effect on others. I want suffering people to know that they are not alone and there really is hope.

My new goals are:
--To perform an autobiographical cabaret act/one-woman show
--To become a motivational speaker, encouraging others to achieve their dreams
--To become a mental health advocate, sharing my personal experience of mental health recovery
--To write an autobiography/motivational book, encouraging others to see the light at the end of the tunnel

My main purpose in life is to help others by sharing my own personal healing journey. In this way, I hope to both grow as a human being and further develop my own mental health recovery.

Community
In recent years, I’ve made a concerted effort to develop supportive relationships and distance myself from those who are negative influences. This has been challenging. My natural tendency is to isolate because I do not trust easily. In the past, sometimes when I confided in people, they would betray me. That deep hurt caused me to build a wall between myself and the world. However, now I am able to open up to others and trust again. What I’ve learned is that I used to trust the wrong people--those who did not possess integrity. I’ve improved my ability to discern who is honest and who is not. Also, my self-esteem is now where it should be, so I no longer attract people of low character. I take responsibility for who I choose to be in my life. And I choose to surround myself with positive, loving and supportive people. I am worth it.


For further information:

SAMHSA’S WORKING DEFINITION OF RECOVERY BOOKLET
http://store.samhsa.gov/shin/content/PEP12-RECDEF/PEP12-RECDEF.pdf

MENTALHEALTH.GOV WEBSITE
http://www.mentalhealth.gov/basics/recovery/index.html

THE NATIONAL COALITION FOR MENTAL HEALTH RECOVERY (NCMHR)
http://www.ncmhr.org/

CHOICES IN RECOVERY WEBSITE
http://www.choicesinrecovery.com/about/recovery-process-tools/creating-recovery-tools