5 Landmarks of the Mental Health Recovery Journey

Recovery. Have you ever wondered what mental health recovery looks like? In a world that craves the overnight fix, is recovery even possible for the one thing you’ve been told will never go away?

For the soul longing for the quick fix, we unfortunately don’t have the answer. But we do have something even better for you - HOPE!  Recovery is a process that explores a winding road rather than a linear path. Recovery is often an unknown that includes utter dependence upon the Lord. But most importantly, recovery can be filled with hope, building self-awareness, growing in resiliency and learning that you are God’s cherished workmanship!

As you travel through your recovery journey, there are a few landmarks along the way that will help you know that you’re moving in the right direction! Here are five landmarks of recovery to look for:

1. COMMUNITY

It has been said that “the common denominator [of mental health recovery] is community” (William Anthony, Boston University). You were created to be in community! Having the support and encouragement of consistent and trusted friends and family can provide you with a stable foundation for your mental health recovery journey.

Tip: Locate a support group in your area or a church small group to attend. Find 1-2 new ways to connect with friends weekly to develop relationships (phone call, short walk/hike, sporting event, cooking dinner, watching a movie).

2. RENEWED SENSE OF HOPE

A renewed sense of hope arises from understanding that you are not defined by your mental illness and that God has a wonderful purpose for your life.  When you look through a lens of hope rather than despair, you have a new strength to face challenges that come your way.

Tip: Write down a list of 10 attributes of God. Hold on to this list throughout your day to remind yourself that He is not only fighting for you but also fighting alongside you and we can rest in His grace!

3. HEALTHY LIFESTYLE

Mental health recovery requires a whole-health approach. Along with our mental health, it also incorporates our physical, relational and spiritual health. A great indication of growth in the recovery process is a lifestyle that addresses each area of life.  This may include a healthy diet, consistent exercise, and times throughout the week to learn a new hobby or study a new topic.

Tip: Find one new activity to try this week. Try finding a new walking path, riding your bike to a park to practice relaxation techniques, writing an encouraging letter to a friend or learning a musical instrument.

4. RESTING IN GRACE

There is a constant pressure to do more to fix your symptoms. Spiritually, you can feel inadequate or not good enough. God doesn’t call you to try harder. Instead, God calls you to come to Him with your heaviness and weariness, and He will give you rest. A great indication of moving along in your recovery journey is releasing your desire to perform and accepting God’s invitation for you to rest in His grace and His promises over your life.

Tip: At the start of your week, write down 5 worries or anxieties that are holding you down. Pray through one each day and remind yourself that you don’t have to have it all together. You are a work in progress!

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5. SERVING OTHERS

When the recovery journey becomes a winding uphill battle, your eyes can quickly turn inward. Yet, as you move along in your mental health recovery process (see image), you’ll see yourself travel from distress to stability to function to purpose.  Along the way, you’ll begin to find ways to care for and serve others.  Taking a moment to do something for someone else can bring light to your darkest hours.

Tip: Brainstorm 3-5 opportunities to serve in your church or community. It can be anything from picking up trash on a walking path or serving as a greeter on a Sunday morning. Set a goal to find a small way to serve someone each week and track how it impacts your overall mood!

 

What are other landmarks that have encouraged you in your mental health recovery journey?  We would love to hear from you!

 

Check out our resources for your mental health journey, including our upcoming Thrive Online Course (starting March 15/16).  

 

Natalie Franks, M.A. / OTR/L

Executive Director of Programs & Development

The Grace Alliance

Do We Belong Together?

Today, the two biggest issues that cause isolation for individuals living with a mental illness are stigma and a lack of supportive community resources. Stigma is rooted in an uneducated fear. It robs individuals of their confidence, their hope, and their ability to access quality community resources. It lays the foundation for the isolation that many experience on a day-to-day basis.

Do you feel it today? You may have been hurt. You may not know where to go. You may feel overwhelmed.

“No one will understand me.”
“It’s easier to be alone than to go out and be rejected.”

If it feels easier to be alone, do we really belong together?

The answer is YES!  If you find yourself overwhelmed and feeling lonely as you read this, there is hope and good news! Despite what the world tells you and the stigma that surrounds mental illness, you are NOT ALONE! 

WHAT DOES SCIENCE SAY?

John Cacioppo, one of the leading experts on “isolation” from the University of Chicago, presents research that may help us understand why isolation comes to impact an individual physically, emotionally and spiritually.  

Cacioppo explains that we are “social species” who create emergent organizations and structures to work together and create “social resilience.” This social resilience is the very nature that helps “groups foster, engage in, and sustain positive social relationships, and to endure and recover from stressors and social isolation.” To state it simply, God created us to belong together.

In fact, our whole bodies are affected when we isolate.  Cacioppo's neuroscience research reveals that isolation causes individuals to go into self-preservation mode, leading to difficulties, including:

  • Lack of empathy
  • Hyper-vigilance
  • Impaired sleep
  • Personal insecurity
  • Depression
  • Increased stress (cortisol levels)
  • Impulsivity

WHAT DOES JESUS SAY?

Hours before the crucifixion, Jesus was in the garden of Gethsemane with three of his friends (disciples), agonizing about what was about to come.  “Then He said to them, ‘My soul is crushed with grief to the point of death'" (Matthew 26: 38).  Jesus was human too. He also experienced distress, misery, agony and a sense of hopelessness. Jesus can relate to you and the difficulties caused by your mental illness!

While in this place of distress, Jesus wanted his friends to “remain here with me and keep watch with me.” Jesus knew that in a time of need, isolation was not an option for Him. Although He already shared in the fullness of the Father, He also wanted to experience the nearness of His closest friends.  

Love is just that. Understanding the reality that through Jesus, we will never be alone or separated from our heavenly Father.  Love is letting others remain by our side, letting them in to any distress, misery, agony and sense of hopelessness that we face.

Jesus also said, “Love your neighbor as yourself" (Matthew 22:39). Love is an act of keeping others company. Just as the disciples remained, we are also called to remain close to our dearest friends. By understanding God's love for us and pouring out His love to others, we can play a part in defeating isolation!

HOW CAN WE BE TOGETHER?

1.      Quality of Normal and the Fun.

Find 1-2 people who you trust and who understand your life story and go do errands and fun things together. It doesn’t have to be heavy sharing about your pain or challenges all the time. Focus on enjoyable activities and fun conversations to balance any weighty talks you do have. 

I remember spending time with some individuals in deep distress just having fun conversations, laughing, eating, talking about sports, running errands, doing life together. As we left our time together, one of the guys told me how much better he felt. 

2.      Grow with Healthy Community.

Find a supportive community that understands mental health needs. You can look through our list of groups for families or for peers that might be near you or other groups through Fresh Hope or NAMI.  Many have found life-giving friends and support through these groups.

3.      Do Something Small For Others.

One of the biggest ways to break isolation is to serve others. It doesn’t have to be huge projects; they can be small acts of kindness. For example, a woman with extreme depression decided to serve at her church's Benevolence Ministry to beat isolation and help others in need. 

YOUR TURN

We belong TOGETHER! Let us know what helps you not be alone. What are ways you help others not feel alone? What are the creative options that can help remedy feeling isolated?

 

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Joe Padilla | Co/founder & CEO

Mental Health Grace Alliance