Chronic Illness & Recovery: Setting the Pace for Sustainable Healing

For people with a chronic illness and long standing mental health diagnosis finding the right pace for recovery & healing can be difficult and even misleading at times during the life of a disorder. Acute disorders provide people with the space and room for misapplied energy and focus. Often, people can expend their energy dealing with their issue because that particular symptom will be inactive soon enough. However, when people have a severe chronic mental health diagnosis, a misstep in applying energy and symptom management can leave a person vulnerable and open to breakthrough symptoms and other unwelcome reactive symptoms due to the mismanagement of misidentified opportunities to heal and recover and a very small window for people to experience mistakes.

From the very moment I began my battle with schizoaffective disorder, I learned that positive outcomes for people in recovery required a degree of self-awareness of one’s symptoms, their chronicity, & intensity. As a clinician, it became obvious that if I were to have true ownership of my disorder, I would apply science and the available technologies in the field to measure symptoms from baseline to a hopefully inert or managed state.  This level of sophistication in measuring progress or the lack their of requires the completion of steady activities. When a person goes to work everyday or has steady collateral contacts it is easy for everyone including the diagnosed person to have a barometer for how well they are able to complete their day in spite of their symptoms. When these ADL’s aren’t present, or a person becomes isolated, it becomes more unclear how to measure their well being without the presence of a third party observer like a case manager, therapist, or any collateral that can eye-ball the functioning of a person when he or she does not participate in the usual demands of the day.

Therefore, lasting recovery in the wake of chronic illness requires a depth of insight that only allies with a vested interest in my recovery can produce when a person doesn’t work or isolates. Given the turnover of caseworkers, friends and family are the real point people and allies in recovery. Moving into each new phase of recovery will necessitate drawing from supports & partnering with them for seasonal, round-the-clock, and year-long support required when someone has a chronic severe diagnosis. There will be times when symptoms become active & there will be times when a person is vulnerable.

Only natural supports and the organic point person can help the person with a chronic illness achieve a sustainable pace for healing and recovery.  Artificial and hired workers assigned to people with a chronic illness are simply more out-of-touch with the organic needs of someone who continues to struggle and will continue to battle their illness long after a case manager gets re-assigned or leaves their agency and his or her clients journey in recovery. Family, friends, and natural point people are simply more connected and real allies to people with a chronic disorder. Conscripted hessian case managers will leave when the insurance has a problem or the money runs dry. These people are not to be depended upon when thinking of recovery as a sustainable path to healing.

Next to insight, sustainable healing requires the challenging of previous assumptions. There are skills to be learned for every phase of recovery, and plan to use every device available in your arsenal for healing. Never discount the importance of further adapting old skills to target new problems. Assume nothing will work to manage new or existing symptoms in your recovery until every avenue has been explored and each solution put the test. Challenging assumptions everyday, everywhere, with applied scientific reasoning may mean the difference between symptoms becoming active again or breakthrough symptoms demoralizing the progress of someone with a chronic mental health diagnosis. Given the mood instability and collateral chaos I experienced for so many years I learned to appreciate the safety of a static unchanging healthy mental status. While we all live with residual symptoms, either active or in remission, acknowledging the dangers that lurk behind every turn in your recovery will prepare you for the pitfalls of someone who still hasn’t accepted the chronicity of their disorder.  A giant first step is accepting that self-control, behavioral and otherwise means seeking & accepting help.

Since no one can ask for help and seek it out all the time, organic connectors in care, like family and other natural point people can connect the dots between the artificial support networks like your treatment team and be available at times and in ways that allows you to feel comfortable and creative with your chosen journey through recovery.  It is said that recovery is a stance. There is no moment when a person magically becomes undiagnosed or even un-symptomatic. Instead it’s a process of reinventing the manner in which a person handles and manages his struggles with something unfortunate in his or her life. This is my perspective on recovery. I hope it helps you similarly to share your own story that inspired yourself or others to keep fighting on towards a better future.


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