I have been privileged in my recovery in many ways.
There are many forms of privilege people can “benefit” from, most of the time, at the expense, of others. During my recovery, I have benefited from the financial, emotional, cultural, and intellectual prowess to move forward in my healing & wellness without bounds. I will make these aspects of privilege, which, without question, intersect recovery, visible to you the reader in an attempt to challenge those that believe anyone can heal from their illness.
I can’t help but share a moment of first internship in social work to shed more light on recovery as a privilege. During that time, I was interning in a end-of-life unit in a regional cancer center. Every morning, I attended nursing rounds, in which, report was given to the incoming day shift. It was at that time when I first heard the term: “re-habable” as in, he or she is too ridden with cancer, he’s not rehabable. This concept shocked me, deeply. perhaps it shocked me because I was embarking on a recovery-based learning trajectory, or because, personally & professionally, I have always believed that no-one is beyond repair.
Slowly, I learned not everyone shared in my philosophy of recovery. The very web of meaning surrounding recovery & healing is encircles and intersects with privilege. As time unfolded, I would learn more about the intersectionality of privilege and recovery in mental health & other related fields.
The next learning moment came during my work as a Recovery Specialist working for the Mental Health Association. I was a field worker in the inner city of Yonkers, New York. During my work as a peer with one client I would run in a stumbling block each and every time I met with this individual. The client would remind me, during my motivational talks, that I have a family, and, in turn, there was a reason I was more succesful in my recovery than the other people on my caseload. Looking back on that experience, I cant help but remember feeling the metaphorical frog in my throat each and every time this client reminded me that my family was the reason I was so successful in my recovery.
There is no question that our supports are crucial in our healing. In terms of healing, only some people have family with a vested interest in their recovery. Not everyone recovering from a major mental health diagnosis has family willing to take on the challenges associated with supporting someone they love carrying on the fight against mental illness. In fact, the layers of privilege goes deeper than just family support. There is emotional support from friends, professionals. Financial support to carrying on payment for new medications or housing when the disruptions of symptoms takes on forms which causes loss of property, either from self-destruction or misplacement of goods due to memory loss & confusion. Even down to transportation to and from treatment, this all costs money and resources that arent available to everyone carrying a mental health diagnosis.
Even deeper, are the cultural implications of privilege. Many cultures do not believe in diagnosis. They do not see mental health as something that requires treatment or medical intervention upon dysregulation. I am lucky that I come from a background in which my heritage doesn’t interfere with me getting the mental health treatment I required from my early adulthood and recovery from schizophrenia. But, to this day, there are cultures which do not view people exhibiting symptoms from a mental health diagnosis as requiring necessary medical or psychiatric intervention which may be life-saving or life-preserving.
Ultimately, I have been privileged to live-out my existence in a manner in which my friends, family, financial status, and cultural background have all been key players in hurling me closer to my healing & recovery. Many people continue to struggle without the necessary resources they need to continue moving forward in their journey carrying a mental health diagnosis. So, when you encounter people in your life that need help: reach out to them. Point them towards the necessary resources they will need to continue living without bounds. Privilege them with your helping hands and walk alongside them in their recovery.