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 the first internship in social work to shed more light on recovery as a privilege. During that time, I was interning in an end-of-life unit in a regional cancer center. Every morning, I attended nursing rounds, in which a report was given to the incoming day shift. It was at that time when I first heard the term: “re-hab-able” as in, he or she is too ridden with cancer, he’s not rehab-able. 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 encircling and intersects with privilege. As time unfolded, I would learn more about the intersectionality of opportunity and improvement 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 whenever 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 successful in my recovery than the other people on my caseload. Looking back on that experience, I can’t help but remember feeling the metaphorical frog in my throat 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 a family with a vested interest in their recovery. Not everyone recovering from a significant mental health diagnosis has family willing to take on the challenges associated with supporting someone they love carrying on the fight against mental illness. The layers of privilege go deeper than just family support. There is emotional support from friends, professionals. Financial aid to carrying on payment for new medications or housing when the disruptions of symptoms take on forms that cause property loss, 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 aren’t 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. To this day, some cultures 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 critical players in hurling me closer to my healing & recovery. Many people continue to struggle without the necessary resources they need to keep 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.