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Commitment to Care and Caregiving

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RECOVERY FOR PEOPLE WITH A MENTAL ILLNESS AND THOSE CARRYING A MENTAL HEALTH DIAGNOSIS CAN BE A LIFETIME ENDEAVOR. GIVEN THE POWER OF SUPPORT, AND MORE PROFOUND EVEN, TO BE AN ALLY WITH A SUFFERING INDIVIDUAL IN THEIR JOURNEY WITH CHRONIC ILLNESS IS A SPECIAL MITZVAH TO BE TAKEN SERIOUSLY. ABANDONMENT CAN BE A SOBERING SURPRISE AND A BLOW TO MORALE FOR PEOPLE RELIANT ON THE HAND OF A HELPER. HERE AT RECOVERY NOW, WE ARE A TEAM, A COALITION OF PEOPLE COMMITTED TO OUR HEALING. NEW TREATMENT PATHWAYS AND MEDICAL COURSE CORRECTIONS CAN POSE AS A INTERRUPTION TO THE HEALING PROCESS. ALL NEW SHIFTS IN TREATMENT SHOULD BE FIRST EVALUATED on the basis of priority and MEDICAL AND PSYCHIATRIC NECESSITY.

IN THE END, THE IMPORTANCE OF CHOICE AND FREEDOM IN CHOOSING OUR CARE HAS BECOME A RIGHT. 

THE DECISION TO BECOME AN ALLY TO A CHRONICALLY ILL PERSON IS A LIFELONG COMMITMENT. THE COMMITMENT AND SUPPORT FOR SMI FOLKS TO HELP THEM ADHERE TO HEALING IS ENORMOUS. WHEN PEOPLE INTERFERE WITH THE HEALING PROCESS, DESERT THEIR POSTS (abandon friends requiring support), OR CONTRIBUTE NEGATIVELY TO ANYONE’S RECOVERY, THE IMPLICATIONS TO A PERSON NEEDING SUPPORT CAN BE DISASTROUS. 

I RECOMMEND TAKING STEPS TO ENSURE PERSONS WITHOUT SUPPORT. SEEK IT OUT ACTIVELY. The search for FRIENDS OR ‘allies’ TO WALK ALONGSIDE THEIR PEER IN THEIR GRIEF, NEGATIVELY, AND BAD-DECISION MAKING SKILLS WILL PROCURE and TRIGGER RECOVERY. 

CARE & CAREGIVING EXTENDS TO BOTH SELF CARE AND THE CARE OF OTHERS. THE CAPACITY TO SELF CARE WILL BE CRUCIAL IN MAINTAINING OUR WAY OF LIFE AND QUALITY OF LIFE. NURTURING NEW AND EMERGING PERSPECTIVES OR PATHWAYS TO INTERACTING AND LIVING IN THE WORLD. THERE IS NO QUESTION THAT AS TIME UNFOLDS WE CHANGE. HOWEVER, WHILE WE MIGHT CHANGE, OUR FUNDAMENTAL DUTY TO CARE FOR OURSELVES AND OTHERS DOES NOT CHANGE. FOR EXAMPLE, THE RUNNER MIGHT NOT RUN AS FAST AS HE OR SHE ONCE DID OR THE SINGER MIGHT NOT HIT THAT EUPHONIOUS TONE OR PITCH AND YET, WE MUST MOVE FORWARD IN OUR HEALTH & HEALING.

AS WE HEAL, WE NEED TO ONLY RE-LEARN OUR CRAFTS BUT ALSO IDENTIFY HOW OUR SKILLS AND BEND ON UNDERSTANDING OUR RELATIONSHIP WITH THE WORLD HAS ALSO SHIFTED. THE SKILLS YOU ONCE HAD ARE STILL THERE, HOWEVER, UPON ACCESSING THEM, THERE WILL BE A CAVEAT TO EFFECTIVELY EXECUTING THE TASK AS YOU ONCE DID, AND, QUITE FRANKLY, IN PRACTICE, IT MAY FEEL COMPLETELY DIFFERENT. TO HARKEN BACK TO THE MUSICIAN, YOU MIGHT HEAR THE MUSIC IN A MANNER THAT REQUIRES DIFFERENT KEY STROKES, OR MAYBE YOUR HANDS ARE ARTHRITIC, AND YOU REQUIRE ASSISTANCE TECHNOLOGY TO PLAY.

I CAN’T HELP BUT CITE THE GREAT MOHAMMAD ALI, WHOM, AFTER RETURNING TO BOXING AFTER YEARS OF POLITICAL EXILE, WASN’T AS FAST ON HIS FEET AS HE ONCE WAS. HE LEARNED TO LEAN ON THE ROPES WITH THE FAMOUS ICON “ROPE-A-DOPE” STRATEGY AND OUTPACE HIS CHALLENGES WITH THE IMPOSITION OF WILL & HIS UNRIVALED STAMINA. SO, WHEN YOU SEE SOMEONE “STRUGGLING” AT SOMETHING, THEY WERE ONCE A PROFESSIONAL, GIVE THEM TIME TO HEAL, & RE-DISCOVER THERE ABILITIES GIVEN THERE NEW BIO-SOCIAL- PSYCHOLOGICAL LANDSCAPE.

About the Author

J. Peters

Max Guttman '08, MSW '12, is the owner of Recovery Now, a private mental health practice. Through his work as a Licensed Clinical Social Worker, therapist and disability rights advocate, Max fights for those without a voice in various New York City care systems. He received a 2020 Bearcats of the Last Decade 10 Under 10 award from the Binghamton University Alumni Association.

Guttman treats clients with anxiety and depression, but specializes in issues related to psychosis or schizoaffective spectrum disorders. He frequently writes on his lived experiences with schizophrenia.

"I knew my illness was so complex that I’d need a professional understanding of its treatment to gain any real momentum in recovery," Guttman says. "After undergraduate school and the onset of my illness, I evaluated different graduate programs that could serve as a career and mechanism to guide and direct my self-care. After experiencing the helping hand of my social worker and therapist right after my 'break,' I chose social work education because of its robust skill set and foundation of knowledge I needed to heal and help others."

"In a world of increasing tragedy, we should help people learn from our lived experiences. My experience brings humility, authenticity and candidness to my practice. People genuinely appreciate candidness when it comes to their health and recovery. Humility provides space for mistakes and appraisal of progress. I thank my lived experience for contributing to a more egalitarian therapeutic experience for my clients."

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