Do you want ‘Total’ Recovery?

Do you want ‘Total’ Recovery?

Every day will be a fight. Everything a weapon in your arsenal against your illness. When everything is moving in the wrong direction I recommend taking on a stance I term total recovery.

The complete mobilization of your resources to maximize the potential for your gains in healing.

To truly make gains when our bodies are pitted against death or risk of serious illness, experiencing improvement in our health condition may truly mean there can no obstacle in your path to recovery. Success and better health outcomes will depend on our capacity to identify problems ahead, problems at hand presently, and produce solutions quickly before other issues become complications in our treatment and ongoing recovery.

Total recovery means taking all the unknowns and revealing them as markers, and meter-sticks to measure our gains and decrease the risk of relapse. Identifying all available resources at your disposal and being creative. 

What is holding you back? What can you supplement that is working well to amplify your chances for success. This will be critical in sustaining treatment and maintaining the stamina you need to make those reasonable and lasting changes in your life to experience more success in recovery. 

Ask to ask for help when you need it. This may mean reaching out and calling your case or care managers! Daily if necessary. I’ve seen and done this myself. Your point person should be on redial until you are on the road to more stable living. Once you are well on your way to your goals, consider easing up on your supports, but truly think about how to reconfigure them to match your new adjusted goals. 

Getting to know and familiarize yourself with the system can be difficult. Make connections, network, and build alliances around you. Get to know entitlements available for your disability and what you need to do to qualify. All this information is available through different government agencies depending on which system your disability or treatment is apart of, and the provider within the system can start the process and get the ball rolling to keep your recovery moving along without incident.

While there are still resources available for you if you connect with key players in the systems that serve your special needs group. There may be qualifying hoops to go through and steps ahead of you so start early and are prepared for delays. By being prepared for systemic delays and red tape to clear will likely reduce gaps in your treatment due to the non-payment of fees associated with treatment.

Commitment to care, adherence, and radical acceptance will be vital to preserving your belief in a positive outcome. It’s easy to disbelieve in recovery if you aren’t sticking to your treatment and completing your objectives in care. Don’t expect results if you aren’t focused on your treatment and adherent with the recommendations of providers. Once you’ve evaluated the risks and benefits of your treatment path, complete the entire journey (your prescribed care) until you’ve reached your goals.

Listen, you can still turn this around, it is just going to take everything you’ve got!

I recommend allying with your therapist, treatment team, and close peers with a vested interest in your mental health. Establishing a deep trust with those who have close personal contact with you every day. In doing so, if these collaterals begin to detect an extreme and toxic abnormality in your health, you can feel safe in taking their advice and concern very seriously. Like I mentioned earlier, staying connected with collaterals in which you can delegate your health needs to is a great plan “B” if your own self-care takes a back seat to the other nonmedical priorities of life (and there many of these)  

Sure, no clinician, therapist, or friend can get a perfect read on our health. But for those of us without a great deal of self-awareness or drive to look after ourselves, there are still options and strategies to stay healthy without relying completely on perception which may be off. People need to truly care enough about their health to self-monitor all the time. The priority of the day, when it comes to our own health and wellness must be addressed. Anything otherwise is likely to be disruptive to our mental health and even put our lives in jeopardy regardless of our diagnosis.

A second more short-term plan can always be delegating out responsibilities. Family, friends, and those we trust even when we disagree with them (unless it puts us directly or indirectly at risk of harm) are great folks to delegate tasks to if they enlist in your care or agree to help. The reasoning here is regardless of how we feel or think about the validity of our friends’ opinions on certain matters. When it comes to our mental status, for some of us, symptoms can disrupt a person’s capacity to stay connected to reality or even take on complex delusional systems. These not only complicate our interpretive eye to know what is truly happening with our health but may require you to bring in collateral support. 

In the end, anyway, you want to manage your mental health, do at least that much. Have a plan, and have another plan when the original road map to better health becomes unworkable. Ultimately, whether you have a chronic condition or an acute diagnosis, relapse is only something to be feared when you aren’t doing what you need to do to work towards better health and healing. 

Relapse is real. Relapse is awful. But it isn’t the end of the world. Relapsing and experiencing the renewal of old symptoms can still be a reminder to get back on track with your recovery. Keep going, and don’t stop. When you stop taking care of yourself, be prepared for your worst fears to not just haunt you, but become the grim reality you feared so vehemently instead of investing the same mental energy in health and healing.

J. Peters

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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