Hope is first step toward wellness

Published 12:00 am Sunday, October 2, 2011

By Sarah Keller-Boyd
For the Salisbury Post
Many people who experience mental difficulties at some time in their lives get well, stay well for long periods of time, do things they want to do and live productive lives. The way an individual gets well, i.e. achieves recovery, varies from individual to individual. Race, sex, education, lifestyle, socioeconomic background and culture each play a part in this process.
There is an abundance of useful and beneficial information about recovery from mental difficulties available in our society today. However, there is no one established way to achieve recovery. It is up to the individual to find the way(s) that best suit him/her.
After a lengthy battle with mental illness due to lack of a diagnosis, recovery is a major part of my life. The journey toward achieving recovery has been long and arduous and has led me to where I am today. That journey continues today, as there is no cure for mental illness and wellness is an on-going process. Maintaining wellness can be met with protest or managed by following simple practices, such as the following:
• Realizing the need to change. Often when people are diagnosed with a mental health problem, they are told that they may never get better. Sometimes they are told they may get worse. Changes need to be made so a person can get well, stay well and do the things they want to do with their lives. Instilling hope allows change to take place, for hope is the foundation on which recovery is built.
• Exploring the best options available. Every day is filled with choices. Choices must result in positive change for the individual, and an individual must accept the choices selected as their own. Positive change and personal responsibility result in strength and self-acceptance.
• Having courage to set new goals. Changing old ways and habits can be a scary thing. To overcome unwanted behaviors, individuals must change the way they think and feel. This involves trying new and different activities, hobbies, etc. which lead to positive results and allow for personal growth.
• Overcoming obstacles — one by one. Making lifestyle changes is very challenging. A strong support system is needed for this to happen. Recovery brings successes, and these may be followed by setbacks. Courage can wane, and the support of others inspires individuals to continue the journey toward recovery. With perseverance and determination, a person can discover who they are.
• Venturing into different territory. Recovery means going in a different direction, getting a new perception of life and making lifestyle changes that once seemed so difficult but gradually become a part of life. Negative thoughts and feelings, once distinct, give way to purpose and peace. A sense of empowerment, coupled with determination and fortitude, gives vigor for goal setting and achievement.
• Electing to make positive choices allows individuals to take back control over their own lives. They develop the urge to move forward, taking responsibility for their actions. An understanding that the power to create change lives within becomes apparent, and true change takes place.
• Releasing things of the past. Learning self-advocacy skills — how to ask for what is wanted, needed and deserved — can be a monumental task. Usually a person has been told to not do this. They’ve gone through life with someone else making the decisions. Through education, self-advocacy skills can be learned, and a person can advocate for him/herself as becoming aware and experiencing the choice of speaking for self is inspirational.
• Yearning for knowledge so the continuum of recovery continues. New skills produce new abilities that restore lost hopes, dreams and successes. Awareness of adversities may still occur but each will be conquered, as discord, once prevalent, has been replaced with confidence and self-assurance. Because an attitude has changed, a life has been changed.
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Sarah Keller-Boyd is executive director of the Resource Center for the Brain-Rowan and currently serves as treasurer of NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness) Rowan.