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Being My Own Advocate

"[Recovery] is being my own advocate in every aspect of my life and health care, as well as being an advocate for others who can't or don't know how to be their own advocate." —Shelley Read the rest of the story...

By Shelley

shelleyDuring your mental health care, have you often felt hopeful about your chance of getting better?

ONLY when I speak with my psychologist whom I've been seeing for 3 years. She has always told me that I could get better and do it without psychiatric medications.

During your mental health care, have you often felt hopeless about your chance of getting better?

Every time I spoke with a psychiatrist, whether they were my personal one or those who were treating me in the emergency room or psychiatric in-patient/out-patient setting.

Has a mental health provider ever told you that you could not reach a personal goal because of your psychiatric diagnosis (for example, education, career, independent housing, relationship, children, etc.)?

My last psychiatrist told me that I would NEVER be able to finish college and get a BS in Behavioral Neuroscience. She always told me that I should quit and focus on a less demanding "position in life" and to instead look into possibly working in retail or as a nursing assistant; I'd never be able to function well and keep up.

If you overcame hopelessness that you could get better from a mental health or emotional problem, was there a turning point for you?

The turning point for me began in 2010 when I became a first time college student at age 41; I dropped out of high school mid-sophomore year in 1985 and got my GED in 1986. I made the Dean's List and was offered membership in the national honor society Phi Theta Kappa. Since then I've continued to flourish in my academic studies with a 3.81 GPA. The next turn came in September 201; Serotonin Syndrome and many physiological changes due to the side effects of the medications. As I was weaning off of the meds without the help of any kind of medication whatsoever to help me through, I searched the internet for help. I found "The Harm Reduction Guide to Coming Off Psychiatric Drugs" by The Icarus Project and Freedom Center, and that's when I truly found hope.

Tell us what recovery means to you. How would you define recovery from mental health or emotional problems in your own words?

Recovery from mental health or emotional problems means to me that I am off of the merry-go-round ride of psychiatric labels, pharmaceuticals, and abusive and inhumane treatment experienced within the experiment of psychiatry. Recovery to me is being awake and alive and not dazed, confused or in an endless fog, and constantly thinking "they (psychiatrists) are watching me waiting for me to fall" and being afraid to truly feel what it is to be human. It is being my own advocate in every aspect of my life and health care, as well as being an advocate for others who can't or don't know how to be their own advocate. Recovery to me is freedom from the control of others who only think they know me, when they really have no clue as to who I really am and what my capabilities truly are. Recovery is living my life according to the ways in which I choose, living it moment by moment, experiencing every up & down, and knowing that I am no different than anyone else. Recovery to me is taking the power back from those who stole it for a time, and keeping it in my control by staying true to myself. It is continuing to seek knowledge from other sources that promote, encourage, and fight for natural approaches to mental health and emotional problems, and supporting them in these efforts.

If you could send a brief message to someone receiving mental health care today who is feeling hopeless about getting better, what would you say?

Do not give up; there is hope. Hope doesn't cost you anything, and you are worthy of attaining it and keeping it. Hope is something that you can have all to yourself without anyone ever knowing that you have it. No matter what anyone tells you, no matter who they are or what their title is, you can get better. The first step to getting better is having hope that you will; even if that hope is as small as a mustard seed, that's all that you need for it to start growing until it pushes through the soil and begins to sprout. You are a beautiful creation with unique qualities and capabilities that have purpose and meaning. If the experience that you're in right now seems overwhelming, think about all of the accomplishments that you've made in the past and how you prevailed in those situations. You will make it through this; you are strong and you are not forgotten by those of us who have been right there where you are. Remember that even if you don't know our names, or have never seen our faces, we are cheering you on, hoping for you and with you, [so] that you will overcome this just as we did.


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