Taking Chances in Recovery

Pat Hayes; Springfield, IL

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

Yes. A crisis for me involves hearing mean voices, paranoia, having false beliefs, anxiety, and sleep difficulty. They were scary, but I noticed that each time after I began to feel better I felt strong, because I knew I could get through it.

Then in my late twenties, I began a fitness routine of lifting weights, jogging, swimming, and riding my bike and this helped my recovery in a great way. In my twenties and thirties, spirituality expanded and strengthened in my life and this helped my recovery in a great way. Along with spirituality, my fitness routine, my career, and peer support the past seven years have been great, and I believe in wellness and recovery.

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

In my teens and twenties I felt this way, but I always kept some hope in me. I turned to alcohol for several years, but this made things worse over time. I was having mental health challenges each year, was isolated, and could not keep a job even though I had a college degree. I wasn’t able to do what I am able to do now, but I always kept hope alive that I could get better. I continued to pray and spend time in nature even though I was suffering. Thankfully, I met and became involved with community support groups and the Illinois recovery movement and this put my recovery in a new direction. Their support helped me.

When hospitalized as an adolescent in the 1990s I was told that Pat has schizophrenia, there is no cure, and he will suffer with this the rest of his life. I found out years later that hospital staff suggested sending me to a residential living facility in Chicago. Then in my twenties after college I was given all sorts of wrong messages about my mental health challenges relating to stigma, what I can or cannot do, what I should and should not say to people.

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

Taking care of myself physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually so that I can maintain my wellness and enjoy life. Recovery for me is about focusing on wellness in my life.

… Taking chances in recovery was important for me. For example going to the first community support group alone was a difficult step for me, but later ended up joining the group and then this helped me get a job… A second chance I took was moving from my home town to a city where I did not know anyone for a job and this also turned out to be good thing.