Our Recovery Community is One of the Richest in Our Country

Corinna West
15
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I built my entire community in the last eight years.  Eight years ago I was recently divorced, unemployed, on six psych meds, and homeless. I invited everyone I knew to a party and four people came.

Last weekend I invited everyone I knew to a party and 120 people came. If you haven’t seen me online lately, that’s because we’ve been busy planning this. People came that I love and people who love me, and hopefully many people in both categories. Now I own a home, work full time on my own business, have lots of fun, have a new family, and own a car that I don’t drive much since I’ve found that bicycling gives me a better quality of life. I’ve completely exited any mental health care. I told someone last night, “I’m rich.”

Even though my income is still small, I am happy, I eat good food, and I have people who love me. One of the previous commenters on my blog said that I shouldn’t count myself as recovered by my material possessions, and he’s completely right. But also I think that recovery isn’t just a lack of symptoms, it’s building a great life. We can work towards our goals financially, spiritually, in family affairs, in education, with our physical health, and in personal relationships. Wes Cole, a longtime Kansas mental health advocate said during the 2010 Kansas Recovery Conference, “Of all of my communities, you are one of the richest. Not in terms of material possessions, but in terms of connections, of having a group of people around you who really care about each other no matter what happens.”

Eight years ago I had very few friends. I was living the life of someone else, my first husband who was emotionally very isolated and a low energy person. My mom at one point suggested that I had to get a mental health label to get my high ambition self slowed down enough to match him. When I was divorced, I thought I would never re-marry. I consciously built a community bit by bit by finding things that I enjoyed doing and people I liked to spend time with. Some of them I told my mental health history, and for most of them, it didn’t even matter.

I wasn’t in the man market because I knew I’d have to date another cyclist. How else were we going to get places?  Then, about a year and a half ago, I met one that I liked right from the beginning. Here’s his story about how he met me, and my story about how I met him. Of course, these should be the same story from different points of view, but you’ll have to check. We had an awesome wedding. We invited all of our friends, and had a great time. We had a bike race, an art show, a community fire, an on-site tattoo ceremony, a poetry performance, pedicab rides, a business display table, a Judo Walk of Shame, and a frisbee golf demonstration. This was collection of all the communities I’ve build in the meantime, all the activities I’ve found along the way. We don’t recover in order to do things, we do things in order to recover. 

It was great fun. I wish you could have come. Many of my local advocate friends were there, and some from farther away. And I’m so glad that I found my fellow psychiatric survivors, mental health escapees, anti-authoritarians, deviants, creative people, passion fighters, dreamers, and catalysts for change. You’re the ones who helped me make it all possible.

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15 COMMENTS

  1. Congratulations! A model of recovery for us all!

    By the way, this is a great antidote to the sadness that is starting to build in me for Memorial Day. Not only for the soldiers who have lost their lives, sometimes unnecessarily, but also for those who lost their lives for one mental health reason or another. Let us remember them always.

    • Here is a collection of links about soldiers who are dying in their sleep due to psych med usage. 254 sudden deaths directly linked to psych meds so far last I saw Fred Baughman’s count. http://isepp.wordpress.com/tag/dr-fred-baughman/

      One reason that this is a sad thing is that many people do not know a solution to it. But never fear, those of us who have recovered from PTSD do know the solution: being accepting of our emotions, finding processes like art or meditation to manage and truly feel difficult emotions, finding sources of personal power and strength, finding friends, building community, finding a way to contribute, exercise, eating OK, taking care of sleep, and not thinking of yourself as flawed. Also getting off meds that might be making things worse. Knowing that stress is a normal reaction to awful situations. Etc. – there is a whole menu of effective answers.

      The Mission Continues is an awesome organization based here in Missouri that helps vets find jobs and real roles in society.

      Just as Douglas Coulter said, “PTSD is a reaction, not an illness.” And I think it was Duane Sherry that said, “Psychosis is an event, not a person.”

      Doctors would do well to share this hopeful information.

  2. Such an inspiring post! I’d be interested to know more about the beginnings of the recovery community. I live in Romania and people don’t really know much about recovery. They aren’t familiar with the user/survivor movement, and are resistant to the idea of services provided by users/survivors, although there are a few small peer-run organizations throughout the country. I really want to make a difference, but I feel helpless and I don’t know how I could reach people – both users and professionals, because all they know is the medical model or some extension of it. I’m a MSW student with lived experience and, one of my professors and I have decided that we could write a book on good practices that we could show to other professionals, but I’m very skeptical about their willingness to embrace anything new, especially from the user’s perspective. I’d appreciate it if you could give me some tips. It would really help.

    • Here are 41 people in Romania that were nominated for a social entrepreneur award. While not all work in mental health, all are currently thinking about new issues and will probably be receptive towards your mental health thinking. They would be good potential allies. http://socialimpactaward.net/41-ideas-submitted-for-social-impact-award/

      As far as building community, not all of my communities were mental health groups, in fact, just one of about ten communities were. You can find a weightlifting or gymnastics group, a knitting club, a dog training club, a reading group at the library….anything can become your community.

  3. “We don’t recover in order to do things, we do things in order to recover.”

    That should be the headliner to promote how simple it can be if one is allowed to look past the “I’m flawed” jargon. How sad for our society to keep believing that they are sick..especially our children and returning vets. Their tender souls have been wounded and with the right support they can be healed but if we jump to diagnosis them as broken it destroys hope for recovery.

    Thank you Corrina for continuing to share your insight as it keeps me empowered and bolstered to keep spreading and practicing the truth!