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To recover, to be able to cope

Faced with a physical problem, it is easy to consider the possibility of recovering from it, of recovering from it. In other words, to find a satisfying life. When it comes to a mental health issue, this perspective, more often than not, does not come to mind. We think that we cannot get better if we are living with bipolar disorder, eating disorders or another mental disorder.

However, there is another way of looking at these disorders, by focusing on the hope of finding a balance in your life. It is not a question of minimizing the difficulties. Quite simply, the person gradually finds ways to cope with it.  It is said that the person is recovering. The stages it goes through are called recovery.

A movement led by people living with a mental disorder

The movement defending the idea of recovery has been widely supported, first in the United States and more recently in France, by people living with a mental disorder.

This vision arouses interest in some mental health professionals, skepticism in others. It influences the practices in a small number of care and support establishments.

In society, the idea that people with mental health problems can recover is not widely held. It is too often thought, for example, that these people cannot work, or that they must give up starting a family. These are received ideas that do not correspond to reality. These preconceptions prevent us from seeing that these people can, over time, find in themselves and around them the resources not to be overwhelmed by symptoms and to lead their lives as they wish.

Getting well, with its ups and downs

Getting well is not synonymous with being cured. According to his needs, the person recovered from a mental disorder can continue to benefit from care such as psychotherapy, to take one or more drugs. It can rely on support systems, for example living in  a therapeutic apartment .  She will say for example "now things are going better, I am stabilized"; or "I haven't had a relapse for a long time."

The disorder is still present, but it does not prevent the person from making plans.

In the process of recovery, the person experiences ups and downs. She goes through periods during which her projects progress, but also others where her projects are undone and others, again, where nothing happens.

To recover is to change perspective

There is no single way to define recovery. It is often described as "an attitude, a way of life, a feeling, a vision, or an experience rather than a return to normality or health", in the words of Larry Davidson, professor of psychiatry at the Yale University in the United States, in his article published in 2003.

For the person who has to deal with the onset of a mental disorder, it is a question of changing their perspective. She will seek a point of balance in her daily life, which takes into account her vulnerabilities, while relying on her strengths, resources and capacities.

Agathe Martin is a member of the Comme des fous association, founded by people affected by a mental disorder. In  his article  published in 2017 in the journal Rhizome, she defines recovery as a different relationship to disease:

“In my opinion, recovery occurs when the person knows themselves well enough to know if they are doing well, a little less well or if they are doing badly. It is a different relationship to oneself and to illness. It is a way of life, a relationship with oneself in which one constantly tries to determine one's limits […], in which the possibilities have been redefined taking into account the disease but having integrated it into oneself as a parameter of one's existence ".


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