What Mental Illness Recovery Is Really Like

December 12, 2022 Laura A. Barton

Mental illness recovery looks nothing like I expected it would. Talk of recovery painted pictures of cures for mental illness that removed all struggle from my life and made everything—and I mean everything—better. What I’ve found is that recovery is different from that perception, and the truth is I’m okay with that.

Mental Illness Recovery Expectations Versus Reality

The beauty of what I’ve found mental illness recovery to really be like is while it’s different than my expectations, I’ve still gotten (most of) what I was actually seeking beyond the surface-level description of “better.”

This might be clearer if I break it down.

What I get out of my mental illness recovery

  • My mental illnesses don’t impact me as much anymore.
  • I’m no longer ashamed of having mental illnesses.
  • I’m able to live a full and satisfying life even though I still have my mental illnesses.

When it boils down to it, those are the things I wanted when I was looking for cures or ways to erase my struggles from my life. I wanted to alleviate the impact my mental health struggles had on me, I wanted to stop feeling ashamed and stop hating myself for having these illnesses, and I wanted to be able to live—to truly live, not just exist.

What’s different about mental illness recovery than I expected

  • I still have depression, anxiety, and excoriation (skin-picking) disorder.
  • I still have bad days (plenty of them) that can leave me struggling to function.
  • I accept and don’t feel the need to get rid of my illnesses anymore.
  • I’m okay with talking about having these illnesses even though I still actively deal with them.

The way I see it, recovery is presented as this idea of complete erasure of mental illnesses (expectation). Instead of efforts to work with what we’ve got and address it that way, it’s about cutting away the struggle as if it was never a part of us and didn’t change us in any way. 

The truth (reality) is that mental illness changes us emotionally, mentally, and even physically, so we can’t just pull it out and chuck it as if it never existed.

Mental Illness Recovery Gave Me My Life Back

Is the way I experience recovery better or worse than what I expected? I can’t actually say. I’ve never had a taste of the vision of recovery we’re presented with, after all.

What I can say is that this version of recovery works for me. If a better version does come along, that’s awesome, but until then, I’m happy with mental illness recovery that’s given me my life back.

APA Reference
Barton, L. (2022, December 12). What Mental Illness Recovery Is Really Like, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, April 14 from

Author: Laura A. Barton

Laura A. Barton is a fiction and non-fiction writer from Ontario, Canada. Find her on Twitter, FacebookInstagram, and Goodreads.

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