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How Do You Know When You’re Recovered?

I use peer counseling a lot. I need to use it more. It really helps. I get together with a friend for an agreed upon length of time. We divide the time in half. Half the time I talk, cry, fuss, shine, shake, whatever feels right. The other person listens and is supportive but never critical, judgmental and refrains from giving advice. The other half the time is their time to receive the same service. The sessions are totally confidential.

Focusing exercises were recommended to me by colleagues in England who use them regularly to avoid episodes of depression or mania. They are simple self help exercises that help me get to the root of my feelings. Whenever I start to feel overwhelmed I lay down and relax. Then I ask myself a series of simple questions that lead me to new insight. I often suggest others read a focusing book or going to a focusing seminar. I included a chapter on focusing in my latest book.

One very important decision I made is that I will never again consider suicide or try to take my own life. I have decided I am in this for the duration and I will face whatever comes up. And since I made that decision I have had to do just that many times. I have reinforced that choice over and over again and do not allow myself to dwell on suicide.

I look back on my life and think about how things might have been different.

  • What if, when my friend was hit by a car, the adults in my life held me, let me cry, affirmed my fear, pain and loneliness, and sat with me all night when I was having nightmares instead of trying to fill my life with activity so I would “forget”.
  • What if, when they took my mother off to the mental hospital, someone had held me and comforted me and acknowledged my sadness rather than leaving me to cry myself to sleep?
  • What if the adults in my life had protected me from the boys who were harassing and molesting me rather than telling me I must be doing something to “lead them on”?
  • What if my caretaker had praised me rather than criticized me? What if she had told me how pretty and bright and creative and precious I was so that I believed in myself instead of thinking I was a “bad” girl?
  • What if my schoolmates had surrounded me with loving care instead of ostracizing me because my mother was in a mental hospital?
  • Why did they think my mother would get well if they locked her in a dark smelly hospital where she slept in a room with 40 other patients, with no privacy, no affirmation, and no support-a living hell? Suppose treatment had instead consisted of warm, loving support. Maybe I would have had a mother when I was growing up.
  • Suppose that first doctor who told me I was manic depressive had told me that my wellness was up to me, that I had to learn about mood ups and downs, that a complete physical examination was necessary to pinpoint the cause of the instability, that diet makes a difference, exercise is a great help, that appropriate support can make the difference between a good and bad day, etc.?

A future best case scenario intrigues me-my vision of how people who are overwhelmed with uncomfortable or bizarre symptoms might be treated in the future. Treatment would begin when we requested it (which, given this scenario we would certainly do more often) for overwhelming depression, out of control mania, frightening delusions or hallucinations, or obsessing about suicide or hurting ourselves. When we reach out for help, warm, loving care people offer us a variety of options, available immediately. Options include a cruise ship, a mountain resort, a ranch in the midwest, or a swanky hotel. All include opportunities for consultation and treatment with top notch, caring, health care professionals. A swimming pool, Jacuzzi, sauna , steam room and work out room are available at all times. A choice of healthy food is offered. Creative expression through a wide variety of art mediums is available. Massage and other kinds of body work are included when requested. Classes in stress reduction and relaxation are offered. Support groups are available on a voluntary basis. Warm supportive people are available at all times to listen, hold and encourage. Expression of emotion is encouraged. Family members and friends chosen by you are welcome to come along. When preferred, such services might even be available in the home setting. Understanding employers would be glad to give employees time out for this wellness promoting experience.

Given these circumstances, how long would it take you to get well?

Mary Ellen Copeland, Ph.D. is an author, educator and mental health recovery advocate, as well as the developer of WRAP (Wellness Recovery Action Plan). To learn more about her books, such as the popular The Depression Workbook and Wellness Recovery Action Plan, her other writings, and WRAP, please visit her website, Mental Health Recovery and WRAP. Reprinted here with permission.

How Do You Know When You’re Recovered?

Mary Ellen Copeland, Ph.D.

APA Reference
Copeland, M. (2018). How Do You Know When You’re Recovered?. Psych Central. Retrieved on July 10, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 Oct 2018 (Originally: 17 May 2016)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 Oct 2018
Published on Psych All rights reserved.