Self-management teaches consumers of mental health treatment and people struggling with a mental health condition to eliminate all obstacles in your chosen path to recovery. The success of a person making true lasting gains in their recovery hinges on your capacity to identify immediate and long-term problems in your path to recovery, and in doing so, also produces and creates new and permanent solutions before your mental health issues become new and problematic complications in your treatment.
So, how does this translate into practical steps? I recommend:
- Being proactive with communicating with providers, case managers, and allies in your recovery.
- Don’t be afraid to be a so-called nuisance to your treatment team. In the end, your health matters. So, a few extra phone calls when you know your mental health may be in jeopardy is more important than presenting as ‘together’ and ‘high functioning’.
- Get to know who your point person is and stay connected to their care of service until you are stable enough to coordinate your own care during a psychiatric emergency and are well on your way to your recovery.
- Familiarize yourself with the mental health system in your area and surrounding geographical location.
- Registering and applying for entitlements on account of your mental health condition may be critical in having the freedom you need in your life and accommodations to truly be attentive to your self-care and recovery.
There are always more resources available for you if you connect with key players in the systems that serve your special needs group. There may be qualifying hoops to go through and steps ahead of you, so start early and be prepared for delays. These systematic delays and red tape you must go through will likely reduce the potential for gaps in your treatment.
Remember, your commitment to care for yourself, adherence, and radical acceptance will be vital to preserving your belief in a positive outcome for the future. It’s easy to disbelieve in your own recovery if you aren’t sticking to your treatment plan and completing your objectives in a reasonable time frame. So, expecting good results and positive gains in your recovery when you aren’t focused on your treatment and adhering to the recommendations of your providers can potentially put you at risk of an unexpected relapse, when a simple understanding of the risks and benefits of your treatment path will put you in range of your goals.
At some point during your recovery, you may believe insurmountable odds are pitted against your chances of success. This may be the aftermath of poor decisions on your part or the introduction of a new situation you are hurled into which was poorly planned and misunderstood in its power to derail your recovery plans. In these cases, no amount of planning ahead and insight into your clinical picture can abate the perfect storm of new and unpredictable contributing factors putting you at risk of relapse. I term this type of clinical situation mental status free fall and the emergent need for immediate help. In these cases, experiencing some relief from your symptoms isn’t in the immediate future.
Self-management of your symptoms may not be realistic either, and you may be confronting a toxic chain of events, which will ultimately put your recovery in jeopardy of definite failure. In the wake of such global distress to your overall mental status, I recommend a simple and easy plan to implement during these crises and persistent loss of possibly self-control and capacity to problem solve or create solutions for yourself.
While self-management talks a lot about repairing decision-making before things get out of control, things can and will err regardless of our behavior. Taking comfort in the inevitable loss of our gains to date and radically accepting a loss or drop in mental status may be what’s necessary to start over again.
So, instead of exhausting all your resources for one unattainable last goal, regroup, because these very resources will be moot and a waste of energy if you get hurt. I have seen first-hand patients barricade themselves in their apartments to avoid hospitalization and this is never the answer. There is a function in failure. Nobody is beyond starting over unless you are ready to give up on your recovery altogether. So, hit the refresh key in your life and sit back as your worldview resets, wait, and hope next time things will be different.
Max Guttman, LCSW, is a Mental Health Therapist in Private Practice.