Mental Health Recovery and Self-Sabotage
Thursday, May 23 2013 Natalie Jeanne Champagne
Recovering from the diagnosis of mental illness is hard enough, but we often--conscious or not--self-sabotage our mental health recovery. This blog will attempt to explain why we may do this and, well, how we can focus on recovery without making the process any more difficult.
What is Self-Sabotage As It Applies to Mental Health Recovery?
Briefly, let's refer to the dictionary, yes the dictionary. I think it's important to have a general sense of complicated terms before we connect them to mental illness.
According to the above resource, sabotage, and more specifically self-sabotage, is connected to the following words:
- To damage
- To undermine
- To derail
I am assuming you get the drift here. It's complicated, but I am going to try and simplify it because it's important. When first diagnosed with a mental illness, we often take actions that make recovery more difficult.
Three Examples Connecting Self-Sabotage to Mental Health Recovery
First, I want to point out that the above words intended to help us define self-sabotage seem a little bit negative--they are a bit negative. But we need a basis and so try to put a positive spin on them. That's my goal.
Examples of self-sabotage and mental health recovery:
Refusal to take medication. We can connect this to the word "damage." This damages our recovery. Taking medication is difficult--more so when first diagnosed--and most of us are not used to putting medications in our bodies. It feels foreign! We may refuse treatment for this reason. But most of us need to take medication in order to recover. That said, part of the process when recovering from mental illness is coming to a place of acceptance and accepting the reality that medication is important, well, that's a huge step forward!
Not Educating Ourselves on Our Illness. Let's connect this to the above word to "undermine." I have said it many times--and I don't believe it is talked about enough--we need to educate ourselves on our illness. Education is an ally we cannot afford to dismiss. To refrain from educating ourselves is, yes, undermining our recovery. It's not as complicated as it might seem: Talk to your mental health care team, ask for resources and, most importantly, ask questions! If you can educate yourself you can educate those around you.
Not Taking Self-Care Seriously. I immediately connect this to the word "derail." Taking self-care seriously is really important and, yes, ties into educating ourselves. But we need to practice self-care--not just read about it! Words are great, but are not of much use unless we put them into action.
Okay. Moving on. . .
4 Ways to Embrace Mental Health Recovery & End Self-Sabotage
I want to make this easy, well, give it my best shot. . .
- Make a list (and be honest with yourself) of ways in which you might self-sabotage your recovery. Use this list to determine how you can stop negative behavior and the corresponding actions.
- Stay positive. We all self-sabotage, it's part of being human and makes us real, but remember that recovering from mental illness requires us to be honest with ourselves--and our mental health team--in order to recover. Admittedly, it's hard to stay positive, but just try. Sometimes, that's all we can do.
- Try to remember that the more positive actions you can take (self-care for example), the quicker your mental health recovery process will be.
- Work on accepting mental illness. This is, I believe, the hardest part of being diagnosed with a mental illness. But once we can work toward acceptance, self-sabotage will lessen.
Hopefully, this was not exceedingly boring as that was certainly not my intent. It's a messy topic---but learning to recognize it and work to push it out of our lives--makes us stronger.
Now, I'm throwing the question out to you: Do you believe you self-sabotage? Provide some examples and, if you like, ways in which you were able to change the behavior and actions associated with it.