Recovery: Battling Painful Mindsets

Reviewed Mar 17, 2017

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Summary

  • Let go of any shame you feel for experiencing mental illness.
  • Stop dreading its return.
  • Work to overcome obsessive thoughts about your mental health.

If you or a loved one is recovering from a mental illness, you know that the process can be painfully slow. The worst is behind you—you’re starting to feel like yourself again. So why can’t you get on with your life? Perhaps you’ve succumbed to some of the “demons” that haunt recovery:

  • Shame
  • Dread
  • Obsession

Keep reading to learn how these three mindsets hurt your recovery and how you can conquer them.

The lie of shame

Whether you experienced something as common as depression or as severe as schizophrenia, your doctor or mental health professional has likely explained the biological basis of the disorder. But are you feeling ashamed of what you went through, as though it reflects on your character? Perhaps you can relate to these concerns:

  • Lack of trust in yourself
  • Fear of rejection by others
  • The belief that you are terribly flawed or deficient

Conquering shame

If you allow the quiet yet destructive message “I’m defective” to continue to play in your mind, shame wins. You can no more overcome mental illness by sheer willpower than you can cure diabetes or cancer that way. And would you be ashamed of a different biologically based disorder such as migraine or thyroid disease? Ditch the shame—modern medicine has come too far for any of us to buy into an outmoded and fearful stereotype that someone with mental illness is subhuman. To be human is to be emotionally, intellectually, and physically imperfect.

The specter of dread

Another obstacle on the road to recovery is a persistent dread that the illness will return. This demon is a bit tougher to cast down—most illnesses have the potential to recur. This makes dread seem reasonable, but in truth it thwarts healing.

Conquering dread

You don’t need the emotional and physical stress of worry as you recover, so dread has to go—but how? In Triumph Over Fear, author Jerilyn Ross encourages you to:

  • Understand that recovery does not mean symptom-free perfection.
  • Expect good days, bad days, and occasional setbacks.
  • See setbacks as opportunities to grow.
  • Celebrate the coping skills that you have gained.
  • Rest in the knowledge that you coped with the illness once; if it returns, you will again.

The burden of obsession

As you battle dread, you might try to get control over your fears by scanning yourself constantly for the first signs that your illness has returned. This is another defense mechanism that appears reasonable, but such a mental habit keeps you anxious and can snowball to an obsession with your illness. You start to panic at the subtlest signs of a low mood, anger, anxiety, or agitation—but those are all normal human feelings.

Conquering obsession

Before making assumptions about your symptoms, ask your doctor or mental health professional when you really should be concerned. Ask him for strategies to cope with setbacks and to help you identify the genuine signs that the illness is returning.

What if you don’t want to dwell on the illness but can’t stop? In The Anxiety and Phobia Workbook, Edmund Bourne, PhD, cautions anyone battling obsession against resisting thoughts too fiercely. Too much resistance usually makes the thoughts pick up their intensity. Dr. Bourne suggests instead that you acknowledge thoughts about the illness, symptoms, etc. that plague you, and then try the following:

  • Delay the thoughts—allow yourself to think them in 30 seconds, increasing the wait time gradually.
  • Remind yourself that thoughts often aren’t accurate and that you don’t have to pay attention to them.
  • Distract yourself with reading, crossword puzzles, talking to someone about something else, mentally rehearsing a favorite poem, etc.
  • Get moving—exercise helps reduce anxiety in general and can calm fretful thoughts.

Pressing on

It’s possible you will feel better for just recognizing that shame, dread, and obsession have hindered your recovery. According to Dr. Vicki Koenig of the Sanctuary Psychiatric Center in Santa Barbara, Calif., psychiatric research suggests that mental illness can be managed and success in recovery can be achieved. She encourages you to believe in the statistical reality that you will continue to recover, and to be patient since each person diagnosed with mental illness recovers at a different rate. 

Resource

National Alliance on Mental Illness
(800) 950-NAMI
www.nami.org

By Laurie M. Stewart
Source: Koenig, Vicki. “Mental Illness—Information for Families.” Sanctuary Psychiatric Center, www.spcsb.org; The Anxiety and Phobia Workbook by Edmund J. Bourne, Ph.D. New Harbinger Publications Inc., 1995. Triumph Over Fear by Jerilyn Ross. Bantam Books, 1994.

Summary

  • Let go of any shame you feel for experiencing mental illness.
  • Stop dreading its return.
  • Work to overcome obsessive thoughts about your mental health.

If you or a loved one is recovering from a mental illness, you know that the process can be painfully slow. The worst is behind you—you’re starting to feel like yourself again. So why can’t you get on with your life? Perhaps you’ve succumbed to some of the “demons” that haunt recovery:

  • Shame
  • Dread
  • Obsession

Keep reading to learn how these three mindsets hurt your recovery and how you can conquer them.

The lie of shame

Whether you experienced something as common as depression or as severe as schizophrenia, your doctor or mental health professional has likely explained the biological basis of the disorder. But are you feeling ashamed of what you went through, as though it reflects on your character? Perhaps you can relate to these concerns:

  • Lack of trust in yourself
  • Fear of rejection by others
  • The belief that you are terribly flawed or deficient

Conquering shame

If you allow the quiet yet destructive message “I’m defective” to continue to play in your mind, shame wins. You can no more overcome mental illness by sheer willpower than you can cure diabetes or cancer that way. And would you be ashamed of a different biologically based disorder such as migraine or thyroid disease? Ditch the shame—modern medicine has come too far for any of us to buy into an outmoded and fearful stereotype that someone with mental illness is subhuman. To be human is to be emotionally, intellectually, and physically imperfect.

The specter of dread

Another obstacle on the road to recovery is a persistent dread that the illness will return. This demon is a bit tougher to cast down—most illnesses have the potential to recur. This makes dread seem reasonable, but in truth it thwarts healing.

Conquering dread

You don’t need the emotional and physical stress of worry as you recover, so dread has to go—but how? In Triumph Over Fear, author Jerilyn Ross encourages you to:

  • Understand that recovery does not mean symptom-free perfection.
  • Expect good days, bad days, and occasional setbacks.
  • See setbacks as opportunities to grow.
  • Celebrate the coping skills that you have gained.
  • Rest in the knowledge that you coped with the illness once; if it returns, you will again.

The burden of obsession

As you battle dread, you might try to get control over your fears by scanning yourself constantly for the first signs that your illness has returned. This is another defense mechanism that appears reasonable, but such a mental habit keeps you anxious and can snowball to an obsession with your illness. You start to panic at the subtlest signs of a low mood, anger, anxiety, or agitation—but those are all normal human feelings.

Conquering obsession

Before making assumptions about your symptoms, ask your doctor or mental health professional when you really should be concerned. Ask him for strategies to cope with setbacks and to help you identify the genuine signs that the illness is returning.

What if you don’t want to dwell on the illness but can’t stop? In The Anxiety and Phobia Workbook, Edmund Bourne, PhD, cautions anyone battling obsession against resisting thoughts too fiercely. Too much resistance usually makes the thoughts pick up their intensity. Dr. Bourne suggests instead that you acknowledge thoughts about the illness, symptoms, etc. that plague you, and then try the following:

  • Delay the thoughts—allow yourself to think them in 30 seconds, increasing the wait time gradually.
  • Remind yourself that thoughts often aren’t accurate and that you don’t have to pay attention to them.
  • Distract yourself with reading, crossword puzzles, talking to someone about something else, mentally rehearsing a favorite poem, etc.
  • Get moving—exercise helps reduce anxiety in general and can calm fretful thoughts.

Pressing on

It’s possible you will feel better for just recognizing that shame, dread, and obsession have hindered your recovery. According to Dr. Vicki Koenig of the Sanctuary Psychiatric Center in Santa Barbara, Calif., psychiatric research suggests that mental illness can be managed and success in recovery can be achieved. She encourages you to believe in the statistical reality that you will continue to recover, and to be patient since each person diagnosed with mental illness recovers at a different rate. 

Resource

National Alliance on Mental Illness
(800) 950-NAMI
www.nami.org

By Laurie M. Stewart
Source: Koenig, Vicki. “Mental Illness—Information for Families.” Sanctuary Psychiatric Center, www.spcsb.org; The Anxiety and Phobia Workbook by Edmund J. Bourne, Ph.D. New Harbinger Publications Inc., 1995. Triumph Over Fear by Jerilyn Ross. Bantam Books, 1994.

Summary

  • Let go of any shame you feel for experiencing mental illness.
  • Stop dreading its return.
  • Work to overcome obsessive thoughts about your mental health.

If you or a loved one is recovering from a mental illness, you know that the process can be painfully slow. The worst is behind you—you’re starting to feel like yourself again. So why can’t you get on with your life? Perhaps you’ve succumbed to some of the “demons” that haunt recovery:

  • Shame
  • Dread
  • Obsession

Keep reading to learn how these three mindsets hurt your recovery and how you can conquer them.

The lie of shame

Whether you experienced something as common as depression or as severe as schizophrenia, your doctor or mental health professional has likely explained the biological basis of the disorder. But are you feeling ashamed of what you went through, as though it reflects on your character? Perhaps you can relate to these concerns:

  • Lack of trust in yourself
  • Fear of rejection by others
  • The belief that you are terribly flawed or deficient

Conquering shame

If you allow the quiet yet destructive message “I’m defective” to continue to play in your mind, shame wins. You can no more overcome mental illness by sheer willpower than you can cure diabetes or cancer that way. And would you be ashamed of a different biologically based disorder such as migraine or thyroid disease? Ditch the shame—modern medicine has come too far for any of us to buy into an outmoded and fearful stereotype that someone with mental illness is subhuman. To be human is to be emotionally, intellectually, and physically imperfect.

The specter of dread

Another obstacle on the road to recovery is a persistent dread that the illness will return. This demon is a bit tougher to cast down—most illnesses have the potential to recur. This makes dread seem reasonable, but in truth it thwarts healing.

Conquering dread

You don’t need the emotional and physical stress of worry as you recover, so dread has to go—but how? In Triumph Over Fear, author Jerilyn Ross encourages you to:

  • Understand that recovery does not mean symptom-free perfection.
  • Expect good days, bad days, and occasional setbacks.
  • See setbacks as opportunities to grow.
  • Celebrate the coping skills that you have gained.
  • Rest in the knowledge that you coped with the illness once; if it returns, you will again.

The burden of obsession

As you battle dread, you might try to get control over your fears by scanning yourself constantly for the first signs that your illness has returned. This is another defense mechanism that appears reasonable, but such a mental habit keeps you anxious and can snowball to an obsession with your illness. You start to panic at the subtlest signs of a low mood, anger, anxiety, or agitation—but those are all normal human feelings.

Conquering obsession

Before making assumptions about your symptoms, ask your doctor or mental health professional when you really should be concerned. Ask him for strategies to cope with setbacks and to help you identify the genuine signs that the illness is returning.

What if you don’t want to dwell on the illness but can’t stop? In The Anxiety and Phobia Workbook, Edmund Bourne, PhD, cautions anyone battling obsession against resisting thoughts too fiercely. Too much resistance usually makes the thoughts pick up their intensity. Dr. Bourne suggests instead that you acknowledge thoughts about the illness, symptoms, etc. that plague you, and then try the following:

  • Delay the thoughts—allow yourself to think them in 30 seconds, increasing the wait time gradually.
  • Remind yourself that thoughts often aren’t accurate and that you don’t have to pay attention to them.
  • Distract yourself with reading, crossword puzzles, talking to someone about something else, mentally rehearsing a favorite poem, etc.
  • Get moving—exercise helps reduce anxiety in general and can calm fretful thoughts.

Pressing on

It’s possible you will feel better for just recognizing that shame, dread, and obsession have hindered your recovery. According to Dr. Vicki Koenig of the Sanctuary Psychiatric Center in Santa Barbara, Calif., psychiatric research suggests that mental illness can be managed and success in recovery can be achieved. She encourages you to believe in the statistical reality that you will continue to recover, and to be patient since each person diagnosed with mental illness recovers at a different rate. 

Resource

National Alliance on Mental Illness
(800) 950-NAMI
www.nami.org

By Laurie M. Stewart
Source: Koenig, Vicki. “Mental Illness—Information for Families.” Sanctuary Psychiatric Center, www.spcsb.org; The Anxiety and Phobia Workbook by Edmund J. Bourne, Ph.D. New Harbinger Publications Inc., 1995. Triumph Over Fear by Jerilyn Ross. Bantam Books, 1994.

The information provided on the Achieve Solutions site, including, but not limited to, articles, quizzes, and other general information, is for informational purposes only and should not be treated as medical, health care, psychiatric, psychological or behavioral health care advice. Nothing contained on the Achieve Solutions site is intended to be used for medical diagnosis or treatment or as a substitute for consultation with a qualified health care professional. Please direct questions regarding the operation of the Achieve Solutions site to Web Feedback. If you have concerns about your health, please contact your health care provider.  ©2017 Beacon Health Options, Inc.

 

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