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July 12, 2012 Volume 3, Issue 26
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Recovery International
by Celinda Jungheim
I cherish my mental health, and I worked hard to get it. More than 40 years ago, I didn't even want to live. Of course I couldn't imagine a happy life. But today, my life is full and meaningful. How I got to this point has become my life story.

As I look back, I know I suffered from depression as a child. There were days when I stayed in my room for hours, brooding and thinking dark, hateful thoughts. I was angry at the world and hated myself. But nice people don't show that kind of anger, so I never talked about it. I wouldn't have known what to say.

During my college days as a costume designer and seamstress in the theater department, I rode "highs" that kept me working 20-hour shifts, 6 weeks at a time. When the show closed, I'd crash and stay in bed, hating myself yet again. And whenever anyone complimented my work or tried to encourage me, I'd think "they don't know what an awful person I am."

After college, an unsuccessful marriage, and a young son (whom I was totally unprepared to parent), I ran away, leaving my son with his father. A new relationship only caused more depression, and I began to obsess about suicide. I overdosed on several occasions and was taken to the hospital. They always released me within a few days or weeks. Soon after, I became unable to hold a job, take care of my family, or maintain any kind of social life.

After years of living this way, my parents brought me to their home in Southern California. A few weeks later I made my final suicide attempt—this time I was almost successful. I guess I had hit rock bottom.

I was sent from the local hospital to Camarillo State Hospital. I had always pulled myself together when times were tough, so once again I started trying to get out. Thank goodness in the late 60s legal guardians could still commit their adult children. It's the best thing my parents could have done for me. Of course, I didn't think so at the time. I was committed on my 28th birthday with a diagnosis of schizophrenia.

But something wonderful had already come into my life and changed it entirely. After wandering around the hospital with a severe sunburn (an unknown side effect of my medication), I saw a sign for a "Recovery" meeting. I don't recall much of that first meeting because I was overmedicated, but I knew it was the start of what I needed.

The Recovery International Method taught me how to combat my symptoms while I was experiencing them. I always had trouble talking to people about what was bothering me. In the past, this had kept me from discussing my problems with a professional. But the Recovery group dealt with all kinds of feelings, like embarrassment about "saying the wrong thing." And it gave me the resources I needed to deal with reality: the here and now.

I had already attended several meetings when the Recovery Method really started working. It was after a psychiatric nurse remarked that "schizophrenics almost never get well." My feelings plummeted. I went back to my room and decided I might as well give up. But then I began to think about what I was learning in Recovery. They had told me to substitute secure thoughts for insecure thoughts. It occurred to me that the nurse had said schizophrenics almost never get well. I began to think maybe I could be the exception. With that epiphany, the low feelings subsided and I felt fine. I knew then that Recovery was working.

Of course, I wasn't instantly well. When I left the hospital 3 months later, I continued the long, painful climb to recovery, with many setbacks. Soon my son moved closer to home, although he didn't come to live with me for another year or two.

At one point, I stopped attending Recovery meetings and slipped back to my dark days of depression and hateful thoughts. This time, however, I did something about it. I called the social worker who had organized the hospital's Recovery meetings. He asked to meet and then put me to work as a volunteer. Although I had been working at several part-time jobs, I secured an office position with a mortgage banking firm, where I worked until retirement. And my son, who was 6 years old, finally came back to live with me.

Over the years I grew, stumbled, went through another marriage and divorce, and kept gaining self-confidence and maturity through it all. In 1977 I married a fellow Recovery member, Ralph, and 35 years later our relationship still flourishes.

Life isn't always easy, but it is certainly worth living. I still attend Recovery International meetings because for me they are cheap insurance. I have a nurturing environment at home and at work. There is always the possibility my symptoms will resurface if I encounter a serious problem. But now I have the Recovery tools to deal with these problems, and I know I will get through. The journey has taught me to cherish my mental health, and it has been worth it.

Celinda Jungheim is a member of the Recovery International Board. She lives with her husband Ralph and cats Cinder and Sadie in Marina del Rey, California. For more information about Recovery International, visit www.lowselfhelpsystems.org.

Textbook Focuses on Child and Teen Mental Health
A new book coedited by three nursing specialists aims to change the landscape of child and adolescent health care, particularly undiagnosed mental health conditions.

Child and Adolescent Behavioral Health: A Resource for Advanced Practice Psychiatric and Primary Care Practitioners in Nursing is a compilation of reviews and advice on assessment, treatment, special populations, and special issues. The book was written and reviewed by more than 70 nurse experts.

"The reality is that there are not enough child psychiatric providers to meet the burgeoning needs of the pediatric population for mental health services both in the United States and worldwide," wrote the coeditors in the book's preface. "Primary care is at the forefront of service provision and, as such, can play a significant role in mental health early case finding and supportive linkages to treatment."

Learn more.

healing art
Restorative Vacations
In 2010, the Devon Partnership National Health Service Trust began a project to better understand the experiences of people who take medication for mental and behavioral health conditions. Using a mix of questionnaires, interviews, and focus groups, researchers examined the role of medications, side effects, relationships with mental health workers, and crisis management. What they found became the basis for "Putting Recovery at the Heart of all We Do"—guidelines mental health workers can use when interacting with consumers to support people's goals, strengths, and available resources, whether or not they opt for medication during treatment.

Read the guide.

Peers Prove Recovery Is Possible
For many people healing from an addiction, being substance-free is a major milestone on the path to recovery. But getting well also means enjoying a higher quality of life—an underlying goal of all recovery journeys, including recovery from mental illness.

The concept of peers—people who have the same condition as those they help—originated in the addictions field, because the notion of recovery started there, said Dr. Laurence Miller, medical director of the Arkansas Department of Human Services Division of Behavioral Health Services and psychiatry professor at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences. "When I was in training, there was no such thing as recovery," he said. "We talked about stabilizing patients so they could leave the hospital and not come to the clinic so much, but that was it."

What recovery really means is "having a life like everyone else," said Dr. Miller. "With newer medications, there is the opportunity to have a full life, not just stability. People can have jobs, go to school, [and] have relationships."

Read the article.

RTP Wants to Hear From
Recovery-Oriented Practitioners!
We invite practitioners to submit personal stories that describe how they became involved in
recovery-oriented work and how it has changed the way they practice.
RTP Wants to Hear From You, Too!
We invite you to submit personal stories that describe recovery experiences. To submit stories or other recovery resources, please contact us at 877.584.8535,
or email recoverytopractice@dsgonline.com.

We welcome your views, comments, suggestions, and inquiries.
For more information on this topic or any other recovery topic,
please contact RTP at
877.584.8535, or email recoverytopractice@dsgonline.com.


The views, opinions, and content of this Weekly Highlight are those of the authors, and do not necessarily reflect
the views, opinions, or policies of SAMHSA or the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.