Recovery Redefined

 The Medical Model Failed

We got sick.  Well, we were already sick.  We sat in the doctor's office, while the doctor quizzed us about our behavior, sorting out where we belonged in the DSM's symptom silo.

Next the doctor enrolled us in The Chemistry Experiment, prescribed the chemicals that were supposed to reduce those behaviors.  Not fix our brains, mind you.  Nobody has been testing whether these chemicals fix our brains, just whether they change our behaviors.

If one set of chemicals didn't do it, they try another, then another.  If we feel a little better, that isn't enough.  They want to eliminate our symptoms.  Like the days when oncologists poisoned their patients into one medical crisis after another, but they were going to kill those cancer cells, by golly.

As if we didn't have enough trouble already.

That's when we got sick and tired.  Some (most) enter the massive power struggle with the massively powerful doctor over whether we will take these pills.  But the doctor doesn't have the power (unless we are hospitalized and in restraints) to make us continue The Chemistry Experiment.  Just the power to name us.  Noncompliant.  It's not our fault we're sick, just our fault that we don't get better, because when we weighed our costs and benefits, we came to a different conclusion than they did.

In any case, the people who dutifully take their pills don't get their lives back anyway.  They do not get to the top of this ladder in the doctor's imagination.  These chemicals are not so carefully targeted.  Each part of our brain is connected to every other part.  You mess with one, you mess with another.

You can make the voices go away.  But you will sit in a corner twitching.  Actually, you can't make the voices away.  You learn to lie, so the doctor doesn't increase the dose.

You can make your tears go away.  But your sex life goes along with your tears.  And you get so little sleep, even if you don't plan to kill yourself, when your car drifts across the line, you just don't care.


Okay, people do get benefit from these meds.  And sometimes enough benefit that the tradeoffs are worth it.  It's your body, you make the call.  Be a lab rat, but be a free range lab rat.

The Recovery Model

This model was designed by free range lab rats, people who have mental illness, but are really smart anyway, and know their stuff.  They know what their doctors don't know -- the whole picture.

Kathryn Cohan McNulty used the work of Joyce Burland PhD. to design Peer to Peer, NAMI's 10-week course for and by people who have a mental illness.  The Stages of Recovery, the top three boxes over on the left, came from BRIDGES, Building Recovery of Individual Dreams and Goals through Education and Support.

In other words, how to get your life back.

Not really.  More like, how to get a life back, a life worth living.  Because honey, your life is never going to be the same.  Why would you want it to be?  It made you sick, remember?

Recovery Redefined

It's a mouthful, but here it is:

Recovery is the individual lived experience of moving through and then beyond limitations imposed by the disorder, by the world around us, and even by the treatment itself.

I'll pick that apart next time.

Note added on 01/02/13 -- Links to other posts in this series are below:

Is Recovery Possible? - Kayla Harrison Continued August 25, 2012 -- The judo champ's story introduces the concept of recovery.
Seventeen Keys to Recovery August 30, 2012 -- Guest blogger Margalea Warner describes her journey in recovery in schizophrenia.
Recovery - The Medical Model September 7, 2012 -- Introduces the doctor's agenda, covers the first half of the story.
Recovery - The Medical Model Continued September 14, 2012 -- It was a great idea.  If only it worked.
Recovery - From What? October 1, 2012 -- You have to know where you are going if you want to get there.
Stages of Recovery - AKA Hope October 5, 2012 -- We recover in stages, and need different tools for each stage.
Neuroscience of Meaningful Work October 10, 2012 -- Oh goodie!  Here come the dendrites!
Hope for a Cure? Or Not? October 18, 2012 -- We finish the series with questions left unanswered, like, What is a cure worth?

photo Loneliness by Graur Razvan Ionut, from

photo Angry Father by Akapl619, used under the Creative Commons Attribution-

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