What a criticism of recovery is – a discussion

A: Sometimes it concerns me that there is a straw man about what a criticism of recovery is.

If we take the biomedical model view (that is not actually that widespread but is definitely a bugbear of the ‘recovery movement’) that, I suppose going back to Dementia Praecox, there was little likelihood of ‘recovering’ from mental health issues, then I for one can acknowledge that the ‘recovery movement’ pushed the possibility of ‘recovering’ out of that belief.

I would argue, as I said above, that this ‘never recover’ model was less wide spread than the myth would have, but it did exist. I was told by at least one person in the early nineties after being diagnosed that my life was over take my pills and sign on, but many others were very encouraging right from the start.

However, thinking of talking to founders of this group, my criticism was that austerity would make recovery harder.

But it’s not rocket science. This knowledge base goes back to Durkheim and his research in changes in suicide rates. And as such given the time it takes to gather data, there will be evidence to either condemn or vindicate us on changes in recovery rates in five years or so. Obviously the data will be scattered, open to interpretation, there will be methodological differences and ideological spin. But I am willing to state here and now my money will be that there will be sufficient evidence (if there isn’t already) that austerity has worsened recovery rates.

I would also argue that there is room for a discourse analysis that looks at how ‘metalanguage’ of recovery policy after acknowledging people can recover but then denying the effects of the economy and austerity policy then becomes more punitive, which personal testament in this group has borne witness to.

B: My perception is that ‘never recover’ was not as widespread as sometimes promoted by certain factions.
Now that’s swung to the polar opposite, no one is permitted to have long term issues or refer to them as probably permanent.
Now you will & must recover, you are obligated to and regardless of context and the political operating system we live in.
Austerity, neonormative neorecovery with fixed outcomes as we have does make whatever we view as ‘recovery’ (if it’s a concept you subscribe to) impossible for some folk.

I never subscribed to recovery at any point before austerity, for me there was something malleable about it which would always fit a self-serving agenda regardless. It always felt like a dodgy car to me. I’m aware that’s probably a minority perception, that more of us saw something good it which changed over time. #ideologydar

A: I suppose for me, I hate being ‘unwell’ (obviously), so the idea that I could recover was for me a massive a driving factor, and indeed I have been a ‘lot’ weller than now. My breakdown in 2011 was devastating for me, due to having got so much better before.

But I do agree, especially in hindsight, that the idea of recovery is somewhat malleable, and now I am 9 years into what was originally a PhD level research project, I can recognise it is an issue of what is called subjectivity too. I was obviously aware of that before 2009 or I wouldn’t have come up with the research!

And I do still so much want to live without ‘voices’. But I am more sanguine now.

B: For me I looked up to activists who were out there and living but still at times really going through it. None of them made any reference to ‘recovery’. If anything I felt greater acceptance of the ebb & flow.
How do recovery poster boys & girls come back from a major hitting of the deck now?
Public speakers didn’t have to have recovery stories then so we could rise & fall.
I found living with voices easier by accepting them as a permanent feature. The depressive sludge’s and psychotic anxiety (I’d find that useful as a diagnosis!)and paranoia are much harder to deal with.

A: I have (ironically) been arguing with my voices that whilst I would rather not have voices, they are not my ‘mental health’ issue, it is as you say all the other stuff. I am fully aware from past experience that when I deal with the other stuff the ‘voices’ lessen as a consequence anyway.

Another issue I would say is the difference in focus of whatever ‘recovery’ version people subscribe to is an issue I was reading earlier about in Gregory Bateson on epistemology problems in therapy, where focusing on ‘saving’ individuals is kind of invalidating in itself (and given psychosis is often related to ‘being invalidated’ kinda exploitative and dodgy), what is needed, that we do in this group, is to look at the conditions of ‘possibility’ of at least living a more ‘meaningful’ life, which of course is a political project, going back to Aristotle and the relation of the ethical life to the ‘polis’.

B: ‘Meaningful’ has changed now, it’s productivity.

Just been discussing how the current austerity violence can be so damaging that with each punch there’s lasting damage we don’t all recover from, like incremental losses, where your revised 100% drops to 80, then 60 and so on.

A: Definitely ‘violence’ is an accurate word.

See that’s it for me now. I am no longer looking at what I can get ‘back’ to, that ‘me’ is gone for good, but what else I can become. For that reason I have no interest in ‘recovery’. But I do want to feel ‘better’ than I do now.

B: Yes I know I can’t regain the former me and the precarity I live within means I can’t feel ‘better’.

Regarding austerity violence there’s a clear ‘before and after 2010’ difference and in profound ways.
The stasi-like culture of fear, threat. The fact that people are paranoid for feeling potential targets. Precarity with threat erodes sense of self and agency in a particular way.

B: Very much have experienced the same.

C: The hurdle to achieve the idea of recovery seems ridiculously high now the loose definition of it equates with work and a very superficial idea of economic independence.

Many I know went through ups and downs, hell and back as a personal, emotional journey, with stigma of course but not quite as much threat of destitution over them. It wasn’t a complete social duty to ‘recover’ as now.

Fear as a motivator is a huge driver in this culture. That many of us live with more than enough fear anyway seems crazy; that the imposition of recovery for fear of being destroyed is how it is.

What is recovery anyway? Life by its very inevitable shuffle to the grave is killing me, how do I ‘recover’ from that?

D: I have been rereading ‘Recovering Sanity’ by Edward Podvall and his ideas about madness/psychosis and recovery are very relevant and in opposition to the social duty to ‘recover’. Thank you for helping to clarify what is currently happening in the extremely harsh world of mental health services today.

I’m all for taking stuff back a step and highlighting the fundamental misuse of a decent enough idea of helping those that can to do……just wish those of us who can’t were not nailed up as ‘not trying’

B: Or ‘clinging to diagnosis’, ‘sick role’, bio orientated, extreme leftist.

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