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Can I Be Cured?

The one thing someone with a mental illness wants – is not to have it! So the obvious question is, “Can I be cured?”. The answer is, “It depends.”.

Just like any illness, be it in the brain or anywhere else, sometimes it can be cured and sometimes we just have to learn to live with it. A perfect example is type 1 diabetes. You can’t cure it (yet), but you can manage it with insulin. Allergies are another good example. If you can’t tolerate peanuts, don’t eat them!

Sometimes our mental illness is caused by a chemical imbalance in the brain. This is hard-wired in from birth and we can’t change it (yet). However, we can take medication to correct the imbalance. It doesn’t cure the problem, but it allows us to manage it.

Sometimes our mental illness is caused by environmental factors, such as growing up in a dysfunctional family. This type of damage can often be almost fully reversed – but it takes time and effort.

When we are treating any illness, we call it being in “Recovery”. How long this takes depends on the illness. It takes as long as it takes. Recovery will sometimes become a journey, rather than a destination. What we need is something to make the journey as pleasant as possible.

If you lose your legs, or the use of them, then they give you a wheelchair. It’s a tool to enable you to function as well as possible in physical spaces. The same thing applies to mental health. We need a set of tools that will enable us to function as best we can, at home and in the wider community.

Modern medicine is a wonderful thing and is getting better all the time. But there are still many things it cannot do. Even with medication, coping with a mental health issue requires an enormous amount of energy on a daily basis. Don’t ever accuse someone in recovery for a mental health problem of having no willpower. It is more a case of them not knowing the best way to use that power.

The greatest tool you can give a recovering person is hope. Feeling hopeless and helpless will keep a person “stuck” indefinitely. Peer groups consist of people who have discovered new tools and how to use them. The longer they participate, the more tools they discover and the more proficient they become in using them.

Everyone’s journey is different and unique to them, but the principles they live by are common to each and every person. Peer groups are where you find those tools and the people who know how to use them. They don’t just give you a “wheelchair” – they use one themselves and know from experience how best to use it.