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Friday, June 13, 2014

The need for ALL levels of recovery to be validated in their need for support

I want to address two things that are sort of connected. Something I've been running into in a few places lately, is this idea that those who are "further along the recovery path" should bend to those who are just beginning their journey, no matter what.

The thing about different places in the recovery journey, is that how we approach certain things affects others who are in different places. In a great many support communities, that means allowing people to express themselves however they like - 'whinge' comments and attention seeking are rife.

I believe those things have their place. I believe it's important for people to experiment with how to get the sort of attention and support they need -- but I don't think that should be at the expense of those who are a little further along the recovery road.

Whether we like it or not, those of us a little further on the recovery journey can find that really difficult to deal with. Being surrounded by people seeking short term solutions can really drag us down, and it can lead to the temptation to go back to using those short term solutions, instead of concentrating on the long term solultions that actually change things.

There's this idea that if, in a support-based community, we put up boundaries against that sort of behaviour, we are stepping on the people who need that communication style, and that because they're at an earlier stage of recovery, they have more right and need for support, because they are "sicker".

No. No, no, no, and I say again -- no. First of all, you can't determine whom of two people is "sicker" unless you know both extremely well and ideally hold a psychological degree. There's this idea that someone who has reasonable communication skills can't possibly be as sick as someone who struggles to understand concepts. This is not true. I might understand concepts quite well from a rational level - but that doesn't mean I'm capable of putting them in play in my life, or that I might not be affected in other ways.

This is connected to the idea that someone who is more visibly unwell is actually less unwell -- again, this is a myth/misconception. The truth is, you can't guage how well or unwell someone is by how they present. You just can't.

And you know what? Even if you could - by focusing on supporting those who are "most visibly unwell" at the cost of those who are less visibly unwell, you create an environment where the emphasis is on being as visibly unwell as you can, in order to receive support. You create an environment that says to everyone who needs support only deserves it if they are as visibly unwell as possible -- that's not an environment that encourages growth or healing, it's an environment that breeds dysfunction.

I'm all for there being a place to allow people to seek attention, coddle and other "short term" types of support - but there also needs to be room for there to be a place based around more indepth, growth based support, too.

And there needs to be more awareness that just because you may think I look less sick than your friend, it doesn't mean you are right -- and maybe it doesn't even matter. I deserve support every bit as much as anyone else, and that's not contingent on how well or unwell I am. What matters is that I am here, I am asking for it, and I deserve it because I am human.

How about you? How would you balance the need for differing levels of recovery to receive the support they require/deserve?


  1. This is something I have come up against in treatment, because I'm not at square one anymore then a lot of my crisis moments are ignored. I think it's not always that we are 'better' but that we sometimes learn to adapt to our surroundings and try to fit in. So while we may look fine, we still don't those tools to help with the inner turmoil.

    1. Yes, that can definitely be the case! And I can certainly relate to the difficulties faced when our requests for help are ignored now that we "look" more fine.

      Thank you for your response!

  2. "Whether we like it or not, those of us a little further on the recovery journey can find that really difficult to deal with. Being surrounded by people seeking short term solutions can really drag us down, and it can lead to the temptation to go back to using those short term solutions, instead of concentrating on the long term solutions that actually change things."

    This, in short, is why I don't go back to that place where I met you anymore. I feel like when you are less healthy than the average in a support group of peers, it's helpful...but when you're more healthy than the average, it can become detrimental pretty easily (this was true for me, at least). I'm not sure how you balance it -- presence of a professional to steer the conversations in healthy directions with authority, maybe, but that's not an appropriate solution for all such groups.

    I think you're right that it's not out of line to set boundaries on unhealthy behaviors, and would probably be a good thing for such groups overall...but I think regardless, such places are always going to be more useful for the less healthy (again using my nebulous definition of healthy).

    1. I feel the same way, about where we met. I actually wrote this thinking of my BPD group, but it definitely carries over; and is probably even more truthful of (where we met) than it is about my BPD group.

      I disagree though that such places are always going to be more useful for the less healthy. I think that if you structure the group/community around health and proactivity, it can be done.

      That's what I'm trying to do for my facebook group and I think it's working. Having a professional would definitely be fantastic, but I think regular people working as a team can do that, too; within a defined framework.

      Anyway, thank you for your thoughts! And for weighing in. I'm surprised, but pleased, you still read. <3

  3. Spot. On. Trying to get over this one myself, C. I've waited four months to be treated because I don't scream and shout and can string a coherent sentence. And I could have written what Tegan said myself. I bang my head against walls every day! xx Pixie

    1. Thank you for responding, Pixie. I'm so sorry you're having trouble getting support because you've made decisions to be healthier, that definitely sucks. :(

  4. I know what you mean! When I am well, I don't go anywhere I suspect I might know anyone from hospital, support groups etc and if I do run into someone, I back right off, offer little of myself if any and just keep on moving past if I can.

    1. I don't corral myself off that way when I'm well (and tend more towards it when I'm unwell), but if you're worried about bringing each other down, that definitely makes a lot of sense. I think there's good reason to be concerned about it, if you don't have good boundaries and ability to remove yourself from triggering situations like that.

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts, it's good to see you're still out there. :)

  5. So true! I see people getting more attention/care/support when they are visibly in pain via too thin, new cuts or recent suicide attempt or overdose when I am not visibly struggling but internally still in so much pain and need the same support!