The Bible: Lloyd I. Sederer, MD Edition

The Bible: Lloyd I. Sederer, MD Edition

I’ve known for a long time that I was cut out to help people. I spent a while sorting out how I was going to make my dream a reality, then I woke up one day and conceived the idea for this project. I quickly realized the need for clear fundamentals upon which to build the foundation so I immediately turned to my favorite fallback of books. What I now refer to as my bible, immediately fell into my lap. The Family Guide to Mental Health Care by Lloyd I. Sederer, MD arrived in my mailbox and I immediately tore through the entire book in a week, furiously highlighting, annotating, and transcribing the wealth of information within it.

To my surprise it was no average layman’s guide authored by your average white coat. It was thorough, comprehensive, but high-level enough to efficiently guide both veterans and newcomers alike through the realm of mental health care. I was first greeted by a foreword from Glenn Close who heads up Bring Change 2 Mind, a non-profit aimed at ending the stigma of mental illness through public education. Beyond that I read through the following chapters that perfectly outlined the fundamentals I was looking for.

It starts with compassion, goes into education, breaks down what good care looks like, how to go about getting help, the various illnesses and how they show themselves, medication, rehab, insurance, recovery, and resources. Along the way its dotted with hard-hitting factoids and numbers, gems of wisdom, and incredibly substantial pieces information that no one on this journey should do without, yet is so hard-pressed to discover by their own accord. It wasn’t necessarily all new information to me, but I was blown away by the end of chapter 1.

What I didn’t expect was to learn what a pioneer Dr. Sederer is and has been in the mental health community. Bravado aside, I found Dr. Sederer’s guide peppered with his own innovations and achievements in the community, and I went from impressed to awe-struck. The term “pioneer” doesn’t really cut it, he’s been dubbed New York’s “Chief Psychiatrist”. He is currently serving as the Chief Medical Officer for the New York State Office of Mental Health, which annually serves over 700,000 people, and includes 22 hospitals, 90 clinics, 2 research institutes, and community services throughout a state of 19 million people. That’s a lot to wrap your head around.

In 2002 as New York’s director of mental hygiene services, his agency was charged with overseeing the response to the psychological consequences of the 9/11 attacks. By 2004, 1.5 million NY residents had received outreach, crisis counseling, and education through Project Liberty.

In 2004 as mental health commissioner in NYC, frustrated with the poor detection and treatment of depression he spearheaded a screening and management campaign by placing posters in subways and kiosks advocating for screenings. Depression screening and evidence-based management is now showing up in a growing number of primary-care settings across the country.

His laurels also include being an adjunct professor at Columbia, he has worked for a Harvard teaching hospital, as well as the American Psychiatric Association. He’s been given several accolades for his contributions, published 7 books, authored 500 articles in medical and non-medical journals and publications, he serves as the mental health editor for the Huffington Post, and does regular radio appearances.

I feel confident with the direction of this book as a basis for my service. I would highly recommend it for anyone who feels they could use guidance at any point in the process of utilizing mental health care services. Whether you’re the patient or a loved one who cares for a patient, this could be an invaluable resource to navigating a broken system. He says it himself in the first chapter “If the mental health care system were not so broken, if it served patients and their families as it should (and can), I might not have had to write this book”.

Peace, love, and wellness.

Make America Get a Grip Again

Make America Get a Grip Again

This isn’t a political soap-box, it’s a blog on mental health and this was supposed to be a post on anxiety. Politics and anxiety just so happen to have the misfortune of colluding with one another today.

The last week and a half have been rough. I’d been doing so well for continuous, vibrant, healthy months with all elements of my illnesses and their respective triggers in check, and well-managed. That’s not to say I didn’t have an occasional off day, but it was pretty smooth sailing. Then something hit me. It crept up at first building its momentum, to which I admittedly turned a bit of a blind eye to because I thought I had it handled. But it continued to build and grow as I carried on with a little voice in the back of my head telling me something was off. I can’t totally fault myself because as well as I think I may know myself and my illness, sometimes I still have to get burned to learn.

Finally it all came at me at mach speed last Monday manifesting itself in the form of some pretty raging anxiety. I woke up early way before my alarm, I immediately began feeling the stress in my mind, body and emotions. I felt panic in my chest, I was hyperventilating which worked its way into tears. My mind and heart were racing, I couldn’t think straight, and I couldn’t control any of it. I felt so helpless and scared.

I’m cognizant enough of myself to know that once I’d understood the trigger in this instance, everything I was feeling was mostly irrational. I knew exactly what was going on underneath all these symptoms. I’d been there too many times to not be able to intellectualize the process. Most importantly I realized the trigger this time just so happened to awaken some deeply rooted fears that were being brought to the surface by this situation, and it was time for me to confront them. This was clearly a call to action. Still, I couldn’t make the anxiety stop. It felt so real, and at the same time I knew better than it.

I can’t explain how anxiety works in the brain and the body. I can tell you it’s all-consuming, terrifying, and incredibly stressful on your mind, body, and emotions. Thankfully I’d realized this was a challenge for me to go deeper within myself, and heal whatever shit was currently being dug up. I was able to see the blessing in disguise, so I relinquished myself to the process and hoped it wouldn’t absorb too much of my life. I also took as many pro-active steps and measures as I could that I know personally work for me in my times of need, to try and aid in the healing process. I may have spent a lot of time lying on the floor, but you can’t say I took this one lying down.

I have spent a lot of time on the floor lately, I find it grounding. Bed, when I’m not feeling well, sometimes just exacerbates things. I may not be able to go out for a run, but the least I can do is roll out of bed, cocoon myself in a massive blanket, and try my hardest to breathe, meditate, remind myself that this is only temporary, and it’s part of my process. I culled a massive amount of personal growth out of this experience, and I’m proud to say that now that I’m on the other side of it.

Even with the silver lining to it, it took about 8 days of me riding the wave to fully pull through, get my life back on track and myself back in order. I missed some work, I had to spend some money to get specific care I needed, I lost some productivity, I lost some time. These are all things I’ve conceded to long ago, and I’m happy to in exchange for having a grip on things again. Yesterday was my first good day, uninterrupted by symptoms.

So here we are, post-election day. I got one day to feel like a proper human being again. And I was still nervous as hell all day over the potential outcome of the election, but I still felt pretty decent. I don’t think I’ll ever forget last night. I’m not going to say that today I’m anxious, nor am I going to say I’m depressed over the way it turned out. Sad, disappointed, dismayed, disheartened, scared, shocked, baffled, speechless, amongst many other sentiments. Not speechless enough however, to at least be able to say that this election is also clearly a call to action.

It’s time for us to accept this as a challenge to go deeper within ourselves and with each other, to ride this wave, and allow it to help us grow. We should not concede to the implications of the outcome of this election, we should allow it to motivate us in whatever way we can to take a stand, be a catalyst for positive change, and let politicians (who often seem to share a lot of parallels with mental illness) know that we won’t take this lying down. It might get ugly for a while but as long as we keep pressing on knowing this is only temporary, I believe we as a country have what it takes to unite over such grievous circumstances and pull though this together with a positive outcome on the other side. Find faith in the part of humanity with which you can relate, and never give up on yourselves or each other no matter what stands in front of us, we’re all all we’ve got. America can get a grip on itself again.

Peace, love, and wellness.





Good times bad times

Good times bad times

This isn’t going to be eloquent…No matter how well your illness has been overcome on the whole or how well it’s managed on the daily, you’re still going to experience bad days. Simply being human dictates you will have off days at times. I’m no exception. I’d intended this blog to be about my project, and my past experiences as the anecdotes behind it. Given what I’m feeling today, especially in regards to my project, I’ve decided to just do what I feel with my blog. If I’m going to open myself and my life up to people in order to try and help them, then my current struggles should be relevant to my project as well.

That said, I’m feeling a lot of things today. Things where I can only overcome them though acceptance. This project isn’t moving as fast as I’d like it to. That falls on no one but me. So I’m feeling a lot of guilt, discontent, even sadness because in reality, given the resources I currently have, there’s only so much I can do. I work full time, I work really hard because I have to. No one hands me anything in life nor was I ever set up with abundant resources that allow me to freely pursue my passions.

When all that’s in your heart is the desire to set something good up to help people and you continuously hit road blocks, it gets a bit defeating. It weighs on you. You start to look around you at everyone else and feel almost destitute. All of this leads to frustration, which feeds into sadness which ultimately  begins to steal me away from who I am at my core. Who I’ve worked so hard to uncover and embrace and who I know I truly am. That core being that I’m speaking of, she knows better than this.

Yet here I am. Struggling. This project is all I want to do. I just want to build a community of wellness, health, and empowerment. To create something that will change people’s lives for the better and every day I go about a career that I enjoy and pays the bills, but I just don’t give a shit about it. It gives me no freedom in almost all the ways. It does not fulfill me in most of the ways. It’s consuming all this time and energy I could be wholeheartedly devoting to my project. I could be essentially rocket-fueling my dream into a reality right now. But I can’t even seem to consistently devote the mental energy to getting a blog posted every week, let alone bootstrap and launch an entire public service outfit.

I’m not an entrepreneur, I have no idea what I’m doing, I just want to help people. I know I can, and that’s enough for me. It’s like being pushed up against a brick wall by a tenfold force of gravity then being repeatedly hit by tsunami waves. It hurts. I feel all the feelings. I want to burst. I want to loathe, cry, scream, lash out, fold, hide, disappear. I also want to persevere, love, laugh, create, contribute, and just be. It feels like being torn in two. It’s painful.

I wish for so much more. I am only capable of so much. Perhaps this is just my lot in life. It seems as though struggling in certain ways has always been an overarching theme to my life, why would this project be any different? No one has ever picked me up off the ground, told me its going to be ok, given me what I needed, and held my hand until I reached where I needed to be. I’ve always done it all myself. Here I am once more, I’m just intensely aware of the end result this time and it literally eats away at me sometimes.

The fact is that I can never lose myself. Much easier said than done. I may momentarily forget about her, but I always have to return to who I am at my core. It’s where my strength is, it’s where my grit is, it’s where my inner Andre the Giant is. That’s what everything I’ve been through has fundamentally taught me; the end-all be-all for me is that I’ve got an immense, unstoppable, warrior’s spirit force within me. It’s why I’m still alive. I’m beyond grateful for it.

I hesitate to call myself a fighter because the connotations don’t necessarily fit my personality, but I will fight these feelings and press on. I can accept them, they can run their course. But I will commit to myself and to the fight by making an internal pledge to cease looking around me, comparing myself and my successes to everyone else. It doesn’t matter what I do or don’t have right now because it will come as long as I never give up. I commit to accepting my situation as it is and allowing the growth of my project to come to fruition as fast as I am able to make it happen. Or as slow as it needs to happen because there’s only so much I can do.

In the end I know in my heart, mind, and soul that I absolutely refuse to concede. There’s a fire inside me, where I know that as long as I keep breathing, and returning to the savior within myself that is my warrior’s spirit, no one and nothing will ever stop me. It may take me forever, I’ll still have bad days, but I will make it happen no matter what, everyone else around me be damned. This is my path and I’m going to forge it the best I can. Along the way I commit to myself to inhale the good shit, exhale the bullshit.

Peace, love, and wellness.

Mission Statement


Thank you for stopping by to learn about my mental health project. I’d like to share what it’s about, first a bit about me — My name is Meredith, I’m a thirty-something California native living in San Francisco. I have a diagnosis of clinical depression, major anxiety, and ADHD. I work full time, I enjoy music, books, pizza, outdoors, dancing, and my friends and family. I live a full life, but there was a time not that long ago where I enjoyed none of the above, including life itself. My illness consumed my entire twenties. I was fortunate enough to find my way to the other side of it, but it was the fight of and, for my life. I found my purpose along my journey to wellness, and that’s why I’ve begun this project.

The problem I can help solve:

  • The mental health care system is broken. Via private or public care, the key piece that’s missing is the necessary follow up, and follow through on both medication and therapy, i.e. a continuum of care.
  • Lack of guidance on how to go about acquiring and navigating care or insurance.
  • Lack of substantial coordination of community resources, as well as comprehensive formation and execution of a recovery plan for each individual.
  • The system fails to persevere with care when the patient lacks the wherewithal. Forcing someone who struggles to make it day to day to advocate for their own care in a broken system is cruel. There needs to be a service within the system to bridge the gaps.
  • The path to mental health is an arduous one that often leaves people feeling like abandoned, disheartened lab rats who, in spite of their best efforts, often fall off the path because they don’t know what to do or to whom they can turn to for support, guidance, and much needed hope.

How I plan to solve it:

  • I’ve built a service open to everyone 18 and over, based on the peer perspective of my own experience in navigating, bending, and pooling mental health care resources to help chart a path to wellness for those who feel they need help getting help.
  • Providing facilitation and third-party accountability in order to focus on the individual’s bigger picture. No two paths to wellness are alike. To try and shuffle vastly different cases through a very narrow, disorganized system with no checks and balances to ensure people stay the course is failing them and they’re falling through the cracks.
  • The path is tailored specifically to your needs, to be shaped over time through evaluation of your current state and end goals at regular intervals, with comprehensive follow up ensuring you’re seen through to achieving your goals.
  • Think of it as a personal road map allowing you to circumvent the gaps, thereby wasting less of your valuable resources, to get your life back on track faster and more easily by someone who is invested in your wellness.

What I can do for you as an individual, and our community:

  • I want to see the entire mental health care community working together to create a cohesive, welcoming environment of wellness, advocacy, and access to care.
  • I want to see a society that is educated on mental illness that has broken down the stigma, and can approach the topic with open minds and hearts.
  • I want to see individuals who are happy to be alive, can hold down a job, take care of themselves and their families, get off the streets, who are doing the things they love, and loving what they do.
  • I want to see those afflicted with mental illness and their loved ones who care for them be able to live the most free, fulfilling, and happy lives they possibly can in spite of the challenges they face.
  • I want those in their darkest days to know that someone is always there for them when they feel lost, to know that someone is invested in their recovery, to feel safe and secure reaching out for help, and to feel hope for themselves and their future.
  • I want to completely change the way mental health is regarded and the way care is administered. I plan to begin one person at a time, then one city at a time starting here in San Francisco, eventually bringing my service standards to every major city in the country I can.


  • I am not a health care professional in any way, nor do I plan to dispense health care in any way. I am here to advise, advocate, educate, navigate, and instill hope as a peer.
  • This project is a work in progress. My guidance will be based on trial and error as all mental health care already is.
  • I do not have personal experience with all mental illnesses. I am more than willing to help anyone facing any mental illness with the understanding on your part that your illness may be new to me but I can still help advocate for you.
  • I’m a resource for an objective and clear path to recovery, attempting to test my proof of concept, not a therapist or an emotional outlet.
  • Any information provided to me either verbal or written will be kept strictly confidential.

What I am looking for:

  • Individuals afflicted with any type of mental illness who feel they need help getting helpThis is a free of charge service.
  • Those who truly want to get better, who want to take their lives back, and want to become empowered to do so.
  • Those who live in the Bay Area and are willing to meet with me in person.
  • If this speaks to you at all, and you understand that this project is in beta mode, I invite you to contact me via the form below.

Thank you for your interest in my project, I look forward to hearing from you!

You’ve got to burn to shine

You’ve got to burn to shine

I just got back from over a week in the desert, also known as Burning Man. If you’ve never been, you can eschew your preconceived nothing-but-sex,-drugs,-and-dance beats-notions now. Those things exist there, but it’s such a blip on the radar of what actually can and does occur on the Playa. My heart is so full of love and gratitude I can feel it in every fiber of my being. There is a palpable feeling of warmth radiating in my chest as though my heart wants to explode, and a vibration in my body tuned to nothing that isn’t on the wavelength of love. In my core nothing can get me down right now. Life has already tried and I’ve only been back at it for 3 days. I’m just too jovially overridden by the love frequency.

It’s a magical week, but also a very difficult one on so many facets. It tests my being in all the ways. It’s labor-intensive, expensive, the elements are harsh, creature comforts are few and far between as is sleep at times, there is constant stimulation 24 hours a day, I’m hard pressed to find any real alone time or peace and quiet, self-care is easily forgotten about in favor of the whirlwind of activities, and I have to rely entirely on myself for everything and anything, while still actively participating, and giving of myself and my resources. At least that’s that the precepts dictate. It can be so incredibly draining on a person, especially when you live an innately hyper-sensitive existence.

So why do I subject myself to this? You’d think someone who lives with clinical depression, major anxiety, and ADHD, who is also intrinsically highly empathic and generally sensitive to the world around her would run with her hair on fire from this type of thing. This is burn #4 for me, and I do it for the love, for the challenge, and for the love of the challenge. I get so much out of this experience, good and bad, it does so much for me as a human being, and moreover as a spiritual being. The experience is what you make of it.

That said, I set my intentions for this year’s burn shortly before I left as it took me that long to really flesh out what they should be at the heart of my experience. In addition to the opportunity to ephemerally exist in the presence of a specific density of radiant spirits, kissing the annoyingly cumbersome real world goodbye, and of course dancing like it’s my job. Namely this time around my intentions were self-empowerment, and seeking out love. Seems simple enough, right? Well, I worked for it. I think that everyone who goes out there, whether they have intentions for themselves and their experience or not, has to face the music at some point unless you make the conscious choice to not take the opportunity to look within yourself. I think the same song of “What is this, what am I really doing here, and how long can I sustain this?” plays for everyone. Maybe it plays only once, maybe it plays on repeat.

My self-reflective song played intermittently throughout the week as I opened myself, my mind, heart, and spirit to everyone who felt safe to do so with. The lyrics guided me through my experience with verses encouraging me to get out of my head and into my heart to connect with people on a deeper level, to let my walls down, to not live in fear or myself, my illness, or anyone else. Other verses reminding me to readily discard the FOMO and heed the self-care chorus (for someone like me self-care will always be the chorus in my life’s song), verses keeping me grounded but open, to stay in the moment, and to let my inner voice shine through from my heart because she is so much wiser than the voice from my mind.

I got everything I wanted and more from this year’s experience. I made an effort to leave my fears and quandaries about being human, the really hard-wired stuff, as far behind as I could on my quest for love. It came down to something as simple as an attempt to put my social anxiety and fear of rejection aside by candidly walking up to someone and just putting an arm around them, whether I really knew them or not, showing them I wanted to be in their presence. That kind of giving of myself was so new, and so wonderful to me. It’s one of the gifts I took back with me to real life and have already had the opportunity to put into practice.

On the flip side of that, on my last day out there I’d had enough of the whole experience and had a mental, physical, and emotional breakdown. At my core I felt at peace, but my mind, body, and spirit were tapped out and I had to relinquish myself to that experience as well. Of course my humanistic ego tried to silently allay the symptoms on my own when I woke up Monday morning and immediately began to react. I lied there curled up in a ball in my dusty tent completely overstimulated, nerves shot, crying, shaking, hyperventilating, refusing to take care of myself and just succumbing to whatever was going to happen.

It brought back that familiar, harrowing, desperate feeling of being out of control. But then, after two solid hours of fighting all the feels, my self-reflective song came on in my head and reminded me that I was there for love and self-empowerment. What that ultimately meant was I needed help from others so I could help myself and press on. Right then and there I had the epiphany of and confessed to the universe that I no longer just wanted people in my life; friends, family, a partner, I needed them. So I picked myself up off the ground, put my biggest sunglasses on so I could still hide just a little bit (oh you, silly pride), and walked out into camp where few remained and everything was being rapidly deconstructed. The first campmate to approach me asked me how I was doing and I immediately realized that was my chance, my moment to burn to shine. I had to cop to the fact that I was not ok, and then allow myself to need others.

This particular experience was all so new to me considering I’ve mostly always dealt with everything on my own, in my own space via my own learned coping mechanisms. It gave me so much nourishment I can’t find words to convey. I can, however, say that it brought my original intentions of self-empowerment and seeking love completely and entirely full circle. I allowed others to support me in my time of need, to give me the love and care that I so obviously needed when I’m so used to being the one to give of myself to others. I allowed myself to be totally vulnerable in the presence of those who I’d only known on a very surface level, I allowed this experience to force me to lay all my cards on the table in that moment. It was absolutely beautiful. I learned that if I want something I never had, I’d have to do something I’d never done. I let the love in.

I continue to go not just for the love and the good times but because this event is an exponentially unequivocal benchmark for my personal growth and progress. I go for the freedom and reprieve from the heavy that is everyday human existence, without being allowed to forget that I am ultimately human, and that in and of itself is a challenge that won’t quit. If I’m not challenging myself I’m not sufficiently subjugating my illness, or my ego.

Allowing something to break you down and build you back up, leaving in your trail the pieces that no longer serve you, is the definition of ego death. The experience of mental illness has afforded me more ego death than any experience ever will, so there is no question as to why I would continue to participate in an event that, albeit via different modalities, still brings me my much sought after, and hard-earned return to my true self. I cannot express the amount of gratitude I have for the fresh reminder of the fact that I have mental illness, mental illness does not have me.

Peace, love, and wellness.


Choosing wellness

Choosing wellness

I’ve made the comparison of mental disease to the disease of addiction for a long time now. I’m neither confirming nor denying that those who are mentally ill are addicted to their illness, rather I’m simply stating the fact that they, just as the addicts do, have to choose wellness.

I’ve had a few addicts cross my path in life, along the way showing me the parallels between our diseases. There’s the recovery and relapse facets, creating new good habits and falling into old bad habits, removing yourself from people, places, and situations that trigger symptoms, the slippery slope into relapse, the ‘never cured, only recovered’ aspect, and the ultimate of making the conscious decision of recovery.

Having addicts in your life is no walk in the park, but it gave me some great takeaways. Watching someone you love lose themselves to a hopelessly reckless lifestyle, go through intervention, ultimately forced into rehab only to come out and fall right back into their old patterns and behaviors as though they have no control over it because they weren’t ready to choose recovery, and then watching them almost die because of it is terrifying and traumatic to all those involved. That whole process though, it bore so many similarities to my own struggle with my illness that it gave me the ability to recognize and rectify whatever situation I found myself in. The overarching parallel point being that no one can force a person to try and get better from any disease; you must choose recovery. 

Just like an addict I had to hit my own personal rock-bottom in life. Moments so grave that I began to wake up and realize that by not taking action, I was giving my precious life to this savage disease. I was in my 20’s, the prime of my life. It felt like the equivalent of setting $100 bills on fire. It shook me to my core, made me want to pick myself up off the floor, give this disease the absolute middle finger, and claim my life back. 

Recovery is a tough decision! It’s certainly not the path of least resistance. Obviously it’s easier to just let illness have you til there is no more of you, and generally the apathy is already there to contribute to your degradation. I knew however, that no one else was going to do it for me. No one else was going to usher me along, pick up the pieces of my life, put them back together, clean up the messes I’d made along the way, and make sure I did what was necessary to get better. I had support along the way, but in the end the only one that was going to be responsible for any real improvement was me. Every single day.

Every day it meant I had to make the choice to really own up to my illness, take responsibility for how it had affected my life, and start figuring things out going forward. It’s a long, arduous path, the one to wellness, as such with any disease. No one ever said recovery was easy, but anyone on the other side of it will tell you it was their choice and no one else’s.

Peace, love, and choosing wellness.

Mental illness vs. Mental Health: What do they mean?

Mental illness vs. Mental Health: What do they mean?

All behavior has a purpose. It’s a form of communication from our minds and bodies, whether we are cognizant of it or not. Rather than being strictly an expression of our personalities or feelings, behaviors are often rooted in basic instinct. Think of it this way: a brand new baby doesn’t cry for no reason, it cries because it needs something. Most often something very basic, and it has essentially one modality to express that; through its behavior. Often times people’s behavior is simply the manifestation of their inner child crying out for help. If I’m going to share my journey I feel like I should distinguish what mental illness and mental health are, and what they mean to me.

Mental illness as defined by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders:
“A mental disorder is a syndrome characterized by clinically significant disturbance in an individual’s cognition, emotion regulation, or behavior that reflects a dysfunction in the psychological, biological, or developmental processes underlying mental functioning. Mental disorders are usually associated with significant distress in social, occupational, or other important activities.”DSM-5

Changes in behavior, thinking or mood should be continually present for two or more weeks, and can occur with and without evident or traumatic cause, aka trigger. As far as depression goes, I’d also like to make one clarification, as the word ‘depressed’ gets thrown around a lot and it’s true meaning has been lost or diluted. Everyone gets the blues sometimes. A major life event occurs, you’re affected by it and things are different for a while because you’re sad, but it doesn’t consume your entire being and life, and you have not lost control of either of those. You eventually recover and resume your standard routine. Depression is already present in a person, generally in the form of some kind of PTSD, and/or chemical imbalance, and can be triggered by life events or just seem to creep up out of nowhere and blindside a person, forcibly degrading their quality of life. It’s not something one can just ‘get over and move on’.

Recovery as defined by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration: A process of change through which individuals improve their health and wellness, live a self-directed life, and strive to reach their full potential.

Recovery looks different for each individual and begins with specific goals. SAMHSA‘s working definition of recovery is fairly comprehensive, and covers 10 specific “guiding principles” (see link for additional detail) that are further delineated to the 4 major categories in bold:

  • Hope
  • Person-Driven
  • Many Pathways
  • Holistic
  • Peer Supported
  • Relational
  • Culture
  • Addresses Trauma
  • Strengths/Responsibility
  • Respect-based


  1. Health: Overcoming or managing one’s disease(s) symptoms – for example abstaining from use of alcohol, illicit drugs, and non-prescribed medications if one has an addiction problem – and for everyone in recovery, making informed, healthy choices that support physical and emotional well-being.
  2. Home: A stable and safe place to live.
  3. Purpose: Meaningful daily activities, such as a job, school, volunteerism, care-taking, or creative endeavors, the independence, income and resources to participate in society
  4. Community: Relationships and social networks that provide support, friendship, love, and hope.

Because no two journies through mental illness are alike, these definitions are, as they should be, somewhat interpretive in a manner that compliments your path to wellness. Here’s what my personal definitions look like given my journey through depression, anxiety, and ADHD.

Illness: Continuous or consecutive days, with triggers present or not, of lack of typical (I hesitate to use the term normal) daily function, productivity, and motivation. Specifically marked by major apathy, sadness, cognitive impairment, behavioral degradation, fatigue, restlessness, anxiety, excessive worry, withdrawal from social activities, loss of appetite, guilt, fear, rumination, and general malaise. If I’ve fully relapsed, I’m having 2+ weeks of consecutive bad days, missing work and social obligations, have lost weight, am hiding in bed, won’t leave the house, have stopped taking care of myself, and at that point if I haven’t reached out for help yet, I very much need to.

Recovery: In short it means mostly good, satisfactorily productive, steadily continuous days. The days I wake up and feel well, and happy, ready to go and take on the day. The days I want to and feel good enough to do life when I get out of bed. The days where I actually feel like getting out of bed instead of feeling forced out of it only to trudge through another day of the slog that I’ve known life to be.

I still have my slog days, sometimes for no apparent reason. If something happens and I get triggered, I can have slog weeks, but there has become a spectrum to my recovery that I have to keep a close eye on. I have to constantly check in with myself, be very aware if I start not feeling well, and know where the points are on my spectrum that mean its time to take action. It’s a slippery slope, being consistently proactive is the best favor you can do for yourself or a loved one. But every time I’ve slipped and fallen I’ve learned a lesson about me, my temperament, my illness, and my recovery. As I learn those lessons I get better and better at keeping myself from slipping too far.

Another key to keeping my recovery is to continue to be gentle with myself when I start slipping. As soon as I hit an action point on my recovery spectrum I already know I’m going to lose something. Generally time and productivity, which ultimately translates to money. It sucks. But then I realize that my health is truly my wealth, and without that I don’t have money, so I’d better put me first and work second. That was a huge blow to my very A-type personality back in the day when I first started to try and accept the implications of my illness. Now I just do a little stomping of my feet in my head, and face the fact that I already know my wellness is more important. Then I do whatever I have the energy for that I can accomplish to make myself still feel productive. If I’m not going to work because I need a mental health day I will read, or do something creative like painting, coloring, writing is a big one, meditation is huge, if I have the wherewithal I’ll go for a short walk, or organize something around the house. I try to keep track of how much I’ve eaten throughout the day and when, and make sure I’m still taking care of my most basic needs to help my recovery instead of hinder it. I see it as a reduced set of standards for self-care because I know I’m only capable of so much in these times.

It’s tricky, but you create your own personal goal-based bar for illness and wellness. As you heal and better learn to manage your illess, your benchmarks will grow and change with you. You become the watcher of yourself, you act instead of react. I’ve always felt that I had to accept that mental illness recovery is going to be two steps forward and one back. As long as I watch my steps as closely as I can and manage them with care, I’ll always end up being OK no matter which direction they’re in.

Peace, love, and wellness.