Recovery Model is founded upon five pillars: hope, choice,
empowerment, recovery environment, and spirituality. For the next
five columns I will address each pillar separately in an effort to
pain a more complete picture of how one can utilize each to move
further along the recovery journey. Singly, a pillar leaves your
recovery foundation extremely unstable. However when pillars are used
together, not only is psychiatric recovery possible, it’s
When I was in the thoroughs of my symptoms, hope was hard to come by.
Soon after receiving my first diagnosis, time didn’t slip
through the hourglass. It was somehow suspended, transformed into
stage: denial. Second: anger. Third: bargaining. Fourth: depression.
Fifth: acceptance. The stages aren’t linear, so you can go
through them in any order. Additionally, just because you’ve
gone through one stage, doesn’t mean you won’t go through
it again in the future.
of my extinguished hope came from the realization that I belonged to
a group of people I’d made fun of growing up — a group
only referred to by polite public when using hushed tones, one of
which I was scared. A group fair game for anyone to criticize,
ridicule and mock. A group I so desperately did not want to be lumped
into, yet regardless of my effort, a group I gave up and joined.
of becoming normal again, evaporated. During this process my symptoms
became so severe I became lost in them. My entire focus became
survival! I was in and out of group homes, crisis houses, hospital
wards and an institution. I was in and out of reality. I was in and
out of life.
surrounded by acutely symptomatic people, professionals telling me to
lower my expectations and family members at a loss because they
weren’t sure what had happened to their granddaughter,
daughter, sister and aunt, let alone what to do with her. My life’s
focus became my illness. I became my illness. Hope eluded me.
evening in 2009, after 11 years of illness, my father drove his
symptomatic daughter home early from a family activity. Pulling up to
the curb, I told him I was sick. Sick of being sick. He parked and
turned to me saying, “I’m sick of it too.”
ran down my face. I asked him what I should do because I was already
doing everything I knew how. His reply, “I have no clue.”
Truthfully, his honesty relieved me. He then whispered, “I
don’t, but Heavenly Father does.”
sat in the passenger seat boiling over with frustration and bitterly
exclaimed, “Well, I sure wish He’d tell me how!” I
got out of the car and probably slammed the door behind me. As I
watched him drive away through my hot, shimmering tears, I began to
wonder what more I could do to find out how Heavenly Father expected
me to live with this stupid illness. I was already following my
treatment plan, taking medication as prescribed and living in
alignment with my values (something I’d learned at a very young
age was vital to finding some semblance of inner peace), yet I was a
victim of mental illness.
suffered the ill effects of a horrid disorder that had me under its
complete control, dragged me away from my family, friends and reality
“carefully down to ...” well, we won’t go there.
People viewed me as a victim. People talked to me about my suffering.
Oh, how I suffered. Life was awful. Woe was me!
I sat pondering my dad’s wisdom. Heavenly Father knew what I
needed to do? I began thinking about what I could do to figure out
what it was. I thought about my relationship with God. If I really
believed I was His literal daughter, if I believed He loved me and if
I really did love him, what would change my circumstances?
enrolled in a Peer-to-Peer class through NAMI. During the course of
that class I met others with mental illness living lives I craved to
have. Parents, children, employees, students — people. I didn’t
even feel human when I began class. Little by little I began to
regain my humanity, a pivotal moment in my recovery journey.
that moment, my illness was happening to me. I began to realize that
feeling like a victim (although very real) had gotten me nowhere on
my recovery journey. In fact, it had shoved me off Recovery Road!
the following months I reflected again and again on my relationship
with my Heavenly Father. Though scripture study, prayer and going to
the temple I regained my testimony and strengthened my knowledge of
my pre-mortal life. I began to realize Heavenly Father did not send
me to earth to fail. On the contrary, he taught us everything we
needed to know to succeed in this life. Only when he was confident
He’d done His best, he sent us to earth to succeed. Succeed
was not a victim. I was a child of God. He had given me the tools to
succeed and they were simply buried deep within my spirit. Maybe I
wasn’t sent here to prove myself to Him. He already knows all.
Maybe I was sent to earth to prove to myself that I can succeed.
began asking Him to help me know how to break down my “unrealistic
goals” into realistic stepping stones. With every small
success, my personal expectations began to grow. Many naysayers
assured me my goals were impossible. Many thought I’d stress
myself out and fail yet again.
as symptoms began to dissolve, I was waiting to for it to fall apart
— waiting to fail. However, as days passed, I began to prove
myself to myself. I began learn to live life with symptoms on my own
began to learn little things to exercise control over my mind, taming
it. I decided distracting my brain was vital. I started humming
hymns. I determined that more than anything I needed a job. I
searched until found one.
couple of weeks after beginning work at an entry-level position, I
was promoted. My employer believed in me. A glimmer of hope sparked.
If she thought I was a valuable employee, maybe I was a valuable
human. Do you see where I’m going with this?
by little, I rediscovered long-buried talents. I rediscovered who I
really was, not the nameless, worthless schizoaffective girl. I
became Sarah again.
the past three years, I have worked around symptoms and taken control
of my life, changing my prognosis. One doctor told me to lower my
expectations, avoid stressing myself out. I knew that in doing so, I
would simply slip further down the slippery symptomatic path. Instead
I pushed forward. Next month, I will graduate with my master’s
in Rehabilitation Counseling with an advanced certificate in
psychiatric rehabilitation. Apropos, no?
there’s a truckload more to my story, but finding hope began
the process. People think I’ve done something amazing. I
didn’t. I just took my life back. Now it’s your turn.
Where will you find your hope? If you haven’t any, take mine.
If you know someone who needs hope, share it. Let them know that you
believe in them. Help them begin to believe in themselves. Grow hope!
It’s the first pillar of recovery.
Sarah Hancock is currently in her final year of studies at San Diego State University's
Rehabilitation Counseling Program (just voted 9th in the Nation by U.S. News & World Report)
with a psychiatric emphasis. A portion of her internship was spent as the Coordinator of
Disability Services Office for Alliant International University's San Diego and Irvine Campuses.
Having embarked on her own journey with a mental health diagnosis, she is passionate about
Psychiatric Recovery and teaching others how to strengthen their "Recovery Toolbox." Sarah
finds comfort in writing, having completed more than 29 journal volumes. She teaches
occasional recovery workshops using principles she learned from Recovery Innovations.
Born and raised in San Diego, California, Sarah served a Spanish speaking and ASL mission for
the LDS Church in the Texas Dallas Mission. She was graduated from Ricks College and BYU.
Sarah currently resides in the San Diego area with her husband. They have four teenage children.
She currently loves serving as Young Women secretary and ward missionary.