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A Way of Being


The Lorraine Nicholson Collection





Lorraine Nicholson  


Recovery shouldn't stop at the clinical level. Surely as human beings we deserve more than just functionality maintained by drugs. The process of recovery, if ably supported, can be potentially transformational. Personally for me it has been a lever towards fuller capacity but it has not been achieved without the unerring wisdom and understanding of supportive humanitarians. To me recovery is not rocket science. It is founded on human nature and human nurture just like any healing. 

Mental illness is a trauma which incurs many losses along the way, not just job, status or financial security but a whole raft of things like independence, confidence, self-worth, identity, choice, freedom and friends and in cases family support, are all lost. In short the devastation is akin to a hurricane after it has hit. To leave the path of destruction unattended once clinical recovery is achieved is to leave that person abandoned with all life's essential pieces widely scattered in a void of emotional suffering and only the prospect of readmission. In short recovery doesn't end with hospital discharge for that is only the very start of the journey. I, in turn, had to learn that lesson for myself the hard way by relapsing within a year of hospital discharge, trying to do too much too soon and all on my own. Impossible… 

Taking steps in your own recovery is choice and every individual knows when they are ready to take them. When we do, we change our situations and inadvertently kick-start the process of recovery. The risks we take are, when timed correctly, life-changing. 

So what of the role of mental health professionals? The therapeutic relationship has been of huge significance to me and I know that I have been extraordinarily lucky in my CPNs and my consultant as their approach is totally driven by the belief that recovery is possible. Asking me to take the lead is the very root. They have handed me back the responsibility for the future direction of my own life and invested in the development of my strengths, empowering me to be all I can be through active listening to my needs and goals. 

Such consistency of support and encouragement to move forward in my life and go beyond the person I was before has had an enormous impact on my self-belief. The foundation of their approach is humanitarian-driven and stems from a genuine desire to care holistically and promote self-determination, ultimately aiming to make themselves redundant in my care. 

The recovery approach for me consists of a "way of being" with people at every stage from crisis through every ongoing step. It is an intuitive "felt" response to the way you are feeling at any given time. "Tuning in" to the person's wavelength shows wisdom based on understanding of what is needed at the time. The tone of voice, body language, choice of words, hopeful attitude makes all the difference to our outlook. Being surrounded by people who feel positive about you and believe in you undoubtedly boosts confidence but there is a right time for every word and gesture. Knowing when to step in and prevent and when to stand back and allow are crucial skills 

My view of psychiatry and the recovery process is as a marriage of science and art. Illness and clinical recovery require a scientific knowledge base which can take you to the threshold of a much fuller recovery if art or skill is applied to wellbeing. Knowledge, judgement, intuition, wisdom, values, interpersonal skills, a desire to see beyond the confines of the diagnostic label to the unlimited potential of that particular individual to flourish as well as a genuine interest in a holistic picture make up the ideal combination for success. So that my own psychiatrist not only asks the clinical questions such as: "Are you having any side effects with the medication?" but takes the more holistic approach when asking: "Is there anything else we could be doing as a team to support you?". Whole person care is key. 

The very positive thing that emerged from my relapse was that it allowed me to see just how far I have come in the last few years. I wasn't back at square one by any means as I had at first feared. In fact, I will never be the same person as I have moved on in my life so much and now know from personal experience rather than theory, that I have, like everyone, the potential to recover.

  • Lorraine Nicholson
  • for Art of Psychiatry
  • October 2013

PEACE for all ... 

This peace is our very nature, not something we come across. It’s where we are, nearer than all else. We don’t come to it, we come from it. To find it is to allow ourselves to go back to the place we never left. — Douglas Harding.




NICHOLSON, LORRAINE (2010), The Journey Home: A collection of poetry, artwork and photography embracing the theme of recovery from severe depression, pub. UK, Tooth Books.

Lorraine's book can be bought via her website:    



Recovery, to me, is essentially about hope and optimism for all individuals regardless of their circumstances – that people have the right and the capacities to live well in the presence or absence of health conditions or social disadvantage.




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