Why Share Our Personal Recovery Narratives? A Tool for Respect!

I am grateful of a gentleman who shared his recovery story at a partial care program that I was attending in December of 1989. He traveled out of county working for Collaborative Support Programs of New Jersey, (CSPNJ) Inc. The guest speaker spoke of his challenges and the inspirational moments that gave him hope. He valued natural supports, acceptance of living with mental illness, achieving goals despite clinical diagnostic labeling, working full-time and more. Furthermore, I admired his courage to thoughtfully and intimately self-disclose his story with both peers and staff. His hopeful, genuine, and balanced narrative was exceedingly important to me.

I was submerged in lifeless depressive feelings, such as anxiety, stress, listlessness, apathy, isolation, invisibility, helplessness, hopelessness, worthlessness, anger, guilt, societal stigma, labeling, suicidal ideation, and more. I was a month shy of my 28th birthday when listening to my first personal recovery narrative/ lived experience presentation. I began to develop internal motivation based on peer support. The “peer role modeling,” unearthed my buried and dormant insight of lost self-awareness and lost citizenship.

I now had the energy and interest to disrupt the systematic and personal dependency of routinely attending partial care. I took steps to re-pursue occupational goals of work and college. Here I will outline some benefits for encouraging and respecting the sharing of personal recovery (mental illness and/or addiction concerns) narratives.

Personal Recovery Narrative:
1. Creative written/verbal task planning and learning experience
2. Help building self-esteem, self-worth and confidence
3. Transforming an Illness narrative to a Recovery narrative develop  positive self-talk, lessening perceived and real external (public) and internal (self) stigma
4. Opportunity to publicly “role model” hope- giving back, increasing citizenship feelings
5. Why self-disclose? Weighing benefits and addressing challenges

What has your experience been in utilizing people to share their personal narratives at your agency, school; corporate business, place of worship, home, community organization or other settings? What points would you like to make about sharing your own personal story? I am active in sharing my lived experience in varied settings. I will be building on my current comments and I look forward to your posts!

10 responses to “Why Share Our Personal Recovery Narratives? A Tool for Respect!

  1. Excellent description of the benefits of sharing personal stories. I have been inspired by many who do this. Renea

  2. Reblogged this on Peer Support & On Our Way: Recovery News and commented:
    Found this excellent article on the “vocationalvoice” blog.

  3. George H. Brice, Jr.

    Hi Renea,
    Thank you for the re-blogged! Glad that more peers are courageously self-disclosing. We have both benefitted. Narratives can be an empowering and engaging tool. Tomorrow evening I’m sharing my work and recovery narrative at a county hospital. I’d like to hear from you, Renea and I welcome others to share content/delivery style examples of narratives that have motivated you?

  4. Thank you for sharing this! There are so many benefits to sharing personal stories. It can be such a bonding moment to have someone welcome you into an intimate area of their life when sharing their narratives/stories and feel comfrotable/trusting enough to share as well. I was fortunate enough to spend some time at one of the CSPNJ sites for over year (3 days a week) and hearing the stories individuals shared there brought us together so much often moving us to laughter, excitement, tears and every other emotion running the spectrum. The stories shared where indeed a tool for respect in that, everyone shared their experiences with the lived experience and each person came to respect the road the other(s) had traveled toward recovery overcoming many boundaries and obstacles. The candor was deeply respected, appreciated and at the same time highly inspirational/motivational. The sharing really benefitted me in ways unimaginable making me an advocate and see life about the lived experience in such a different way. It gave me more of confident voice in order to speak to the many inquiries layman have regarding stigma, and trials and tribulations, obstacles faced, misconceptions and preconceived notions. I really loved this post because it brings me back to those times of sharing and how through the sharing/narrative individuals at the CSPNJ found a greater respect in themselves as well as a greater respect for those sharing.

  5. George H. Brice, Jr.

    Your welcome and I’m sure the readers like me appreciate your thoughtful insights. You’ve identified some key aspects about people who share their personal narrative. That courage of self-disclosure, the range of emotions felt by these story tellers, how one’s sharing can impact others and the possible self-healing qualities of sharing. Yes important for people like myself to learn to accept those seemingly negative experiences and learn from them regardless of the pain. I’ve had to learn how to laugh as well at some of those past experiences when I was not well. This helped me to better manage the complexities of the illness and work toward my own recovery. I am so glad that you had that experience at Collaborative Support Programs, Inc. Appears the CSPNJ experience was foundational in shaping your values, beliefs, and attitudes to help voice a collective societal need for empathy and strategies to empower individuals living with mental illness and or addiction concerns to lessen overall stigma and promote social inclusion in valued social community roles. I’d be interested in your thoughts and others of some bullet points to put in a lesson plan to help people prepare and present their narrative?

  6. Pingback: Work and Recovery Video Project | vocationalvoice: the integrated employment institute

  7. I enjoyed reading this post. I have had encounters with individuals who shared their personal recovery stories at school. Each story has been different in terms of what they experienced and how they came about reaching recovery. However, the impact they left on me as a student was tremendous. I felt admiration and respect for each and every individual because of their strength, endurance, and courage. I believe peer support is crucial and beneficial in order for individuals to relate to each other and know that they too can reach recovery despite any obstacles or detours on their road to recovery. Often times, there is no one who can better understand someone other than someone who went through or is currently going through similar experiences. The benefits of sharing personal recovery narratives are ultimately intangible for both the individual disclosing and those listening.

    • George H. Brice, Jr.

      Your insightful validation of recovery narratives as an educational tool are appreciated. I am glad that you have benefited from people’s courage to share their personal experiences to help enhance your education as a student. When I was a student earning associate degrees, a bachelor and graduate degree we did not have a person come to class and share their psychiatric illness. I am pleased that you have had this enriching experience in your academic curriculum. I encourage academia to have classroom speakers not limited to psychiatric and addiction illness. Readers- please share what you have learned and enjoyed from an educational speaker (i.e., classroom, community setting, TV)?

  8. Shared experiences have always been very moving for me. I have admired the peers who have had the courage to share their recovery narratives with varied audiences time and again. Continuing a recovery journey can be difficult in and of itself but sharing one’s story with both peers and providers must be nerve wrecking! I can understand how sharing a recovery narrative can be advantageous for an individual but for myself, I have not yet been able to do so in such a venue. I truly do admire and respect my peers that are able to do this because it is not something that is a required part of treatment. Sharing a lived experience is, from my perspective, both a self service and a service to others. Shared lived experiences give others the opportunity to enrich their own stories or even the treatment services they provide to individuals. If I were to muster up the courage to share my lived experience I would include a point on stigma, both from society in general and my peers, and how I was able to find an identity other than my illness identity.

    • George H. Brice, Jr.

      Thank you for your words of encouragement to people who have shared their lived experience. It is important that individuals living with mental illness weigh the pluses and minuses of self-disclosure. In my experiences the upside has won out. Stigma is real.

      I’m encouraged that you and others will make an informed choice about self-disclosure. Personally, I have found a sense of freedom and inner-peace. Until you are ready to openly self-disclose you can help others discretely. For example, people can share, “I feel stressed” without disclosing an emotional disorder to help comfort others. Best regards on openly sharing your lived experience.

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