Recovery as Identity: A Year Later

A surprising number of people read my Michigan Medicine article about my hospitalizations for mental illness. I’m happy to say, I’ve still been doing really well for a decent chunk of time thanks to therapy and medication. Here is an update!

It has been exactly a year today since I was last discharged from the hospital for suicidal ideation and mental illness. And that is no small achievement, especially as someone with a previous diagnosis of BPD (borderline personality disorder). I was hospitalized four times in the span of about a year and a half, so to go a year without needing to be hospitalized is a true testament to my effort and recovery.

Recovery is something I’ve been thinking about a lot lately. I want to work on making recovery a larger part of my identity. When you struggle with mental illness, it can be tempting to let the illness become part of your identity. After all, it greatly impacts your life on a daily basis. But that can lead to getting attached to the mental illness which can delay or prevent recovery.

For me an example of this comes up whenever I am asked if I have ever attempted suicide on paperwork or by a professional. In a weird BPD way, though not exclusive to BPD, I regret not being able to say “yes” and have surviving an attempt as part of my identity. It’s almost self-invalidating to all the pain I experienced to have to say “no.” I worry the professional won’t truly see or acknowledge all that pain.

Now, of course, thinking rationally I can see how potentially unhealthy it would be to engage with this thought. Logically, I know I’m lucky to have not attempted and gone through that trauma or maybe not survived. But not everyone might be in a place where they can see this distinction. It’s likely part of a later stage of recovery.

Since I’ve been stable for quite a while and am continuing to inch deeper into later stages of recovery, I want to consciously make being in recovery a larger part of my identity.  That doesn’t mean erasing all history of mental illness or even advocacy from my viewpoint of my life. On the  contrary, it’s about acknowledging all the pain and struggle, but also remembering the work that went into getting to and maintaining where I am today. This is far healthier than thinking back and wishing it had gotten worse. Now, I identify with being in recovery from mental illness rather than being ill with mental illness.

This is why I am celebrating the anniversary of my last discharge date, rather than other anniversaries more tied to illness, such as the days I almost attempted. Though I wasn’t in recovery yet when I was discharged, it was an identifiable moment in that process. Yes, it was the months of hard work that preceded and then followed that date that lead to recovery, but there is no set date of when I entered recovery. It’s a gradual process, and this is the closest thing I have as a way to celebrate that.

For the first time since childhood, I am finally thriving. It’s beginning to feel less like an accident or phase and more like a reality. I can start to make recovery my identity.

I made it a year! Yippee!


dance party 3


  1. […] I’m very cautious of identifying as sick or mentally ill. I don’t think that is productive to recovery. Nonetheless, OCD had and still has such a large impact on my life that it is a part of who I am and a part of my life history. I have been experiencing OCD for literally as long as I can remember, dating back to at least preschool. Even though I wasn’t diagnosed until I was nineteen, how can I just remove all of those experiences? How can I remove a label that came years too late and at nineteen finally made sense of my world? […]


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