Sometimes we can get stuck in a belief about something which may not actually be true or accurate and can become quite unhelpful. For example we might think; ‘I’m no good at anything I always mess everything up’. If we really believe this it may be when opportunities come along we might not even give it a try because this belief holds us back. Sometimes if we can find the root fear behind the belief that can help us to reality test it and start believing more helpful thoughts instead.
We worked with a couple of beliefs brought by the group. A recurring stressful and anxiety creating scenario that many people encounter is the Government Work capability assessment. This assesses people currently receiving benefits to see if they are able to start work again and so stop receiving benefits. People often find that the assessment takes account mostly of physical ability, so for people struggling with mental health issues, these complex difficulties are not picked up by the assessment leaving people who are currently unable to manage being at work without benefits and therefore forced into finding work where they may become quite unwell and not manage a job, further increasing the very low regard with which they may already view themselves.
Whilst the group would acknowledge that structure, routine and purpose is a big part of mental health and addiction recovery, and sometimes we see people positively move into work or voluntary positions, we know that there are times when the stress and pressure to work when someone is still unwell or just starting to recover is very detrimental. So here again we can see that if someone has a back injury their inability to work is very visible and their recovery can clearly be seen as to what they can or cannot manage. A mental health illness and recovery is not visible and because someone looks physically fit in the assessment means they may be assessed to return to work before they are ready.
We addressed a belief that people hold about going to this assessment which is:
“There is nothing I can do about the outcome of this assessment; I’m going to lose my benefits, the ability to pay rent, and have to do a job I can’t manage and I may as well relapse”.
The group (many of whom have been through this process) offered support and a different way of looking at this belief. For example, the thought to go on a bender anyway would just delay the assessment as it would be rescheduled. The group also said that Advocard (an advocacy service in Edinburgh) provide really valuable support and preparation for these assessments. We did recognise a conundrum in the system that doing things that keep you well, like support groups etc make you look well and fit for work, but the reality is that going back to work too soon may mean that you can’t do the things that keep you well and then you become ill again. This again highlights the invisibility of mental illness.
So in response to the original belief, we could now see that although we can’t change the outcome, the individual can behave in a way that may influence the outcome, and therefore has a bit more power.
Another belief that we worked with today was:
‘I don’t believe recovery can happen for me’.
Here we recognised that we all go through very dark times that we cannot see a way out of, what really helps in these times is that others can believe for us and we can be carried by that on our darkest days. The person who brought this belief was encouraged by the group that just stepping out and receiving support was being in recovery.