In order to write the manual on recovery, I decided that what I needed to do was interview people who had healed, often seemingly despite all odds, so I could better understand what they attributed their healing to. I then would need to talk to loved ones and staff, to gain their perspective. This, in itself, was a huge undertaking, but the most difficult time came after I completed these thousands of interviews. I was dumbfounded to find that there was seemingly no commonality — not just between the 3 stakeholder groups, but within them. There really did appear to be just as many paths to healing as there were to illness and it felt, for a time, as though every single person would need their own completely innovative and targeted plan for healing. While the idea of completely individual, tailored and targeted healing plans seems ideal, it also would mean that recovery would be impossible to implement systemically.

But, fortunately, with the help of my patient and dedicated husband, who by that point had taken a very demanding job outside of his contribution to Health Action Network, a commonality began to emerge from the thousands of index cards that were, by then, lining the rooms of our home in San Francisco. Each index card ended up being a crucial piece of the puzzle, but when you don’t see the picture of the puzzle before attempting to put it together, it can feel like an impossible task with endless possibilities. Ultimately, 8 principles (attitudinal) and 12 strategies (skills) emerged as the pattern and I spent day after day and night after night, turning this beautiful and complicated puzzle into book form.

The manual that felt absolutely impossible to write was published in the year 2000 as The Power of Procovery in Healing Mental Illness: Just Start Anywhere.

Please check back for Part Six, the final piece of the The Wisconsin Days series, soon!

Until then…