Mental Health 101

Supporting mental health and recovery


Courage and Recovery (2:30)

Pat Deegan discusses courage and shares how it relates to her recovery journey.

When I talk about my recovery from schizophrenia, people sometimes tell me that I must have a lot of courage. However, if I'm honest, I would have to say I never felt particularly courageous during my recovery. Mostly, I felt determined, afraid and uncertain. I felt determined to get well, afraid I couldn't do it and uncertain about how to get the life I wanted for myself. I was not a courageous hero. I was scared and vulnerable, but I continued, on most days, to put one foot in front of the other on the long walk of my recovery. It seems to me that courage is an attribute we ascribe or assign to a person who remains determined in the face of fear, uncertainty and adversity. For instance, when we watch news footage of a pilot landing a plane safely in the icy Hudson River, we say, "The pilot is courageous." When we see a firefighter scaling a ladder to rescue a person from a burning building, we say, "Isn't she courageous?" But is courage really what the pilot or firefighter experiences? The pilot is in a cold sweat, hands trembling and fear gripping his throat, as he lands the plane in the water. The firefighter climbs the ladder despite her trembling knees, pounding heart and uncertainty as to whether she'll survive the ordeal. And that's my point. What outsiders call courage is experienced as determined effort in the face of fear and uncertainty by the person living the experience. On a practical level, this means we don't need to feel like a hero with lots of courage in order to recover. If we are fearful and uncertain, if we sometimes doubt, we can achieve our goals, as expressed in our power statement, for instance. It's okay. The pilot and the firefighter feel afraid and uncertain too. What we really need to walk our journey of recovery is determined effort, despite the fear and the uncertainty. We need to put one foot in front of the other, even if we're afraid. Over time, those trembling steps add up to the life that we want for ourselves. This is Pat Deegan. Thanks for listening.

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