The standard dictionary definition of recovery is to return to a ‘normal state of health’. I prefer a definition of recovery that is used in sport - to describe the action of returning the paddle, leg or arm or back to initial position to make a new stroke. Once I have moved forward from a period of disruption I don’t want to return the place I was in before.

For me, recovery is when I am no longer focusing up on how I am feeling and instead begin thinking about doing things in my life. It's about rebuilding basic structures in my life again and moving on. Focusing on things I can do and not getting caught up in what I can’t do helps work towards recovery.

It's about rebuilding basic structures in my life again and moving on.

From 1994 to 2005, I experienced four periods of extreme altered states (what others might term psychosis). Over that time I had 3 hospital admissions. I have had periods of both high mood and low mood. There have been many times when I couldn’t sleep in the night without needing someone to reassure me I wouldn’t die.

I was given a diagnosis of bipolar disorder, which I did find helpful in the past but in the last few years I have found it more helpful to reject the idea of illness and diagnosis in order to focus my energies instead on thinking about what I can do to stay okay and in balance. Since 2005 I have been discharged from psychiatric services, come off medication and returned to work.

I realised I had a choice, I could make positive choices about my own wellbeing.

The ultimate shift, after the last time I had been in hospital, my cousin said “Penny, you don’t need to do this to yourself anymore" - and something kind of clicked with me. I realised I had a choice, I could make positive choices about my own health and wellbeing.

The different things that have helped me paddle on are: doing regular exercise; improving my diet; spending time outdoors with nature; creativity - artwork, poetry, photography; learning relaxation techniques - tai chi, meditation, homeopathy; someone to talk to outside of family; friends; services; changes to lifestyle and work being more flexible; more leisure time.

Through experience I feel I have a better understanding of how my energy levels naturally ebb and flow. For me, high energy is associated with being quite creative or working on lots of different projects - so I can’t switch off - a term I call 'busy headed'. I have learnt that I need to switch off and I can’t remain busy headed for too long! I also know that it is perfectly okay for me to have low energy times and switch off from the world, but not for too long! So I often find I have to do the reverse of what I feel like in order to stay more balanced.

I also feel I have gained a number of other personal strengths and understandings. I think this has come with experience and doesn’t happen overnight.

Taking responsibility back, setting goals, developing positive ways to deal with stress, planning ahead for stressful times, developing self awareness and self-discipline. Learning more about myself and natural energy levels, learning when to ask for extra support, learning to take my own wellbeing seriously.

Recovery has really been one long journey with a number of lapses - each time starting from a place of more understanding.

I think my recovery has really been one long journey with a number of lapses - each time starting from a place of more understanding. Each time building on what I have learnt before. Over the last few years I have realised that the things in my life that have helped me move on and recover are the same things that I need for my continued wellbeing and I try to keep on working towards keeping a balance of these positive things in my life.