The Metaphor of Reclamation
We live on the banks of the River tay in Scotland. Not far from our home is the landing strip of Dundee airport. This was once submerged beneath the estuary but, over many years, was gradually drained, and protected from further flooding by a sea wall. What once was lost from view - indeed was viewed as useless - was brought into view, and transformed into something of great value. This work was accomplished slowly, with great effort and skill, not to mention at some considerable risk to the people involved.
This provides a fitting metaphor for the process of reclamation that is possible for those whose lives have been submerged by the experience of madness. The old English term madness evokes the range and depth of the disruption involved. In reclaiming their lives from the waters of madness, people bring to the surface a person who has, to large extent, been lost from view: Lost from the sight of family and friends if not also from themselves.
Reclaiming Our Humanity
When people enter mental health services their personal identity is submerged - not so much by the experience of madness (or mental health problems), as by bureaucratic labelling. They cease to be 'persons', with their own lives, loved ones and hopes and dreams, and become 'patients', 'clients' or 'service users'. These make the individual anonymous; just another 'patient', or 'client' or 'service user'.
If people are to recover their lives, the first thing they need to do is to reclaim the stories of their lives. These stories belong to them as unique persons, not anonymous 'service users'!
The Challenge of Reclamation
When people reclaim their lives, they are required to undertake the lengthy, difficult and often threatening process of draining the effects of madness from their lives; transforming something that once was thought to be both meaningless and worthless, into something of great value if not priceless.
We have met and worked with many people over the years who have helped us understand what the process of reclamation might entail. They helped us appreciate the personal and interpersonal effort involved, but also how the reclamation attitude contrasts with traditional ideas of helping the so-called ‘mentally ill’. Most of all they reminded us that we are all in recovery. We are all struggling with something - perhaps a variety of things - that haunt us, limiting our capacity for becoming fully human.
Hopefully, in your experience of working with the Tidal Model, you will meet people who are involved in reclaiming their stories, and thus beginning to recover the whole of the lives that were lost from view. We hope, also, that you will become more aware of your own losses, that may need reclaiming, as part of your own recovery voyage.