It's About Time We Rethink Recovery

For years I’ve been on a quest for answers. What’s happening to me? Why haven’t I recovered? What will it take to make a full recovery? The questions evolved, but the premise remained constant: How to put the pieces back together to get back to normal?

Change entered my life without an invitation and left me feeling disoriented and broken. When thrusted into an unfamiliar world, left to figure out how to carry on with no roadmap or guideposts to navigate me forward  —  my inclination was to put what was once familiar on a pedestal, to search endlessly for the answers that would get me back to what once was. Art found its way into my recovery and into my life. The process of creating art with no specific end goal led me to unfamiliar ground which ultimately led me to recovery.

The completed pieces of art were mirrors. Held up in front of me, they reflected back at me what I could not see. My art is where I came to understand my life and its evolving narrative, where I continue to grow and find answers to questions I never thought to ask.

This is what I learned:

  • Culturally there is an implied expectation that recovery from a traumatic event, injury or illness means returning back to the same state of functioning prior to these changes. The journey of recovery is not a clear path to a specific endpoint but rather a continuous process of discovery to new ways of living and being.
  • I am not what I can or cannot do. I am not my occupations or material possessions. I am not my relationships or interests. There is a tendency to construct complicated and layered definitions of our own identities. Who we are is purely an intangible collection of qualities and traits that allow our everyday actions to shine through. Who we are transcends deeper than all the layers we continuously add to our lives. I am Compassion, Strength, Growth, Imperfect, Whole, Open, Complex, Hope. My identity was in fact never lost, rather now more visible when stripped bare of all the layers covering it up.
  • I assumed I would be recovered once I was able to function and operate in the exact same way as before, attempting to put all the shattered pieces of my life back in the same place. Recovery is choosing to pick up some of those pieces and reassemble them in a way that brings life to a new function. Recovery is seeing beauty and function in an entirely different way.
  • There is no one-way to “recover.” Recovery is something to be lived through and experienced individually. This exhibit asks you to rethink recovery. To challenge the culturally accepted beliefs and one-sided normative definition of “recovery.” In the process, you are invited to discover and redefine what recovery means to you.

Last month I curated these works of art into ReThink Recovery, my first solo art exhibit at Lakeshore Art Gallery in Toronto. The turnout overwhelmed me in more ways than I could have ever imagined. Seeing hundreds of strangers connect with these works showed me that I am not alone in this journey. Witnessing how individuals related to the exhibit and drew meaning far beyond my lived experiences of recovery from an injury revealed the universality of ReThink Recovery.

Ceramic bowl constructed of broken pieces reassembled differently
Recovered, by Kanika Gupta

The exhibit may be over, however ReThink Recovery is just getting started… I invite you to rethink recovery. To challenge the culturally accepted beliefs and one-sided normative definition of “recovery.” In the process, you are invited to discover and redefine what recovery means to you.

Continue the conversation. #ReThinkRecovery

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