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The word “recovery” can mean many things when you live with a mental illness, and each person’s recovery journey is unique. Maybe it starts with a diagnosis or with those first steps into therapy. Maybe it involves learning coping skills, medication changes, missteps and challenging old habits. Maybe it’s a lifelong process, or maybe it takes merely a few months.

Whatever it is, it’s your own journey to manage your illness, and although it might seem daunting, it’s a journey worth starting.

In honor of National Recovery Month, we asked our readers to send messages of hope to those who’ve just started their recovery journey.

Here’s what they had to say:

1. “There is hope, but you do have to work for it.” — Emily Wright

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2. “For me, I had to realize it’s not in my control when the shades go down. But I do have control over what I do next. You have to realize you’re strong.” — Kirstie Loudermilk

3. “There’s no right or wrong way to manage your mental illness. You are not less of a person for needing medication or having to go to therapy multiple times a week. If something helps your mental health, take the time to do it. Don’t stop, no matter what other people think.” — Hayley Lyvers

4.It won’t be easy, but it will get better.” — Stacey Hogg 

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5. “Things can get better when you say, ‘I need help.’ You will continue to recover every day when you accept the right help and keep believing in it.” — Charlene Dewbre

6. “Recovery is a series of steps. The first step is forward — away from feeling hopeless. Then more steps to treatment, self-forgiveness, self-care and before you know it, you’ll look back and realize you’re on your way! One step at a time.” — Katy Keenhold

7. “The point of recovery isn’t to live without ups and downs — it’s learning how to live with the ups and downs.” Ali Foley Shenk

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8. “I found my recovery was a lot like being in the dark woods. I felt lost, alone and isolated. I stumbled and tripped over roots and branches. Some days I sat on a log and didn’t feel like moving at all. But I found a way to get up and take a few steps. A few steps led to more and more. Then I found a bridge and crossed over to light.” — Amy Beth

9. “Mental illness is a roller coaster of emotions. Some days there are more downs than ups. Take each day, or even each hour, as it comes. One day you’ll realize you’ve gone several hours without a down moment. That might turn into a whole day or even several days. When you get to that point, try to think about what you did differently to make the roller coaster ride a little smoother.” — Lexie Nooyen

10. “Be proud of every step you take towards stability, no matter how big or small!” — Jessica Ann Hardy

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11. “Recovery is a lifelong process. There might be times you feel like you’re hitting a brick wall. But keep pushing through. When you do push through to the other side, you’ll come out stronger and better prepared.” — Sandra Martorano Tentler 

12. “I don’t think ‘recovery’ is the right word. But what I would say is: it is possible to feel better. It’s worth it to get yourself well. It’s hard work, but it can be done.” — Cheryl Joyce

13. “Just wake up and take it one day at a time. Literally determine what you can do that day and focus on that.” — Chelsea Fleming

14. “You will not always feel this way. It’s hard to make yourself believe that when you’re drowning in the moment, but it can get better.” — Rebecca Bowen Roper

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15. “Don’t get hung up on the concept of recovery.” — Sonia Weaver

16. “It’s like living in the ocean — some days you get pulled by the tide, some days you swim against the current. The highs and lows will ebb and flow like the tide. But remember the ocean can be a beautiful place to be. Enjoy the moments when you can float on your back, stare at the sky and know everything will be all right.” — Sheilah O’Grady-Krajniak

17. “You will fall on occasion, and it’s OK. Get back up and keep going. You can do it. I have faith in you.” Carla Gibbs-Dempsey

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18. “You’re not expected to go through life on your own, and you’re not expected to always know what you need. Just saying you need something is equally valid. No one expects you to have all the answers.” — Charlotte Sanz-Henry

19. “The difficult times are just as valuable as the good times, because they give you the hindsight needed to help you go forward.” — Sara Cahill Camps

20. “Don’t be ashamed to admit you are vulnerable. Recognize you’re taking the first steps to save your own life.” — Carole Anne Trisler

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21. “Setbacks aren’t permanent; don’t let then get you stuck. Use them as an opportunity to add something new to your regiment.” — Judith Ann Simons Gorsky

22. “It’s worthwhile to keep rebuilding your life, no matter how many times it falls apart.”Christine L Hauck

23.Progress, not perfection.” — Lauren Adam Potthoff 

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*Some answers have been edited and shortened for clarity and brevity.

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