The 5 Pillars of Recovery to Mental Wellness

Let’s face it. Recovery from one or more mental health conditions isn’t easy.

My name is Jared Bendifallah. I’ve been in recovery from a serious mental health diagnosis since the summer of 2015. But allow me to backtrack a bit.

I struggled with intense anxiety as a teenager, but the structure that high school and college provided kept me relatively stable for many years. Unfortunately, after college, without any structure or direction in my life, my mental health completely deteriorated. I moved back to my childhood home and lived there from 2013-2015. During this time, I became extremely socially isolated and hopeless about my life. I developed an eating disorder and started to have intense suicidal ideation.

Everything culminated when I spent 50 days at a psychiatric hospital. Unfortunately, my time there did not help me to get better. Thankfully, in the summer of 2015, I got a second chance at life at a residential program in Boulder, Colorado where I was able to get stable for the first time in three long years, overcome my eating disorder, and get my life back.

Between 2016 and 2019 I focused on my continued recovery while attempting to create a new life for myself. I got an Associate’s degree from Santa Monica College in 2017 and a Master’s degree from the University of Southern California in Urban Planning in 2019.

I started attending peer support groups with NAMI WLA in August of 2019 and have not looked back since. I attended the support groups almost every week for a year and took NAMI’s Peer to Peer class in the Fall of 2019. In 2020 I got trained to facilitate the peer support groups and started facilitating groups in October 2020. I get to lead three of the peer support groups a week for NAMI WLA and I’ve been blessed to be able to lead over 400 support groups since the Fall of 2020.

I’ve also had the opportunity to teach the Peer to Peer class several times and have spoken to middle schoolers, high schoolers, college students, and graduate students as a Youth and Lead Presenter for NAMI’s “Ending the Silence Program.” Since April of 2023 I’ve also been working full time for NAMI WLA as a peer support specialist.

I have developed these 5 Pillars of Recovery to Mental Wellness by observing what has worked for me along my recovery journey (as well as my mistakes) and observing what has worked for others throughout my time as a mental health advocate over the last several years.

The 5 Pillars of Recovery are:

  1.       Basic stability
  2.       Having a self-care plan
  3.       Trusting the process of recovery
  4.       Finding your community
  5.       Expanded self-awareness and intuition

The first pillar is basic stability, which is the foundation of recovery. This includes having clinical support, such as a psychiatrist and a therapist, and non-clinical support such as friends and family and maybe even a life coach or a mentor. It also includes having some kind of structure in your life to keep you grounded. Examples of structure could be attending a support group once a week, volunteering at a food pantry or a soup kitchen, going (back) to school, and/or working part-time or full time. My personal lack of structure in my life from 2013-2015, I believe, heavily contributed to my mental health deteriorating after college.

The second pillar is having a self-care plan, which includes cultivating your mental and emotional well-being on a consistent basis and having self-care tools that you can use when you are especially stressed out. For me this might be venting to family or friends or calling a “warm-line” when no one else is available and I need to talk to someone.

The second pillar also includes having one non-negotiable self-care tool that you can use every single day. This should be something that acts as an anchor for you and provides you with a strong foundation for self-care. It should be something that feels natural for you and feels good to do. For some people this could be exercising 4-5 times a week. For others, it could be journaling or some form of creativity.

The third pillar is trusting the process of recovery. Recovery is a process with bad days and setbacks, but it is important to never give up and to keep moving forward. Take one small step at a time and over the course of many months and even years you will be blown away by how much progress you have made.

The fourth pillar is finding your community. This could be anything from a bird watching club to a book club or a support group. You know you have found your community when you feel like you truly belong and you feel seen, heard, and supported by the people around you. For me, I knew after 3-4 weeks of attending NAMI WLA’s peer support groups in 2019 that I had found my community, a place where I belonged. There was something about attending support groups with other adults also living with one or more mental health conditions that made me feel safe and accepted.

The fifth pillar is expanded self-awareness and intuition. Becoming more self-aware includes learning about your strengths and talents as well as your struggles and challenges. Self-awareness can lead to greater insight into who you are as a person and is a powerful tool for personal growth. 

The fifth pillar also includes following your intuition. Some may call this “intuition” while some may call it a “gut reaction” but it is the part of you, a form of higher intelligence, that knows or understands something without any logical explanation. When you take what I like to call “enlightened action” based on your intuition, you can move your life forward in a way that brings you closer to your deepest dreams and your soul’s purpose, and gives life and recovery greater meaning.

Implementing these 5 Pillars of Recovery can lead to profound growth and healing over time. Keep pushing forward and never give up hope.

Jared Bendifallah

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