Living with mental illness is very different to when it flares, it is trying to deal with the symptoms that will allow you to live your best life. I have been living with chronic depression and generalised anxiety disorder since I was 14, and I thought I would share some things I have learned over the years.
I have spoken so many times about my mental health here on the blog, I am what they call ‘high functioning‘ which means it is hard to tell by looking at me that I have mental health issues. I have lived my life trying to hide away my feelings, and make sure nobody knows how I am feeling on the inside. It is how I stayed safe and coped while growing up and has just become part of my life.
Many people around the world live the same, there is a lot of pressure to conform to society and to appear to be well and happy when behind closed doors the truth is very different. I know a lot of people who are suffering with their thoughts or feelings, but when it is suggested they see a doctor they say there is no point or make an excuse.
It was Blue Monday this week, and it once again reminded me that not every person lives this way, a lot of people do, but many people don’t. They never experienced negative or triggering thoughts, never experienced dissassociating, never had to push down a panic attack and ask to use the bathroom so they can have a break. I feel glad that they don’t, but I think of all the people who live with hidden mental health conditions and knew I needed to share how I live with mental illness.
Living with mental illness:
- Replace the negative – I often find my thoughts are negative and as if the world is coming to an end and in the past it would trigger a panic attack. Then a therapist said I should try replacing every negative thought with two positive ones, and everything changed. Turning those thoughts around can make such a big difference and thought they can be hard to think of, it is worth the effort.
- Take your meds – If you are taking medications, keep taking them no matter what! Coming off your medications without medical support can be very dangerous to you and others, speak to your doctor before making this decision.
- Do a little every day – mental health can make it hard to tidy up, exercise, eat enough, stop eating too much. But do just one thing every day like clean one shelf, wash your face or clean your teeth, have some soup…just something small. Too often we can make things into a mountain instead of just taking the first step.
- Be mindful – You knew it was coming, but trust me being in the moment lets you watch out for triggers easier, and helps you catch negative thoughts earlier. Meditation is a good place to start, but bringing it into every moment will change everything!
- Be kind when you rewind – when you do look back on a situation remember who you were then. I used to start imaginary conversations with someone I hadn’t spoken to in decades and end up feeling like the worst failure because of the decision I made back then. But remember who you were, how young you were, your life experiences and be kind to yourself now and then.
I really hope these tips will help you when living with mental illnesses, when anything is chronic it is all about the small day to day practices. They are the things that make all the difference, and I hope that these will soon become second nature to you.