Monday, 1 September 2014

Things I have learned from my mental illness:

What my mental illness has taught me:

-          What my passion is
§  My experiences with mental health lead me to start campaigning around mental health issues, and in turn lead to advocacy work. I became more confident, I was brought out of my shell. It’s what I love doing, and where I found happiness. And I never would have discovered it if I hadn’t had my own personal experiences with mental illness.

-          Who my friends are
§  Yes, there were people who thought I was ‘attention-seeking’ with my mental illness. There were people who stopped talking to me. People who stopped trying to make an effort with me on my worse days. I can forgive them that.
§  But then there are the people who accepted me unconditionally. There are the people who stuck with me through the highs and the lows. There are the people who I could be myself around.
§  And I made new and like-minded friends. Friends that I work with on mental health awareness campaigns. People who I never would have known if I hadn’t gone through what I did.

-          Sleep is not over-rated
§ People say sleep is over-rated. Why spend a night in bed when you could be out socialising? 
There were nights when I couldn’t sleep a wink. And there were others where no matter how much sleep I got, I couldn’t overcome my tiredness. As a result I will always try to get my 8 hours sleep. My social life must arrange itself around this. Sentences like this one are not uncommon: ‘No, I will not stay out late tonight because I have to be up at 8am, which means I need to be sleeping by midnight.’

-          You have to take time for yourself
§  For a long time I looked to other people for my happiness. I only took pleasure from other people’s company, other people’s happiness. I relied too much on one person for my stability.
§  Not all of the time that you spend on your own needs to be spent in self pity and loathing. I love chilling out by myself after a long, stressful day. 

-          I appreciate the little things
§  My nail varnish didn’t come out lumpy.
§  That person I held the door open for said ‘Thank You’.
§  The sales assistant was friendly.
§  At least my dog seemed happy to see me home.
§  When you’re down, sometimes every little thing gets to you. If I forgot about my tea and let it go cold, I’d probably shed a few tears. You might think it sounds stupid and childish, but some days it just feels like nothing is going right. And these little things can be the trigger that just sets you off. So when the little things do go my way, even when I’m having a crappy day, I now smile to myself and appreciate that even one little thing has happened in my favour today.

-          Not all medication or treatment types work for everyone
§  I know people who hated counselling and didn’t find it helpful.
§  I know people who think exercise has no effect on your mental health.
§  I know people who don’t treat their depression with medication. And people who use different types of medication. Or people who use different amounts.
§  I tried a couple of different combinations of anti-depressants before I found what helped me. I tried to heal without counselling, but that didn’t work for me. I found exercise really beneficial. Everyone is different, and everyone’s mental health experiences are different, so of course what works for me might not work for you. But it doesn’t mean that nothing will work. It just means you have to keep looking for a little while longer.

-          Suicidal thoughts should always be taken seriously.
§  I dismissed them. I was told to dismiss them. 
§  I feel that suicide has been everywhere during the past two weeks. But what people seem to forget is that suicide is 100% preventable. Don’t dismiss mental health problems. Don’t tell somebody that their pain is insignificant. And know how to refer someone on (you can get SAFETalk trained by the HSE for free).

-          There is help out there. You are never on your own.
§  I felt so alone. I didn’t think anyone would care if I wasn’t here anymore. Only now looking back can I see just how wrong I was.

§  Even though I had dismissed that anything was wrong with me,  I had people who did take it seriously; my doctor took it seriously. Sometimes the hardest thing to do is reach out for help, but when you do, and to the right people, you’d be amazed by the help you receive.

Out of the darkness, out of all the bad, there can come some good. 

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