When I was a fourteen years old teenager, my battle with my demons began. It wasn’t until a lot further down the line in terms of time things got worse and I ended up in and out of hospital, under the care of the Home Treatment Team and seeing numerous professionals on an outpatient basis that I really began to tackle the underlying problems and face my greatest fears. I have battled anorexia, bulimia, anxiety and depression as readers familiar with this blog will know. Up until now I am plagued with destructive thoughts that I have to rationalise on a daily basis. I have to use my skills and medication to cope and well…
Honestly? It really sucks.
Anyone with mental health problems will know that the ‘down days’ in particular are the worst. I mean c’mon, we all have them. Those days when you don’t want to get out of bed and you have to put on a front for the world to see. Unfortunately, living with a mental illness, even to answer a text or phone call feels impossible because you want to be in your own little world where nobody can interrupt you or make things worse. You want to close the door on your own weird little life and just wallow in your own pain because it is easier than facing what will no doubt feel like the next thousand hours of your life. Every second of your existence there is an insidious presence wreaking havoc on your mind.
I’m not going to focus on the negative though; not for a week as important as this one. No, I’m going to be positive and challenge mental illnesses, because we cannot let them take over us and the person we really are. A mental illness should not and cannot be your identity, because to allow it to do that is a terrible injustice for the wonderful people that we are without them.
There is so much beauty in this world that we cannot see whilst in the depths of despair, and that beauty is worth fighting for. Family, friends, nature, literature or whatever it is that you may hold a smidgen of hope for is why you need to keep going, even in the darkest of times when you can barely see even a flicker of light. It’s hard to process that when you’re fighting with your partner, you’ve just lost a loved one, you’ve been given some bad news or even something seemingly smaller like a terrible day in work.
Something I am told time and time again is to get out there and exercise (if you can do so, and safely, of course), and to eat healthily. These two pieces of advice are probably what I hear most from my Community Psychiatric Nurse, and they are well worth following. This could mean simple things like going for a walk, or remembering to eat your five fruit and vegetables a day which can make such a difference to our mental health on a long-term basis.
Force yourself to do things that you know are good for you, like seeing friends, and instead ignore that little voice in your head that tells you to hide away. In Dialectical Behavioural Therapy (DBT) that is using the skill we call ‘Opposite Action’. Take care of yourself by doing something you enjoy like having a relaxing bath, which is the ‘Self-Soothe’ skill. Accept that we cannot change the behaviour of others, but we can change our own response to it, the skill known as ‘Radical Acceptance’. These are life-changing, life-saving skills that I practice on a daily basis, often work, and if I’m lucky result in me having a smile on my face!
So, why am I writing this? Well, nobody should have to be ashamed or embarrassed to talk about their mental health problems, and nobody should feel like a freak or so alone that suicide is their only option. There is always going to be someone who cares, even if that someone is a stranger to you and you have to call The Samaritans (if you live in the UK you can get in touch with them on 116 123). Reach out for help, because you deserve not just a life, but a happy life.
Links to check out