When you have been diagnosed with mental illness, life doesn’t stop giving you obstacles to overcome. Life doesn’t give you hall passes, get out of jail free cards or golden tickets. We deal with and work through all the same challenges as people who haven’t been diagnosed.
There is no Difference
We get married and divorced; our loved ones die, and there are wonderful births in our families. Our children do well in school, and they fail. We get jobs, and we lose jobs. We are no different from anyone else. Except, we are susceptible to being triggered by any one of the above listed events. Research has shown that anything that puts a stress on our brain (positive and negative) can affect our mood and our stability. It is critical to have support around you and a way to manage these kinds of changes in our lives.
Recently I have been overwhelmed by the number of challenges life has presented me. The details don’t matter, what does matter is how and when I ask for support. What matters is the support structure around me to catch what I’m not seeing. What matters is the pre work and organization I have put into place. I can be confident I’ve done everything I need to mitigate the circumstances when I’m faced with overwhelm, grief and loss.
During this time I’ve had days that, at the end of them, I wish I could go back and have a re-do, start again shift my perspective to one that was totally empowered, rather than the dark space which supports no action or results. I’ve also had days that were great, beautiful, full of connections, affinity for others and a real joy. The point is during the last couple of weeks; I’ve been able to manage everything in a way that is stabilizing. I’m pretty sure that given the circumstances my resilience is due to the safety nets I have in place. A few are listed below:
1) I am 100% compliant with my medication, blood work and doctor checkups.
2) I have about 6 people in my life aware of my condition who could connect with my doctor if they had any concern about my behaviour. As well a number of friends and colleagues could connect with my husband or sister if they had a concern about my behaviour or state of mind.
3) I’m connected to a Peer Support group that meets bi-monthly. This group gives me ideas, support, and a place to talk about what’s going on in a non-judgemental environment.
4) Food, Sleep and Exercise – I find this to be one of the most critical elements for mental health stability. So I developed a charting exercise to help with its importance.
5) Ongoing commitment to self development and awareness.
6) Staying away from any alcohol or illegal drugs
I haven’t “fallen” yet, and don’t plan on it. And it’s important to take care of myself and my needs. That means creating and adhering to boundaries and agreements I’ve set for myself.
To be honest, all I want to do is curl up, smoke some pot and forget what is happening. And I don’t. I don’t because I know this will pass. I know if I do it will exacerbate the challenges I’m facing, and it’s not what I’m committed to for my life.
It’s important to remember the tools you have to support yourself. For me, I know 24 hours can go by, and all I’ve done is wallow in self pity. Sometimes on those days all it takes is a conversation with someone who cares. Be careful, some people like to fix what’s happening, and usually when they do that it pushes me further away. What’s better is just letting me know that you get it, listen to me and giving me a hug helps. Some people can do this and other’s can’t. Part of having a mental illness is being responsible to yourself and your illness. It means making sure you have the people around you that can be an ear to listen, and not a repair man. If you are like me, you might have days that asking for something is just not possible, that’s when leaning on the structures you’ve created for yourself and your life is going to make the all the difference.
Empathy Vs Sympathy
Dr. Brene Brown created a short video on the difference between empathy and sympathy that resonates with me. What I want in those moments of dealing with change and challenge is empathy not sympathy.
How do you support yourself when life presents challenges?