There are two sides to the mental health spectrum. But first, let’s define what this spectrum is. A spectrum of experience ranges from excellent mental health at one end to debilitating symptoms or mental illness at the other.
According to the World Health Organization, 1 in every 8 people in the world lives with a mental disorder. Mental disorders involve significant disturbances in thinking, emotional regulation, or behavior. There are many types of mental health disorders.
I recently attended a support group for people who struggle with mental illness, and while there, it really hit home that my brain has quite a cocktail.
Hi, I am Auma Rita. I suffer from CPTSD, Bipolar disorder, and ADHD. My triggers are everywhere on some days, but I try to wake up and show up daily for myself. I haven’t always been this way. Before my diagnosis, I always wondered why I had a cloud of darkness following me for weeks during some months.
The irregular mood swings were never explained, and the times I thought about ending my life were too many—seven to be precise. I honestly never thought I would make it to 30, but here I am about to turn 32. Still breathing and still fighting back.
I am a part of the 1 in 8 people. I won’t lie; it isn’t easy, but I have learned to stay for myself and keep on my healing journey. Here are a few tips I would love to share with anyone on the mental illness side of the spectrum. I hope they are a tad helpful.
Gratitude: My mental illness has taught me to be grateful for the small things in life. The fact that I am in good health on some days. The fact that I can do chores like wash my dishes, clean up after myself. The fact that I can maintain my personal hygiene, like having a shower when I need to and not having to cry through the whole process.
The fact that I can easily sleep off and have a good night’s rest. These things seem small because it’s easy for a normal person to just do them as part of their routine, but sometimes for me, routine is impossible when I am depressed. Last year, I started counting my blessings every single day, and even on the bad ones, there’s something good that has happened that keeps me going.
Journal: When most people hear this, they think about a book and paper. I like writing stories, but I failed at keeping a diary to pen down my thoughts every day. Thank God for smartphones. Whenever I was happy or having a good experience, I started making short videos about it.
Whenever I hit rock bottom again, I watch them, and they’re a reminder that there will be happier times again. This too shall pass.
Work Out: The first time my psychiatrist advised me to work out, I rolled my eyes at him. I had tried it out, and it hadn’t seemed to help. I don’t know if my endorphins were capable of being released. But in hindsight, I have had my most fulfilling days when I go to the gym or take a walk on a difficult day.
It doesn’t automatically fix my problems, but I feel I have done something kind for my body that is showing up for me on a daily basis. It’s my version of giving it grace as it takes care of me.
Advocate for Yourself and Accept Help: The person who really understands what you are going through best is you. You know your symptoms well because they are affecting you directly. If you are on medication, you know the side effects; you also know if a drug is working or not. So at your next appointment, advocate for yourself.
Tell the mental health practitioner what you have really been struggling with. Make sure they listen. If you feel that the mental health practitioner isn’t the best fit for you, it’s perfectly okay to get a second opinion until you find one who you are comfortable with, understands you, and is willing to walk the journey to healing with you.
And when they offer help, accept it. They do not want to see you suffer or struggle. They want to see you get better.
Support Groups: When I first got diagnosed, I didn’t know half the mental illnesses I had been diagnosed with were a thing. I sat in that chair relieved that it wasn’t all in my head. I later got taken in as an inpatient, and although it was scary, my favorite part about being on the inside was when we sat together as patients in the evening, shared a bit of our stories, and everyone went around and gave advice.
It made me stronger, and I felt less lonely. I decided to create such safe spaces for people like me when I came out. Heart to Heart spaces run a similar support group every last weekend of the month. Most times I go in with a heavy heart, but I always leave feeling seen and hugged.
Relapse Prevention Plan: The last gem I would love to share is a relapse prevention plan. The first time my therapist asked me to draft one as a prerequisite for my discharge, I was so insulted. Did she think I was unable to take care of myself? Did she think I wasn’t strong enough to fight through these mental illnesses and thus easily get back to hitting rock bottom? But I did need it.
The truth is relapses are going to happen. They do not mean you are not healing; they are part of the healing journey. The trick is to fight as much as you can to get back out of it.
A relapse prevention plan involves writing down your warning signs that indicate you are dipping again. I have ten things on my plan that have the specific things I experience when this is happening. When I identify four out of the ten have happened, I then try to manage them by using my positive coping tools that I developed with my treatment team.
If this fails, then I know I am in the red. I normally walk into the hospital and immediately ask to see my psychiatrist, or I ask them to watch me until I get better. This is a way of fighting for myself to say because despite all the messages my brain sends at the moment through what I feel, I know they are not facts.
I could go on and on about what you should do, but another tip I learned is that most times you have to put in the work to become self-aware of what works and doesn’t work for you. I hope my few tips help in one way or another.
It’s always great to share with another soldier on the battlefront what tips of warfare can help them stay longer. If you have some tips that would help me, I would love to learn them too.
Please feel free to reach out to email@example.com. But for now, I am signing out and sending you love and light.