I’ve knowingly lived with depression and anxiety for more than eight years. Even though I’ve grown in a lot of positive ways over that time, there have also been many challenges and obstacle, a lot of which existed primarily due to depression and anxiety. A while back I realized that matter how many steps I take to improving my mental health, obstacles will always exist. They might look different during various parts of life, but they will continue to happen, challenging my mental wellness in a now-familiar pattern. It’s one of the most frustrating aspects of living with a chronic mental health condition, but there are things I’ve learned over that that improved my approach to living with depression and anxiety.
It’s a marathon, not a sprint.
Living with a mental health condition means that you can face the same challenges time and time again. Sometimes it feels like a constant rise and fall, going from a breakthrough to a crisis before you know what’s happening. When I feel like I’ve failed at managing my mental health, I remind myself that I’m playing the long game. My goal is to be as mentally healthy as I can, and even when it’s not happening, that’s not a permanent loss. Training for a marathon means working on endurance, focus and determination – all good traits to have when living with mental illness.
Setbacks are allowed to happen
This was an aspect of mental health that was hard for me to accept. I assumed that the more you work on your wellness, the fewer mental setbacks you have. Long story short, I was wrong. Setbacks will continue to happen, but as you grow and develop your mental health muscles, they’ll change in different ways. The best mental preparation I can do during a setback is remind myself that they’re normal and that they happen to everyone – mine just might look a little different than others.
You’ll have good days, bad days, and ‘meh’ days
I’m sure we’ve all heard the adages about having good days and bad days but to be honest, most of my days are very in between. Depression can make your brain a little foggy sometimes, and persevering through that means there are many days that are just fine. Don’t get me wrong, I still look at those days as wins, but they aren’t the shiny, enjoyable good days that we all long to experience. Black-and-white thinking in this area can damage the way you see the world – fine isn’t always what you want, but sometimes it’s enough.
Maintaining wellness is just as important as improving wellness
There’s always been (and will always be) a huge focus on improving mental wellness, and for good reason. But when you face chronic mental health challenges, maintaining that wellness can have just as big of an impact as getting to that level in the first place. Think of it like physical exercise – getting in shape is a big accomplishment, but you have to continue to exercise and stick to a regiment to stay in shape. All the exercises we use to improve mental wellness – therapy, exercise, meditation, etc – can be used to maintaining mental health.
You don’t have to hide the mental health side of your experience
This is one of the most important things I’ve learned about living with chronic depression and anxiety. Mental health struggles don’t have to be put in a box and hidden from the world. There’s also a way to share your experiences with mental health while showing that it isn’t the only aspect of your personality. I used to think I had to hide my mental health challenges because I thought people would grow tired of the same old story. Who wants to hear someone talk about mental illness that much? A lot of people, as it turns out. While this ties a lot into the mental health stigma of today’s world, knowing that we don’t have to hide this aspect of our lives can go a long way when we’re dealing with long-term mental health challenges. And while maybe today is not the day, maybe tomorrow is. It’s a marathon, not a sprint, right?
What is something that living with a chronic mental health condition has taught you? Do you identify with any of the things I mentioned in this post? Let me know in the comments!