Your Mental Health Team

One of the most debilitating things about depression and anxiety is that it can make you feel alone. Like, extremely alone. You believe that you’re the only person that feels this way, that no one understands how you feel or what you feel. If you’re in a situation where you’re surrounded by people who are mentally healthier than you, this only adds to that feeling of loneliness.

When I began to feel that way, at first I didn’t know what to do. I was very nervous about talking to people about my mental health issues, and it took me a while to actually talk to family and friends about it. I was afraid that they wouldn’t be able to understand or empathize with my situation, which would only make me feel more alienated. After months of crying spells, panic attacks and days where I could not get out of bed, I finally began reaching out. That’s when I began to form my Mental Health Team.team building.jpg

What’s a Mental Health Team? It’s a group of people that you’ve surrounded yourself with who know your situation well and can help you deal with the daily challenges that a mental illness can bring. Whether it’s family, friends or co-workers, having other people out there who know your struggles (even if they don’t understand them) can change the way you perceive your mental health. Sometimes it’s as simple as one conversation with someone, but other times building that team can take time.

I’m not going to lie to you: not everyone will love hearing from you about this. It will likely be hard to talk about, and even harder for people to listen. There’s a reason mental health still struggles with a stigma; it’s not easy to talk about! But once you have that first conversation, it becomes easier, and that’s how you can grow your team and put more people in your corner.

Four and a half years after being diagnosed with mental illness, I can proudly say that I have formed a strong Mental Health Team. I’ve found the right people to talk with about the right things. This didn’t happen easily, though. I’ve leaned too hard on some people, coming to them with every single problem I’ve had, and others I haven’t talked to enough. Some people were more helpful than others and make no mistake, not everyone I talked about my mental health is on my Team. That’s okay. Don’t get hung up on the people who can’t accept this side of you – instead, focus on the ones who do. Quality, not quantity, is important for this Team, and taking that approach will not only help you, but it will help your Team as well.

While this isn’t always the easiest thing to do, having a Team around me has helped me through the many difficulties that living with mental illness can bring. These people (I hope they know who they are!) have helped me grow and try to live not just a happier life, but a healthier life. And if you’re feeling like you don’t have a Team, or can’t have a Team? Say hey. I’d be more than happy to be part of yours.

Whether you are living with mental health issues or not, it’s important to have people in our lives who help keep us healthy! Who’s on your ‘Mental Health Team’? Let me know in the comments!

 

I Need a Morning Routine

Getting out of bed in the morning is one of the hardest things I have to do every day. That sounds silly, doesn’t it? But it’s true. When the morning comes and I’m in my bed, the only I urge I have is to stay there. Sometimes this is for a normal reason (I’m tired, comfortable, etc.) but sometimes the reason is…not so normal. Next to bedtime, the morning is when I have my worst self-talk, self-hate, and the most likely time that I think about how pointless my life is. What a way to start the day!

Early to bed Early to Rise...I wish!

I think one of the reasons it’s so difficult to get out of bed in the morning is my lack of a morning routine, or ritual that I go through when I wake up. There are so many things that a person can do when they wake up to give them a jump start on the day, but the simple act of getting out of bed can be so difficult and tortuous for a mentally ill person that they are not mentally prepared to do anything but the requisite of dressing and leaving their home. Some days, even doing that is a victory.

But I would like to start doing a morning routine. I think that every attempt to improve mental health does not go to waste. Even if I do not meet my goal of doing my morning routine every day, it gives me something to strive for, which is what I’m currently lacking. Any attempt to better myself, whether it’s a success or not, is good for my mental health (and might be good for yours too!)

As I try to piece together what I hope to be my morning routine, I want to hear what you do in the morning to help you get ready for the day ahead. I could definitely use the ideas!

Things Get Better…Right?

Whether I’m in a funk or not, I ask this question fairly often: are things ever going to get better? Whether it’s something good or bad, I tend to ask this question after big events or moments in my life. To me, things can always be better because – whether or not good things happen to me – I’m usually too sad, tired or anxious to see the good things happening around me, so by that logic they can always be improved.

It took me a long time, but I finally stopped asking that question when it occurred to me that it didn’t matter how things were, or how life was going. What mattered was how I felt about those things, and how I felt about life. And there’s where I realized there was a problem. I wasn’t asking are things ever going to get better; I was asking, am ever going to get better? And that’s the real question that scared me.

One of the first times I was in a psychiatrist’s office they told me I might not ever get better. That it was a possibility that I would have to live with this for a long time. That some people deal with their depression better than others. Granted, this was because I pressed them on these subjects and wanted their opinion, but the reality of the situation was heavy. I might not ever be 100 percent healthy again.

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Five years after that conversation, I’m still not sure. But I am able to discern the stark difference between my mental health and the external things in my life. I’m able to stop asking if things are ever going to get better because I recognize that I have some power over those things – maybe not the power to overcome them all the time, but the power to fight back.

No, you can’t win every battle with mental illnesses that you have. But you can live to fight another day, and sometimes that’s as good as winning; on occasion it’s even better than winning. Because you know things will get better, because they can start and end with you. And let me tell you something friends, that’s a feeling unlike any other.

I’m Alive (This is What is Looks Like)

Given my personality and life experiences, one of the most important things in my life is the need to feel truly alive. Depression can sometimes take me out of my own body and make me feel like I’m not a real human being. It can make me desperately crave those moments, those experiences that make me feel truly alive, more than most (at least that’s what I tell myself). I’ve spent my whole life chasing these moments, trying my best to recognize them and appreciate them when they occur. So that means on top of envisioning a future where I am not depressed, I see a future where I feel alive. That’s a problem for me.

Does that mean I feel truly alive when my brain isn’t racked with depression and anxiety? In a way, yes. At least in my experience it’s been that way. I know this because I’ve done some things and seen some places that are absolutely memorable, but if I am lost in a cloud of depression, the experience means less to me.

According to Psych Central this could be what is known as “existential depression” and honestly, that sounds about right. I do know that I’m at an age and a point in my life where existential crises happen nearly every day and – mentally ill or not – I know plenty of people my age are going through the same thing. How do we get out of this corner in which we’ve trapped ourselves? Sometimes it seems that there’s no way out. And oftentimes, that’s true. There isn’t one magical, cure-all that is going to change our life and make us ecstatic with the first few years of the real world. It’s taking the little things in your life and tying them all together that make up the fabric of your life, and it’s important now more than ever.

Luckily for me, I know what makes me feel alive. I know what makes me feel more human than anything else, and I am working toward that goal. However, it also took me 20 years of living my life before I experienced this freedom. My point? It takes time. And in my willingness to chase it again, I know what I am after. And while it doesn’t make me necessarily feel alive, it helps me deal with my mental health issues, which for me is saying a lot.

Note: I stole the title of this post from a song I like. Give it a listen to brighten your day!

Enjoying the Good

When I am feeling particularly depressed, sometimes I’ll think about the future. Nothing specific really, just general futuristic vibes as I try to envision myself being happy. I try to use it to cheer me up, to think to myself that somehow, some way, I can be happy one day. But it always revolves around me being somewhere or doing something. Oh if I lived there I’d definitely be happy I’d think. If I had that job there’s no way I wouldn’t be happy all the time. It’s a dangerous game that I play to try and cheer myself up, but the flawed logic has started to take a toll on me.

The truth is, I don’t know if I’d be happy then. I’ve done that many times in my life. I think that if I do a certain thing or am in a certain place, then that will lead to my happiness. And when I get to that place, as if on cue, I am met with a familiar pestilent feeling: I’m not happy. Not even close. And then I get depressed.

This cycle has continued and on in every stage of my life. Graduating high school, going to college, graduating from college, getting a job, even starting this blog. This will bring me happiness I think to myself. And when it doesn’t, honest to God I still get a little surprised.

Wait, you must be thinking. Maybe inner happiness is what you’re after. And yes, that is true. I have read hundreds of passages and quotes that justify that thought. I know that happiness can come from inside me and the little things I do. That’s when I realized that sometimes, it’s not really happiness I’m searching for; I just want to feel good about things. I want to feel good about graduating from college. I want to feel good about securing a full-time job. When I look to the future I’m not worried about not being happy; I’m worried that I won’t feel good.

The inability to enjoy things (which is called anhedonia) can be a symptom of depression, so I’m not shocked that I don’t feel good most of the time. But I also want to change that.

I want to know what makes people feel good about life. Not what brings you eternal happiness or joy, but things or moments that you can look back on and say hey, that was nice. I think part of what depression does is make your view cloudy, making it hard to see the good in your life. So I’m going to begin to look for the good, and I’d like you to help! Comment below with some things that make you feel good. I’m hoping to take this week to try and come up with a few of my own, and hopefully together we can create a list of what makes life good and beautiful. I hope you can help!

 

Lost In My Mind

Put your dreams away for now
I won’t see you for some time
I am lost in my mind
I get lost in my mind…

Those are lyrics from a song by The Head and The Heart, and they’ve been stuck in my head all week because (if you can guess) I tend to get lost in my mind well…a lot. I used to think that it was a bad thing to get lost inside your head, but now I don’t see it that way.

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There’s a phrase people use often when they get engrossed in their thoughts, that you’re “living inside your head.” For some people this can happen every so often when they’re nervous or anxious about life events. For me, it happens all the time – I feel like some days I take up a permanent residence inside my head, which isn’t usually a fun place to be.

I used be to afraid of living inside my own head. If you had the choice between being somewhere that brought out the best in you and somewhere that brought out the worst, you’d pick the first one, right? For a long time, it seemed that I only picked the latter – with disastrous results.

It was only recently that I got more comfortable with my thoughts – at least, some of the time. Once I began to realize that I had power over them, rather than my thoughts wielding power over me, my attitude changed. I’m not saying that I’m not afraid of my thoughts now, but I’ve taken a step in the right direction and am hoping that one day, I won’t be afraid to get lost in my head.

On this journey I’ve learned that every win, regardless of magnitude, is important. If this is the first step to being completely comfortable with my thoughts, that would be wonderful. If it’s not? That’s okay too. I spent way too much time trying to change the way I am instead of accepting certain things about me, and getting lost in my thoughts is one of those things. I think about all the negative aspects of living inside my head and forget about all the self-awareness and thoughtfulness that I’ve gained as a result.

I wouldn’t be the person I am today without all the time spent lost in my thoughts and though it isn’t easy, I wouldn’t change a thing. I don’t know if I like the way I am, but I’m getting to be okay with it. And for me, that’s saying a lot.

 

Life Update!

Life Update

When I get into a rhythm, I tend not to keep track of what I’ve got going on. I ebb and flow from one day to the next, going through the motions of my day. While its nice to be in this rhythm because my mental health is in a decent place, it sometimes feels like I’m not really enjoying any aspect of who I am or what I’m doing. By providing a little life update I’m hoping for two things: 1) that my readers get to know me a little bit better, and 2) that I am able to take stock of some of what I’m doing in hopes of improving my long-term mental health.

So what’s new? My job is still going well; I’ve been at it for eight months, and it’s produced a ton of new challenges that make me have to think creatively about the messaging of what we do. Since I like to keep work life separate from my personal life I don’t elaborate much on here what I do, but it’s safe to say that I enjoy it very much.

I’m also back in school! Kind of. I recently started an online certification course to teach English as a foreign language, otherwise known as TEFL. After this 11-week course (and a practicum I have to fulfill) I will be TEFL-certified and can teach English anywhere in the world! I discovered my love for travel when I lived in Prague in college, and since I graduated it’s been my goal to figure out a way to explore the world – this is a great way to do that! While I’m not in any rush to go somewhere immediately, I’m glad that I will have the certification in hand so that when I decide to go abroad I won’t have to wait.

While these two things are taking up much of my time these days, I’m doing my best to continue doing the little things that keep my mental health strong. For me, that means exercising and working my mind by reading and playing brain games on my phone. I also like to cook for myself, and I go on walks when I can’t stop my anxious mind from working. I’m staying busy, which sounds good in theory, but I don’t know if it’s what’s best for me or my mental health (could that be the next post? Stay tuned!).

Overall, I am in a much better position than I was a year ago, when I was having panic attacks every single day and was unable to leave my bed. I hope as this blog continues that you will get to know me better, not only as a person with depression or GAD but as someone who is just like you. Isn’t that all people want, anyway?

Mental Health and Masculinity

When I first began experiencing symptoms of depression, I (quite naturally, I might add) shrugged it off. I assumed that most people felt the way I was feeling at the time, and chalked it up to any number of reasons: I was in a transitional period in my life, going through a lot of change and facing plenty of uncertainties. I was shocked when, the more I began to share my experiences with others, the more I saw that they were more unique than I thought. But I also found it interesting that women were far more open to discussing my issues than men were. I don’t believe that was a coincidence.

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Why I Don’t Want Alone Time

_Man, it feels good to be alone sometimesGod I gotta say those are my favorite nights._I’m introverted by nature, so spending time with groups of people tires me out pretty quickly. Introverted people typically need time to themselves to recharge their batteries, to be alone with their thoughts. They’re typically more reflective than most because they feed off that solitude.

I’m speculating, of course, because that’s merely been my experience as an introverted person, but I’ve heard from friends that they can be the same way (how do you think we became friends?). However, if you combine an introvert with a mental illness, that alone time becomes increasingly more complicated – and not easy to come by.

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