I love music. I love listening to it, having it on in the background, seeing it live, popping on a record. I love the way music can make me feel any and every emotion there is, sometimes without even trying. Most importantly, I love music because of the way it impacts my mental health.
That’s why, each month on My Brain’s Not Broken, I’m going to share a song with you. It might be a song I can’t stop listening to at the moment, or a song I have a history with. It could be a song I don’t know much about, or I’ve listened to a thousand times. Regardless of the reason, these songs have inspired me and my mental health, and I want to share them with you. Whether you’ve heard of them or not, I hope these songs give you more insight into my world and my approach to mental health.
It feels like it happens more often than it used to these days. I’ll be trying to finish a task or make a decision, and my brain will freeze up. I’ll get panicked, and I won’t be able to complete the task I started (if I can even remember it in the first place). I lose my breath, lose focus, lose my grip on whatever I was doing. This feeling I get, the feeling of becoming overwhelmed, has become more of a problem for me in recent years. In today’s post, I want to try and figure out why.
Earlier this week on the blog, I wrote about understanding symptoms. When it comes to mental illness, many symptoms are easy to see or understand. However, many symptoms also feel impossible to see in ourselves or others. A symptom of depression for one person might not exist for someone else, but both of these people could experience depression. Mental health is complex, and understanding our symptoms (however they look) is a big step on the path toward mental wellness. Today, I want to look at five ways we can work toward better understanding our symptoms.
Do your research – but take it with a grain of salt
Before we get ahead of ourselves, let’s be honest. The Internet is a big place, and not everything you find here is going to be helpful. The more that mental health has worked its way into mainstream conversation, the more likely there will be disinformation or misinformation about it. On the flip side, researching depression and anxiety on my own terms has been one of the most helpful ways of understanding my diagnoses. Researching symptoms is a good way to understand things more, but it’s important to take everything you read with a grain of salt until you talk with a professional. Which leads me to the second point…
Talk with a mental health professional
If you’re experiencing symptoms where your physical health is impacted, you see a doctor. Why would it be any different for mental health? Talking to a mental health professional is a good first step to get the help you need. And if you think that means immediately seeing a therapist or psychiatrist, that’s not always the case. There are many types of mental health professionals who can provide valuable insight, and reaching out to someone you feel comfortable talking with is the most important criteria.
Understand mental symptoms and physical symptoms
As I mentioned in my post earlier this week, symptoms of mental illness can manifest themselves mentally and physically. It took time, but I’ve learned the difference between mental and physical symptoms. I’ve learned to recognize symptoms within myself, and figure out if my symptoms are recurring. It’s important to understand what these symptoms are, but it’s more important to know what they are for you. Understanding how my symptoms impact me is one of the most valuable things I’ve learned when it comes to mental health.
Know the difference between acute and chronic illness
For a long time, my symptoms came and went without any further understanding and introspection about them. Learning the difference between acute symptoms and chronic conditions has been very helpful for my long-term mental health. According to the National Council on Aging, acute illnesses “generally develop suddenly and last a short time, often only a few days or weeks,” while chronic conditions “develop slowly and may worse over an extended period of time – months to years.” Once I could start defining my symptoms as acute or chronic, I could better learn how to deal with them.
Take things day by day
This last bit of advice sounds a little cliche but it’s something I come back to time and again. For a long time, my only reaction to a new aspect of my depression and anxiety was fear. I was afraid of learning about new symptoms because I assumed I’d have to deal with them every single day. I’ve since learned that this isn’t the case; a symptom that might be challenging one day might not show up the next. Learning to take things as they come has taught me a lot not only about my mental illnesses, but also about myself. Every day brings new lessons on dealing with depression and anxiety. In my experience, the best way this happens is when you slow down and take things day by day.
Now I want to hear from you! What is a bit of advice you have for someone who is learning about symptoms of mental illness? Let me know in the comments!
After my (in my opinion) grumpy post about how challenging the month of February is, I’d like to try a different approach today. I’m glad I’ve admitted that the winter is a difficult season for me; doing so has helped shift the way I manage my mental health this time of year. While it hasn’t solved my problems, I’m glad that I’m more aware of what I’m up against.
Make no mistake, I still have my bad days – and during the winter, it feels like they happen constantly. But this awareness helps me appreciate the good days, the good moments where I don’t feel anxious or depressed. Moments where I feel like myself. And it’s those moments I want to build on, ones I want to experience more and have around more often.
At the start of a new month, I often think about my goals and things I want to do. Sometimes, these goals feel like the same old, same old: I want to read more, write more, meditate more, journal more. I want to have fun experiences and do interesting things. I constantly think about what I want to do but it wasn’t until thinking about this post that I realized something. I think often about what I want to do but in this context, I rarely think about who I want to be.
I’ll admit, this type of thinking is challenging for me. My instincts are often to act; when I see a problem I want to find a solution and do it as quickly as possible. It’s not the worst trait in the world, but it can often put me in situations that are more complicated than they need to be. If I don’t actively work to slow myself down, I’ll rush into something. These things usually aren’t the end of the world (my anxiety would disagree), but it happens enough that once I recognized it, it wasn’t something I could ignore.
I want to reflect on who I want to be, how I want to be, this month. I want to think about who I am in this time of my life, and how I want to move through this specific time. That doesn’t have to mean anything has to change from what I’d normally do – in fact, it’s possible nothing will change. But I’m not looking to change my actions; I’m looking to change my attitude surrounding those actions. I want to get a better sense of who I am and why I do what I do, and it starts with reflection.
I’m trying to build on my mental health on a month-to-month basis. Every month brings new challenges, new highs and new lows. But it’s also a chance. A chance to get to know myself better. A chance to learn from myself, and those around me. And regardless of how it turns out, I’m going to be grateful. Because when next month rolls around, I’ll be able to start fresh and try again.
Building on momentum isn’t as easy as it sounds, believe me! How do you get yourself motivated for the month ahead? Let me know in the comments!
The winter season has always been challenging for me. Over the years I’ve started to learn more about myself and my mental health which has made things a little easier, but I still feel like I’m fighting an uphill battle. To me, the months between November and March present a challenge I’m not always prepared to fight.
I’ve managed to figure out November and December (loving Christmas certainly helps) and January is starting to figure itself out, but February…I don’t get February. Because no matter how, no matter when, at some point during this month, I break. My mental health feels like it’s at it’s lowest point, and there’s nothing I can do about it. Why does February always get to me?
Don’t get me wrong; my mental health is a challenge all months of the year. But the characteristics of each month (or season, when I think about it) are often helpful or hurtful for my mental health. I’ve learned that I’m someone impacted by the weather, someone who likes having a few things to do but doesn’t need a packed schedule. Knowing what’s going on around me is important and when that’s not happening, I can get anxious.
So when I think about it, February really is the perfect amalgamation of a lot of these things. Weather that fluctuates between winter and spring (some years bring a blizzard, while one day last week saw the temperature reach 80 degrees Fahrenheit). There aren’t many holidays (depends on if you celebrate Valentine’s Day), and there’s a President’s Day holiday tossed in that gives most people a random Monday off – but not so many people you’re certain what’s going on. Couple these things with it being the shortest month of the year (and the Leap Year situation) and there’s just a lot I don’t understand.
It feels like things in February are just done arbitrarily, as though anything that happens this month could happen any other month of the year; we’ve just chosen this one. I know I’m being a little hyperbolic but also, this is a conclusion I’ve come to after multiple years of facing the same struggle. I hope one year I figure things out but for now, it’s just good to get my feelings out on what seems to be a challenging time of the year. Onward to March!
This entire post could just be a venting session about how much I struggle during this month, but I wonder if people feel the same way about a certain time of the year. Is there a week/month/season during the year that you feel like has your number? A time that you know is going to be super challenging simply due to the fact that it exists? I don’t know if I’ll always feel this way, but it’s how I’m starting to feel about February. Let me know in the comments what you think, I’d love to know that I’m not alone here!
Earlier this week, I reflected on some of the challenges of going on autopilot. Though it can be helpful when I’m dealing with anxiety and depression, going on autopilot can also make things more difficult. I can get too focused on accomplishing my goals, and rush into doing something. I am not always the most decisive person (and I know my friends and family would agree), and being on autopilot often exploits my indecisiveness. I tend to feel best about my decisions when I am in the present moment, I understand what’s in front of me and I know the various possibilities. That being said, it’s not always easy to get back into the present moment, and I’d like to talk about that today.
Some days I wish I could get out of my head. I don’t always know what I mean when I say that, but the sentiment is there. It feels like I live most of my life inside my head and every so often, I want to burst out. I’m sure actually doing so isn’t as dramatic as all that, but it feels like it would be. Being ‘inside your head’ is a fancy synonym for overthinking a moment or situation but when you do it often, it feels like it’s just the way you experience things. After quickly retreating inward for many weeks, I’d like to try getting out of my head, and here’s why.
I put a lot of pressure on my writing. Sometimes writing about mental health is a release. It helps me express things I can’t say, and put into words a feeling or emotion I’ve had trouble explaining. But it’s also difficult, in many ways, to write when experiencing anxiety. In those moments, it feels like every word has to be perfect or flow naturally. But perfection is the enemy of good (I’m trying hard to learn this lesson), so I want to share a little of how I’m feeling at the moment.
Living with Generalized Anxiety Disorder has taught me so many things about myself. I’ve learned what some of my tendencies are, as well as what habits I fall into when it comes to coping mechanisms. I’ve learned about my triggers, what overstimulates me and what makes me anxious. But over the past few years, I’ve started focusing on other things connected to my anxiety. My GAD has always impacted my physical health, but it wasn’t something I often reflected on. Like other mental health disorders, anxiety can affect our physical health. Here’s how it impacts mine!
Up until a few years ago, I hadn’t heard of the term high-functioning anxiety. To me, anxiety was something that got in the way of functioning. It made decisions more difficult and tasks harder to complete. The idea of a high-functioning version of mental health challenges is new to me, so I decided to do some research. Today on the blog, I want to break down high-functioning anxiety, what it looks like and how we can manage it.