A Note On Mental Health
An earlier version of this post was written and available on www.thelemonadelife.me in 2018. If you are dealing with mental health issues, please see a mental health professional who can assist you.
I'm very passionate about mental health, my own and other people's. I wanted to be a counsellor a long time ago, but going through my own mental health issues at the time meant it wasn't a path that was open to me. Fast forward to 2019 and I realised that Coaching was another way to help others using my experiences. So here I am!
It’s hard for people to open up about mental illness, but thankfully that is starting to change. We can’t always understand exactly how other people feel as mental illness affects people in different ways. But even a little understanding can go a long way. For quite a long time, I didn’t know that I had a mental illness, I just thought I had a negative personality because that's what people used to tell me. But, once I had a diagnosis it was almost a relief. I could then work towards ‘getting better’.
There was a time when I thought I would be rid of depression and anxiety. I thought it was something I was only going to have to live with for a set period of time. That once I went through the cycle of medication, talking therapies, self-help books and any number of other ‘solutions’, I would be cured and then I could get on with my life.
Unfortunately, no one ever told me that it didn’t work like that. Mental illness isn’t something that goes away once you have acknowledged it and given it the attention it wants. It hangs around for a while waiting for a little gap where it can rush back in and obliterate your wellbeing. And there you are again, giving it more attention, all the while the rest of your life starts to slip away.
I used to get really frustrated when I thought I had ‘kicked’ my mental illness only to have another cycle of depression or more anxiety attacks. I was angry at why I just couldn’t be happy or excited like other people. I couldn’t understand why situations that I’d never had a problem dealing with in the past, now made me feel anxious. And that in turn, just made how I felt even worse. Maybe I was just destined to be a moody, angry, stressed, worried woman for the rest of my life. So why bother trying to get better when it was clear that I would never get better? What was the point?
I don’t really know what made me change my perspective, but it was like a switch had been flipped. It definitely wasn’t anyone else telling me to ‘lighten up’, ‘stop being so moody’ or ‘stop worrying’, because those kind of ‘supportive’ words never help - trust me! I didn’t want to feel like there was no other way to live anymore - in what I felt was a negative bubble that was so tiring and draining. I wanted a better life, a life where I didn’t always think on the negative side, and a life where I felt there was a point of being here. And that switch helped me do that.
It’s been over two years since that happened. But somewhere along the way, I also became ‘friends’ with my mental illness. I began to understand it’s personality and when it was likely to try and become more prominent in my life. And those are the times when I have learned to take care of myself so that it didn’t disrupt my life too much.
Right now, I feel happier and more content in my life than I have in over twenty five years. That’s when this illness started to really take control of me and started to make itself seen and heard. It’s hard work, and for me, sometimes it does feel like a daily grind to keep myself on the level that I’m now enjoying. A friend recently asked me how I got over my depression and anxiety as he was worried about his daughter and wanted to give her some advice. And that’s when I admitted to myself (and to him) that ‘you don’t get over this, you learn how to live with it and try not to let it drag you down’.
Anyone who has a mental illness or addiction of some sort will tell you that every day is a new day that they will need to battle; struggle; or deal with their issue or issues, all to varying extents. For me, some days are better than others and I can feel like I’m really on the right road, that I’ll never go back to how I was before. But, some days are pretty awful and it takes everything I have to remind myself that there are better days, the dark feelings won’t last.
But I do always live with a little voice in the back of my mind. ‘Is this as good as it’s going to get?’ Because I honestly don’t know whether how I feel now, will continue. But it’s something that I need to keep in check every single day so that I can be as well as I can be.