8 things I’ve learned from my mental illness.

1. When you’re feeling overwhelmed, you are. There is nothing left to do than to rest. To let the mind rest you need to unwind the mind. Dopamine needs to go down.

 

2. Don’t go looking for yourself, you are already here. I know it may be so tempting to search from (some) answers on the outside. When you’re able to find useful tips from people you trust, go ahead a try them out of course. But no amount of mindfulness of yoga will cure your mental illness. When you feel you have the energy and you feel like it can be useful for you, go ahead and enjoy what you enjoy. All the things ‘outside’ can help you a lot, but the real ‘shift’ the actual work is needed to be done on the inside. It must stem from you. The timing must be right, for you. The support must be a fit, for you. I think you got the picture here, you are in the center of that picture.

 

3. Like yourself with your flaws. Depression forced me to do this. I can’t be that perfectionistic anymore. I used to cover ‘me’ under a protective shield of perfection. What I thought that would represent perfection of course. I kept on pushing and pushing to the unachievable ‘being perfect’. With burnout and depression I fell hard and deep. A lot of steps far away from my perfection. I didn’t look into the mirror, I closed my eyes to my messy surroundings. That couldn’t be me! What would ‘they’ think of me? I tried to keep it up, as good and as bad as I could. Every single time and I mean every single time, my depression kept pushing me away by robbing me of every single ounce of energy. I kicked, cried and screamed …. Into deaf ears. Nothing changed until I changed. I made a connection with ‘me’, the me behind the mask of perfection. I looked in the mirror, I saw the wrinkles in my skin and the sorrow in my eyes, my hair thinning and pale skin from being inside for a year. But hey, somebody must like me and that could be me too. I tried to see other things, good things. I tried to silence the harsh voices in my head and replace them with more kindness. Small step by small step it did work. The most of the work was done by the depression itself, I was just too tired to care and I learned to live with imperfect me. There was just no other way. I’ve never met someone more stubborn than me, but the depression and burnout, they are more stubborn. They humbled the ‘perfect’ me and kicked her a**.

 

4. When I’m happy I am HAPPY and then my energy runs out but still. I appreciate the fact that I CAN be happy. When you’re living with some good ol’ anhedonia for a while. You are living under a blanket or a veil of some sorts. You can see ‘fun’, you remember how ‘fun’, ‘happy’ and ‘energy’ felt like. You plan them in your head. But you just can’t grasp it. You cannot for the love of G-d crawl out of your skin to be happy in another skin for an hour or two. Is that too creepy, the skin thing? It remembers me of Buffalo Bill but I digress. When you’re been living under the veil for quite a long time, you feel when the sun shines through and when you are allowed to come out under the veil, you feel it. I am over the moon when I’m happy purely for the fact that I can feel again and that I can rely on my inner compass again. It feels like some kind of glue that glues all the parts of ‘me’ together, slowly and carefully.

 

5. I love the people in my life. I am a loyal person. I will not ghost you or break contact out of the blue. Maybe for you but not for me. Before falling ill there were maybe not a whole lot but more people than at the moment in my life. One went slowly into the background, others were quicker in their disappearance. It’s all fine by me. But the people who stayed, who came through for me, I truly love. That are the people who have seen me sad, empty, irrational, mean, angry, whiney, fierce, anxious, boring, forgetful, smelly, disorientated, fussy and just silent. They cared for me, for who I am on the inside. They were able to see and to grasp that small part of me that wanted to heal, to be better and to live. Those people enrich my life and made the difference between life and death. I will be forever grateful to those people (and the doggies!). Thank you from the bottom of my heart.

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6. I found new or rediscovered hidden talents. With the burnout coach I’ve made the most progress in this field. I learned to also be on the lookout for things that I really enjoy doing. This is only possible when depression is not as heavy and the anhedonia doesn’t go with me every step I dare to take. I learned how to knit and to crochet. I learned how to paint. I’m not an artist but I like to see the paint conforming with water. I rediscovered how to enjoy the silence and how to just cut the crap. I learned the difficult lesson to say no and to put my needs first without feeling guilty all the time. I accepted that I am important too and that you can’t pour from an empty cup.

 

In love

 

7. Don’t plan too much ahead, mental illness can get in the way. In my experience a lot of the dreams I have or maybe smaller plans for the day got erased from my list due to feeling low. I don’t know, but I’m suspecting, that my mental illness doesn’t agree with my plans after all.

 

8. To be able to let go, you need to find out what to let go. That was a very, very profound and valuable lesson to me.

 

And you? What are grateful for in the New Year? Do you struggle yourself and do you maybe recognize some things I have written about? I know struggles can be very hard but in your own way you’ll find your things that you have learned. And a lesson learned gives you more weapons to use against maybe the next difficulty.

 

 

Picture credits: https://www.freepik.com/free-vector/life-is-better-with-you-watercolor-lettering_5461669.htm

 

37 thoughts on “8 things I’ve learned from my mental illness.

    1. Hello Pete, I think we said our New Years 🙂 Ah I’m glad it’s not all about mental struggles, as you say it has to do with ‘normal’ life 🙂 I’m so entangled with ‘being ill’ sometimes I don’t see the difference. Thank you for making that more clear to me 🙂

      Liked by 3 people

  1. #2 is what I was going to write a blog post on this morning but didn’t have time. Specifically the part about no amount of yoga or self-help “curing” you. There’s a lot of nonsense advice passed around the internet that doesn’t actually work at all but some bloggers just like to repeat what they read without trying it in the hopes of getting some likes for it. lol. Then if enough people say the same thing, people assume it must be true. But no, eating kale and jogging is not going to cure your depression.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Exactly and it can be so tiring to hear the same things over and over again. Surprisingly I heard the ‘take a vitamin’ advice at work. I worked in the mental health field.
      I’m going to write (maybe) a debunking the myths series. But knowing what information to take in seems to be the ‘new’ smart.

      Liked by 1 person

    2. While I appreciate what Kacha’s written and your opinion too that yoga or self-help doesn’t cure you, I agree that those things alone won’t cure you but I believe they can go a long way in helping improve your mood, your emotional state and your mental state.

      There’s also lots of research and evidence-based tools that have proven how yoga/exercise, meditation, mindfulness and self-help and self-help groups assist with problems like stress, anxiety and depression, as well as severe mental illness like schizophrenia.

      As both a mental health nurse/ward manager and someone who experiences mental illness, I’ve gathered quite a ‘tool-box’ of self-help strategies that I dip in and out of, depending on my current problem. Obviously, as with anything new, the strategies I use have been practised over and over again so that I am now able to pick a tool i.e. Mindfulness that I know will work, as and when needed.

      I also appreciate that some people jump on the bandwagon, repeating what they’ve read elsewhere, but having studied for my mental health nursing degree, I’m used to searching evidence-based literature and research and therefore confident in what I blog about.

      I always use both this evidence-based literature and my own personal experiences to give what I hope is a well-thought personal and professional perspective.

      If people ‘like’ my posts, of course I’m delighted but I don’t waste my time writing just for them ‘likes’. It’s clear that you don’t think yoga or self-help etc works, but I hope you understand that not everyone writes a blog purely for ‘likes’.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Medication alone isn’t going to do the trick either, that would be too simple but for me it’s like a puzzle, what will help me now from the toolbox and what would be wishful thinking. That is my ‘trap’, I think when I do a lot of yoga and run away very flexible from my problems, they will magically disappear.. and they didn’t. BUT in my defense, I wrote what I wrote because I’ve encountered mental health professionals who aren’t that pro as they claim to be. First they need to see what is going on and then we can talk about strategies. In my case that wasn’t clear and I became much more ill because of the wrong approach and now I’m very careful about what information I’m willing to accept (for my personal benefit in this moment). I have a long way to go to sharpen and fill my toolbox. What is changed is that I have the ability to consider a toolbox 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

      2. I still find it difficult to believe that yoga can help people with chronic mental illness and depression. All of the studies I’ve read state that people who attend classes 3 times a week experienced less depression than those who didn’t… that doesn’t mean they had a great deal to begin with. Someone who is seriously depressed is NOT going to a yoga class 3 times a week. It’s just not happening.

        That said: when you are feeling okay, physical activity and proper diet MIGHT be able to keep you that way longer, I suppose… but depression will hit you again, and you will abandon all of those habits immediately upon its resurgence. So I’m not sure if the activities themselves are actually doing anything or if you’re just already feeling good so you have the energy to exercise for a change.

        The vast majority of articles proposing that this stuff helps depression don’t even cite a single reference for what they’re saying. There ARE studies out there, of course, they just aren’t super compelling once you actually read them.

        Liked by 2 people

      3. The hundreds of articles I’ve studied over 20 years, report positive findings from the thousands of randomised control trials carried out worldwide. I can see you’ve made you’re mind up and obviously, I agree that everyone has their own opinion and methods of self-help. Let’s agree to disagree on this one. I’ve enjoyed reading your take on things tho’. 🙂 Caz x

        Liked by 1 person

  2. This whole list is brilliant, but I especially appreciate #2 and #3. When a sense of hollowness hits, sometimes outside work can help, but usually some inside work also has to happen. It’s a balance. The perfectionism thing, I totally get. I remember literally thinking I had to be “perfect” as a child, and getting wildly distressed whenever I made a mistake. It’s still an inner narrative I have to talk myself down from, but at least now I believe mistakes are allowable, even lovable, on a mental level, and when they’re not they can be forgiven.

    Oh, and I don’t think the skin thing was too creepy. 😊 Most entertainment is a form of figurative shape-shifting anyway, and the worst thing about depression is how it locks you down so that escape isn’t an option.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Making mistakes, that was my nightmare, it wasn’t allowed! Perfect was good because it meant no troubles. I still beat myself up when I mess up, say something wrong, post-think everything. I think I’m going to sit down with my Little One and tell her about ‘the art of mistake making’. On a mental level I know that mistakes are even needed to make progression but the feelings that go along are scary for me. That would be a good post ‘the art of mistakes’. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Great post, you have put your thoughts into words so well and shown the positives of living with mental illness. I resonate with the ‘not planning too far ahead’ point. I should be studying at university right now, I has big plans, then, the middle of my MSc in Psychology, Schizoaffective Disorder hit and here I am, at home and not able to study or work currently. I’ve learned to accept my own limits and forgive myself for taking time to heal

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You are not alone with some ‘bumps’ in the road, life has some surprises for all of us. I finished my studies in psychology, worked in psychiatry and now I’m medically unfit to do my job. Depriwhatnow? Thank you for commenting, I’m glad my post resonated with you but I’m sorry you have to go through this.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Wonderful words, to encourage and assist. I have learnt when I am flat or depressed much of what you have shared. It is so good to see someone write it can only happen when you are ready. I have learnt to be content with the discontent. That has helped me.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. To be content with the discontent sounds like the key to unlock life. For me its a difficult one, I keep on fighting within and that takes a lot of energy. You know, I’m not perfect 🙂

      Like

      1. neither am I I would hate to be..it has taken me a long time to be able to able to say that I am content with the discontent. I am now trying to mange allowing my child me or inner child more presence in my life. That is the struggle for me.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. It can take some time but she will come out 🙂 The inner child work is something special. Maybe she can enjoy the peaches or play with the dogs or maybe she is curious about the echidna 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  5. From my experience, my suppression of emotions from childhood caused my depression, (it’s always from childhood!), healing is an inside job, but use your emotions as an indicator. I would sit around all day feeling dead, until I connected the dots, healed the anger and learned to love myself, no perfection necessary, no people pleasing anymore. Good luck and know you have the power to change, let go and let god.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Childhood tend to come up a lot indeed, not always but a fair amount. Thank you for your encouraging words and for the comment. I’m starting to trust myself, meaning following my emotions and internal indicators more often.

      Like

  6. Thank you for your comments. I prefer not to think of my schizophrenia as a mind game. I cannot talk myself into feeling good. When I don’t feel good, I talk to a friend. I downhill ski, hunt ducks, fish, play handball, or write. Prayer is important. Anything that gets me out of my head is good. Exercise, even walking, is crucial to my mental health. You are very right: when I did not feel good, I tended to smoke cigarettes and stare out the window. My parents encouraged me to get off my dead a** and do something. One week, in the depths of my illness, I went down to the duck blind with the other hunters every morning and night. I was very proud of this. I have been very lucky in that I have been able to keep a job.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. “To be able to let go, you need to find out what to let go. That was a very, very profound and valuable lesson to me.”

    This post is amazing and I hear you. I feel every word you wrote. I still fight with perfectionism and always will I think, but because I’m aware of it I can work through it. I even laugh at it most of the time now.
    Thank you so much for sharing this!!!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You’re so welcome and thank you for commenting!
      It took me quite a while to understand that ‘letting go’ has some layers to it.
      I’m glad you can laugh at some things now, the things perfectionism makes us do! I feel you with (over)thinking, it just happens doesn’t it? Step by step we learn how to deal with it but it is a journey!

      Liked by 1 person

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