So you have been diagnosed with a mental illness and this could be a big shock for you. For some of you, it could be something you already knew somewhere deep inside because you have noticed the symptoms or your parent had one.
Regardless of where you are on your journey with living with a mental illness, I hope this article helps you in some way. If not, offer you some kind of new insight.
You’re more than your diagnosis
Because mental illnesses are not visible illnesses, it is so easy to find yourself in a trap of thinking that your mental illness is your identity. For example, if you’re always depressed, then you might start thinking and seeing yourself as nothing but a depressed person who has nothing else to offer. When depression is so chronic and persistent, you might start to forget who you really are because all you feel is sadness and depression.
When living with a mental illness such as major depressive disorder, it is helpful to keep in mind that we are more than our illnesses. When you start to tell yourself “I am more than my mental illness”, something magical happens. You no longer shame and blame yourself for feeling the way you feel and you actually start to be more curious and sure about yourself. This alone can offer someone a great strength and courage to cope with living with mental illnesses, and it is quite powerful.
Mental illnesses can not only be so hard to deal with, but it gets even harder when you start to isolate yourself. And sadly that’s what most mental illnesses tend to do. We feel so terrible and alone in experiencing this nightmare like symptoms that we tend to start withdrawing.
But just with any other illnesses, the truth is that you are not the only person who has mental illnesses. I know the feeling of disappointment or even bitterness when talking to a friend about the challenges of mental illness and what you always hear is “you’ll be fine” or “you just gotta be positive”. I know I couldn’t help but feel so alone every time I heard that because it made me feel like nobody could understand what I was really going through. Now, that was painful.
So what I’m suggesting is try to find support from not just family and friends but step out of your comfort zone and actually try to find other people just like yourself who are going through the similar experiences. In my experience, I’ve gained so much valuable insight and support from my friend who also struggled with mental illness. She understood exactly what I was going through and therefore knew how to really be there for me in times of need.
We hear it all the time but do we really know what it means to stay grounded? Living with mental illnesses can be difficult and chaotic at times. No matter what your religious orientation is, it can be life-saving to learn a little about meditation. I highly recommend checking out some of Thich Nhat Hanh’s work under “Helpful Resources” tab on my website. His insights and wisdom can truly offer comfort and skills to handle difficult emotions we go through when living with mental illnesses.
Don’t abandon yourself
If you are just like me, you often abandoned yourself every time life got scary or whenever it got too much to live with mental illnesses. Abandoning yourself means to bash, blame, attack, and completely check out from yourself when you’re going through the most painful times of your life. For example, I used to abandon myself when depression got the best of me by engaging in self-harming activities like cutting or even substance abuse because I hated myself and what I was going through. Instead of being there for myself, I did the complete opposite and made myself more and more miserable. When I needed comfort or assurance, I used to bash myself and blamed myself for everything. When I needed to validate myself and what I was feeling, I turned to alcohol or drugs. As you can guess, none of that helped. Some of us grow up not knowing how to be there for ourselves, and that is completely okay. But we must understand and start learning to truly be there for ourselves especially if you have mental illnesses. Being there for yourself means to validate your feelings and experiences, be compassionate towards yourself, and commit to doing whatever it takes to take great care of yourself. I personally believe that if you can master this you can overcome anything in life. Everything starts with ourselves.
Although there are more ways you can try to cope with mental illnesses, these are some big ones I’ve found very helpful. As always, I would like to encourage you to always use your best judgment and trust yourself in the process when taking on advices because it is truly up to you to find a way that works specifically for you.