Self Care, Mental Health and “Getting Better”

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A year ago, today, I was in terrible shape; I had just dropped out of university, moved back home, had emotions I couldn’t control (seriously, I could flip flop between extreme emotions within seconds) and no self-esteem. Actually, if I’m being completely honest, I truly resented myself. I couldn’t fathom the fact that my mental illness not only affected me but everyone else who was close to me as well. I thought I was hurting everyone around me. I wanted to disappear. And I couldn’t understand why I was feeling what I was feeling… so I hid it for a long time.

I was also misdiagnosed with only moderate depression and consequently given the wrong medication when I was actually also suffering from cyclothymia, which I now know really needs mood stabilizers in order to be managed and not just anti-depressants (see: cyclothymic disorder). I was seeing slow growth in myself but it truly felt like I was taking one step forward and two steps back. I became so frustrated with myself and was incredibly impatient with my healing process. I was embarrassed by the amount of time it was taking me to get better. Not to say that all aspects of my life were terrible… I had amazing moments, and even whole days here and there that were okay if not good, but my footing wasn’t stable. I wasn’t deeply rooted in my own self and therefore kept falling back.

Everyone wants you to get better, but really I had no idea what that meant, or what my new normal was even going to be… but I knew I desperately wanted to get better. Confusingly enough though, “better” is not one of those things that is a concrete feeling, or idea, or a destination you can go to. Setting goals when there is no final destination is a lot harder than it seems. Especially when, ultimately, you do have a goal… and that goal is to feel better, be better, do better…be in any state that seems remotely more manageable than the one you are in right now! But do you ever really know what “better” is? What’s difficult about mental health is that you won’t have a day where you get to announce “I’M HEALED”, and everyone rejoices, and you feel that automatic relief of getting through something and being able to put it in your past. You want so badly to be able to run as fast as you can and sprint across a finish line and come out feeling instantly accomplished – but that’s not the case.

I’ve come to realize that mental health is different, and it’s a journey that is more comparable to walking a marathon. But as with all things in my life, I find a better analogy in the one thing I love most (…besides people and animals, I mean) – trees haha! Healing from mental health requires slow growth…with patience like the old pines you see towering over the forests in Algonquin. It takes daily work and a dedicated perseverance as you try and let your roots dig deeper, millimetres at a time, into the ground as you are once again finding your place on this earth. We have to see the importance of these little accomplishments; even if that just includes showering, or spending time with your pet, or something as small as saying a kind mantra to yourself when things get tough. These little accomplishments are important, and you should acknowledge them as such. As your roots grow deeper, the more balance you will have in your life, and the more your branches will be able to stretch out and grow and continue to flower and flourish… and you will finally find yourself reaching towards the sun. But even so, the biggest trees still must work on deeply rooting themselves to the ground in order to maintain its strength and growth. There’s almost something beautiful in the idea of dedicating some time every day to you, with a focus on maintaining the health of your mind and soul. And maybe, this attitude of working towards a big goal by attaining small daily goals is much more rewarding and beneficial in the long run to our health, happiness, and well being, compared to sprinting towards the finish line anyway.

I was just talking with my mom about this – sharing my thoughts with her, and she brought up a point that rang with so much truth to it; As humans we tend to get so fixated on completing something (whether it be school, attaining a job, working out, losing weight, finishing a project etc…) that sometimes we let other parts of us slip – often the most important parts of us – and we end up losing our footing and offsetting the balance that is so essential to our well being. We forget to take care of our truest selves in order to see something else fly – but it can leave us feeling like we’re falling and, in the end, our relationships, happiness, and health can get shaken up and we lose our stability. This can happen to anyone, not just those suffering from mental illness. But, speaking from my own personal experience, I think it can definitely lead to your mental wellness deteriorating or take your mental illness from something manageable to a state that no longer allows you to function. This is what absolutely happened to me.

Personally, I realized I had habits that took me down this rabbit hole. I cared more for others than I cared for myself. I saw my worth as what others determined it to be, as well as what I was able to accomplish. And when I wasn’t well and trying to get better, I relied so much on people to show me my worth because I didn’t believe in it myself. Not seeing my worth through my own eyes for so long is something I deeply regret now that I know otherwise. Now I know the kind of love I have in me. The love I’ve always given to others, I’m now giving to myself as well – and I find I can FORGIVE myself, be much kinder to myself, be patient, and trust my instincts more than I ever have been able to. I’ve realized that love really always was the answer, but that directing it inward is JUST as important as the love you give out. Because when you do that, it’s much stronger. Not to say I’m perfect in any way at all. Lord knows that I know better than that. I’ve ranted about it numerous times in previous blog posts throughout this journey. And I totally find myself getting anxious in certain situations still (and who doesn’t these days – at my age especially). But my ability to recover from it is where I can see that my work has been beneficial…and in the fact that I catch myself smiling so big that my face hurts more often than not. (Hello future smile lines!!)

Different things work for different people. There is no right or wrong way to get the help you need – just whatever way works for best you. For me, my counsellor and psychiatrist have been essential to helping me change how I think about things, and  with finding the right medications to best balance me out. They’ve helped change how I think about myself  and humbled my spirit too; giving me my roots, if you will. My amazing friends and family, and those around me who have been so patient and understanding have all been a part of this too. But once these things were in place I found I could finally, really let other things into my life that would help me along the way, and actually feel their benefits. Some of these things were writing, analyzing my mood patterns (to help gain a better sense of what’s happening), a lot of introspective thought… but also learning to get out of my head (thank youuuu, counselling!!), and daily yoga and meditation. But I needed to establish my roots first. There’s so much more out there that I’ve yet to explore, and many other options that have worked for other people.


Basically, I’m just asking you to take care of yourself; find love for yourself; get support when you need it… and talk to someone about what you’re going through. Or if you’re already there, continue finding time for yourself in your daily life. I didn’t think I was ever going to feel better…I truly didn’t…. but I’ve never loved the world, and people, and MYSELF as much as I do now…and still, there’s room to continue growing. This is me saying there is hope! I’m yelling it! There is a place for you on this planet. There is love, and happiness, and strength, and you will find it one day. Things do get better, even though it may not feel like it. But I believe in you…and it’s okay not to “be okay”. You’re not a burden even on your darkest days. You may not feel okay right now, but one day you will. But for now, let’s talk. ❤  #BellLetsTalk

 

2 Replies to “Self Care, Mental Health and “Getting Better””

    1. Thank you so much, Zakiah! Writing has always been an outlet for me, and I’ve found speaking so publicly about my ups and downs has been incredibly cathartic, especially as I see that I’ve been able to help people by being so honest. Thank you so so much for listening. It means a lot.

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