October is Mental Health month here in Australia. There are so many different causes that are so great to support, and mental health is one that is particularly close to my heart.
Pills, panic attacks, waiting in emergency for 6 hours, doctor visits and impromptu sleepovers to keep me feeling sane are all things I’ve experienced and most importantly lived through.
I’ve been told again and again that things will get better, but when you’ve hit rock bottom again it doesn’t seem it will. But it does. It’s something that will probably always be in the back of your mind, wanting to push towards the front and make all those negative thoughts and feelings come back. But you have to fight.
Life appears a whole lot brighter and bigger when you’ve been down for a long time. Tomorrow is always a new day to try again.
‘And if I asked you to name all the things that you love. How long would it take for you to make yourself?’
Having a mental illness means you receive a lot of advice from people. But you always have to remember:
A. What you are feeling is not your fault. It took me the longest time to accept that I was sick, and nothing I could have done could have prevented it. Much like a physical illness, it’s real and needs to be recognised to be treated.
B. You are not alone. Although the stigma surrounding mental illness means it’s not spoken about much, so many people do have it. 1 in 5 adults in Australia will have a mental illness in their life time. So let’s break the stigma and talk about it.
‘And God said “Love Your Enemy”, and I obeyed him and loved myself.’
C. It’s O.K to be sad. Guilt and anger often stem from being depressed and anxiety from feeling that your feelings are effecting others in a negative way. But it’s alright to be that way. There are always good and bad days. You just have to find ways to make the bad times better.
D. Find a support team that includes a doctor and therapist you can trust. Family and friends will always be there, but it is equally important to have a medical team that both listens to what you want to do and what they believe will be in your best interests. Often speaking to a therapist is reassuring that it is manageable. And a GP can help monitor the other aspects of your health that can suffer from mental illness. Even pets an make you feel better.
E. Do what you love and do a lot of it. It’s so easy to not want to do anything, and that’s O.K sometimes. But when I got to the point of I didn’t even go to class and my marks were suffering along with never going out, I knew I had to do something that I wanted to do to get me out of bed. That didn’t include sleeping. So I began to do things I use to love. I started to swim again, I starting baking outrageously elaborate cakes and I picked up great books to keep me occupied and immersed in a whole other place. A lot of the things I did were done by myself, which is where I needed to be, but doing those things made me feel so much better. And by gaining a sense of achievement I felt better about myself. Even if it was a small thing, it was better than nothing.
F. Do not be afraid or ashamed. I was so embarrassed when I was in emergency for panic attacks, and when I was going to be living in a mental hospital for 3 weeks. I thought I would leave and the whole world would have gone on without me. Instead I opted for a day program and learnt more about myself that I ever thought I could of. Mostly that although I can’t always control how I feel, I can control how it makes me and what I choose to do with those feelings.
‘Make it happen. Shock everyone.’