One day you’ll look at your life and recognize that you’ve reached a point in recovery that you have been working toward all these years.
Last year was a year of change. I considered moving, left grad school, got engaged, built jobs I feel capable of handling, and began to write about my experience with mental illness.
A year ago, I would not have imagined this growth. I can fight through my bad days and still have good come from it. I can process and talk about my thoughts and emotions without believing them. I have healed, something I did not see possible.
I hope you recognize your strength and growth. I hope you understand that you can fight. One day you will look at your life and realize you have reached the point you have been waiting for – health and happiness.
It all begins with acceptance.
Accepting your diagnosis, symptoms, and daily reality.
When I accept my diagnosis, instead of fighting it, I am accepting myself and validating my feelings.
I may not feel appreciative or healthy every day, but when I accept my symptoms and reality for what it is, I am removing expectations and pressure. A good day for me might look a lot different than a good day for you, and I’m okay with that.
I can accept a bad day, moment, or even week, because I know tomorrow is a new day with new opportunities.
Without acceptance, I am fighting against myself. Allowing my illness and emotions to control my life. When things are good, I’m waiting for everything to fall apart, and when things are bad, It’s validating my belief. Which is why acceptance is crucial.
I will continue to accept myself, illness and all, not only because I have no other choice, but because it allows me to let go and enjoy my life.
It’s all about learning how to work with yourself instead of against.
If you follow my Instagram, you know that I’m not one for big New Years’ resolutions. I find that most are instructed and unrealistic. While I could make one attainable goal, I don’t want to be held down by one big thing. I also find that the added stress results in little to no positive change.
This year I thought I would try something different. Instead of a goal, I am creating a mantra. A mantra is a word or phrase to set your choices and life.
My mantra for the year is Intention.
Since beginning to work from home, I find myself wasting a lot of time as a reaction or response from an emotion. I feel overwhelmed, and I distract. Helpful, but I want to do something more meaningful. I rationalize this downtime by reminding myself that I need to rest and keep stress down, but resting should only go so far.
Instead of telling myself to buckle down and get tasks done, which would only add anxiety and shame, I am using my mantra to make my choices more intentional.
By intention, I mean mindfulness and purpose. When I feel stressed and overwhelmed, I know from DBT skills that I need to stat mindful and self soothe. While watching TV is very relaxing, it does not keep me aware. Now, when I am feeling overwhelmed, I want to be intentional about how I cope. Music helps me relax and soothes me. To stay intentional, I may use my record player and focus on the lyrics. Taking it all in, being present in life. Or perhaps ill play some music and write. Allowing the thoughts and emotions flow through me. Afterward, I will feel less stressed and more relaxed, but the difference is my actions were intentional and productive.
What is your goal or mantra this year? Why did you choose it? What changes do you want 2020 to hold?
It was a Monday evening, and we had a night planned. Multiple dogs were on their way, and I was feeling good.
When my Mom told me she had bad news, I immediately knew. I had felt this odd feeling the past weekend and was thinking about my great-grandma often, so I knew.
At first, all I felt was guilt. If I had just visited her last weekend. If I hadn’t had car troubles a few months ago when I was going to help her move.
I hated how happy I had been all-day while my grandma was already gone.
After the guilt, came anger. Why couldn’t she make it till Christmas? I didn’t get to say goodbye
Then came the sadness. Holiday commercials made me cry – something I rarely do when it comes to television. I would be doing okay, and then it would hit me all over again, the pain.
Depression hit hard on Thanksgiving. A holiday my grandma used to host. My heart ached for her, and the day dragged on.
I’ve reached acceptance, but I’m not over it. I never will be. You don’t move on from grief. I will, however, move forward.
Remember these icebreaker activities you were required to do in grade school? The teacher would ask for a fun fact or three ways to define yourself. What makes you, you. Those ice breakers always brought extreme anxiety. Now just the fear of all eyes on me or speaking out loud. It was the fact that I had no idea how to define myself.
What I didn’t realize then was that I have the power to choose who I am.
I would answer that question with adjectives others labeled me as. I was shy, kind, quiet, and caring. While at times, I am these things, these characteristics don’t define me.
While I don’t find myself getting forced into an ice breaker activities, I do meet new people. I think about how I introduce myself, and the characteristics people see are ones that I CHOOSE to show.
I don’t want to be defined by aspects that are not me, and I used to see that as something external or out of my control. But now I know that I hold power.
Others may see aspects in you and label you, but at the end of the day- you define yourself.
I feel this external pressure to be happy and cheerful during the holiday season.
I get caught up with the holiday bustle, and I forget to slow down.
I want to be present when I’m with my family, but I also need to take time for myself and remember that it’s okay if I don’t always feel positive.
Even though it’s the holiday season doesn’t mean that my mental illness goes on holiday. Because of this, I need to set boundaries with myself. Taking breaks, going on walks, and most importantly, trying to keep a schedule.
Last year I was hard on myself. I wasn’t feeling particularly cheerful, and that made me feel selfish and ungrateful. This year, I am removing the pressure and expectation. How I feel is how I feel, and I can be grateful and full of joy even if I’m having a stressful day.
Having a positive mindset will not cure, fix, or prevent depression. Optimism and positivity may not always help someone who is struggling. However, a positive mindset can enrich the good days and bring hope for the future.
I used to be very pessimistic and I believed that doing so released my stress and frustration. It was not until recently that I discovered the internal and external dialogue, matters.
Assuming and anticipating the worst makes it convenient to both perceive and experience negativity. The reason I was not feeling joy was because I rejected all the happiness around me. I was preventing myself from enjoying and appreciating life.
Now, I begin each day with an open mind. It may be a wonderful day or a difficult one. Regardless, I will accept it. I no longer want to confine myself to solely bad days.
Mindset matters, that is something I understand now. If I tell myself everything will work out, I may not accept it at the moment, but my subconscious hears this. Often I will later reflect and recognize how everything did work out.
On my bad days, I can recognize that there is room for improvement. I also know that tomorrow is a new day, a new opportunity.
A positive mindset will not prevent bad days from occurring or remove one’s pain and suffering. What if will do is enrich your life and improve your overall outlook of life, the world, and happiness.
I struggle to reach out to friends. My mind tells me they are too busy and don’t want to hear from me. I fear they will be annoyed and will reject me. I feel needy and unwanted.
When fighting a mental illness, having people that reach out is crucial. Not just when they need something or when it is convenient for them, but when they haven’t heard from you in a while.
I appreciate those who check-in when you’ve been distant. Those who set up a day of the week to do something relaxing. Those who want to talk about their life AND yours. Those are the friends I not only want but require, and I’m grateful to have some wonderful ones in my life.
For a very long time, I was this friend. I always reached out, tried to set up plans, and sorted through my friend’s emotions. Unfortunately, this left me feeling burned. I no longer have the energy to be that friend because I need that friend.
This is not to say I never reach out or support my friends, I do. I am still the therapist in their eyes, always there to listen and help. However, I have begun to put up boundaries.
I am no longer the friend who always reaches out, but I am the friend that is still up to doing something. I may not be the one always making plans, but I follow through with the best I can
I am taking steps, small steps. Pushing past negative thoughts and doing my best to both reach out and put up boundaries. Acknowledging what I need is the first step.
I do what I can, but I need people that reach out.
My mood keeps life interesting. Due to having an emotional reaction to everything, my mood can quickly swing. One small bump can turn my joyful spirit, sour.
The most challenging part is coping. Once my good mood is gone, it is impossible to get back. I can use my skills, deal with the recent mood change, and make the best of it, but I can’t go back in time.
Once my mood swings, my mind desperately searches for ways to justify my bad mood. Suddenly I’m nitpicking a wonderful day due to one bad moment.
I try my best to prevent my mood from taking over. I can’t ignore the sudden mood swing, but I can do my best not to escalate the mood. The bigger deal I make of it, the more significant the mood becomes.
Sometimes it works in my favor. Doing activities with people who make me feel safe can turn an average mood into an amazing one. Excitement comes easily to me. The feeling may not last long, but sometimes it swings in my favor.
I’m learning to appreciate and make the most of my good moods. I can recognize the importance of adjusting my plans based on how I feel. I’m beginning to understand how to live more in the moment — one mood swing at a time.
You know me like no one else. You can read me, decipher me, understand me. Maybe it’s time which led us to this point, although it’s so much more than that.
I spent some of my darkest days with you. Since then, it hasn’t been time that brought us closer, but hardship. We can make it through because we have each other. We are always leaning on another, still picking the other up after a hard day.
Mental illness forced us to get comfortable. It brought out our flaws, the ones we would have usually tried to hide. We are tested, again and again, but we never run; we lean.
Now we are referred to as an old married couple, but we are neither old nor married. It is the comfort that you see — the understanding and acceptance of one another.
The deepest love.