Reframing Thoughts


Initially, most of my thoughts are negative. I can thank the chemicals in my brain for that. I spent most of my life believing these thoughts, and the awful things I told myself.

This process impaired my health and functioning in a few ways. First, I always thought very little of myself. I had no confidence, I was unstable, and I could not experience joy. I took my negative thoughts as truths, and it almost killed me.

These thoughts affected my relationships as well. I viewed distant friends as intentionally ignoring me, and I took their actions personally. I believed that if I hated myself so much, others likely did too. So I distanced myself before others could first.

The thoughts lead to fear of abandonment within my relationship. I couldn’t be alone because of my negative thoughts. They ate away at my mind and spirit, and I felt trapped inside my own dark mind.

I continued to listen and believe these thoughts, and I questioned why my mental health still was not improving.

Slowly, I began to challenge these thoughts. At first, it was very intentional and it took a lot of willpower to reframe what my mind told me. Over time it became more natural, and I no longer had to work through each thought I had.

Now, I will talk to friends and family and they comment on how I am the voice of reason or how I always find the positive of the situation. I don’t do this to be that bright bubbly person we might associate with positivity. I do this to save and protect myself. Negativity is one of my worst enemies. I’ve had to distance myself and cut off relationships due to negativity, so I try very hard to stay positive.

I always thought I was being a realist by acknowledging and listening to negative thoughts. In reality, though, I didn’t believe in myself and what I could overcome and accomplish. I couldn’t recognize the strength and light that was hidden underneath these thoughts.

I will continue to reframe my negative thoughts. It is essential to my recovery and my health. It might seem impossible at first, but thoughts are just that, thoughts.

Therapy

I have a love-hate relationship with therapy. Honestly, I hate going; I dread it. The reason why is it makes me uncomfortable. For one hour every other week, my life is put under a microscope. I have to talk about myself and admit my struggles and weaknesses. Yet, that discomfort is precisely why I go. That discomfort is insight and growth.


Therapy teaches me to be the best possible version of myself. I am forced to be honest about my health and current lifestyle. The more truthful I am to myself and my therapist, the better support I can receive. In other words, you get out of it what you put into it.


Therapy has taught me how to take care of myself, understand my needs, interact with others, and ask for help and support.


I wish therapy was normalized. I honestly believe everyone should go to therapy. Mental illness or not. I go to therapy to survive in a world where others are unaware of their actions, how their actions impact others, and how to live a healthy lifestyle. I believe we all need that insight into our lives and that having insight truly makes us better people.


I’ve seen my fair share of therapists. Some were very skilled, and others no so much. Some were the right fit for me as a person, and others showed me what I didn’t want out of therapy and how I didn’t want to be supported. I’ve also grown out of a therapist. They may have been a good fit for where I was, but I discovered I needed more target support as I grew. So, in reality, what I learned from one therapist taught me it was time to find a new provider. What I’m getting at is there is a therapist for each and every person. If someone has tried therapy and didn’t like it, find a new therapist, there are options. One wouldn’t see the first person off the street and claim them as a best friend. We try out people like we try on clothes, and when something fits, you’ll know it.


I will continue to go to therapy, even though I am stable. I will continue to go because it’s good for me and those in my life. I know that I dread going because of the spotlight it shines on my weaknesses, but that same spotlight leads to awareness and, later, change. I’m just trying to be the best possible version of myself.

Reconnecting

This year has been stressful, to say the least; slowly, I stopped doing what made me feel healthy and like myself. Now I’m reconnecting with myself, my body, and my mind.


It’s easy for me to float through life, not present and numb. If I don’t take care of myself, time passes without me, and I lose touch with who I am.


I now know myself well enough to understand my needs and how to reconnect when I’m feeling lost. I have a list of things I need to do daily to stay healthy and connected. As requested by my new therapist, I am tracking these behaviors to keep myself accountable.


Each day I write, read, move, and take my meds.


Writing helps me process my thoughts and emotions. It clears my head of all the unhelpful thoughts that have been ruminating through my mind. My life feels more purposeful after I process, and because of this, I journal daily.


More recently, I have incorporated reading into my daily routine. I often read before bed as a way to relax and clear my mind. Although, I have noticed the more frequently I read, the greater my desire to read. I now find myself taking breaks throughout my day to read a chapter or two. Additionally, reading strengthens the brain, supporting healthy brain cells, unlike watching TV, which kills brain cells.


Movement is also an essential part of my routine. It connects my mind to my body and releases the endorphins I desperately need. Running and yoga are my go-to activities, but something as simple as a walk has the same benefits.


Taking my medication may be simple, but it is a prominent part of my routine, but it is also the most important. My meds stabilize my mood, making it easier for me to accomplish what I need to and can for myself more effectively. Even missing one day can offset my whole week.


Even with the weather getting colder and the amount of sunlight decreasing, I feel stable and comfortable. Not every day is a ‘good day,’ but I also don’t expect it to be. I no longer sit in my feelings; instead, I complete my daily routine, even when I don’t feel like it. Every day seems to have a purpose, no matter how small it may be.

Acceptance

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.

Allow Joy

There was a point where I didn’t want to accept moments of happiness because I feared my illness wouldn’t be accepted by others. I feared that if I expressed these moments, my depression would be overlooked and forgotten. That I would be forgotten. I feared that these brief moments would be mistaken for my entire reality. I didn’t understand that I could feel happiness without necessarily being happy.


It wasn’t until someone suggested that I could call it something other than ‘happy.’


This small suggestion shifted my perception. I can be unhappy and experience joy. I can be happy and experience joy. I can be however I am and still experience joy, but only if I allow it.


Currently, I am at a place in my life where I can say that I am happy. Yet, this does not mean I am always happy. This means that I am now able to allow joy in my life without effort.


Happiness is not an end goal, but if often mistaken for one. By acknowledging moments of joy, instead of happiness, this end goal perception is diverted.


So I will leave you with this. Be happy, be unhappy, be angry, excited, and sad, but remember to allow and acknowledge joy. Because without joy, life has no meaning.

Sick Enough

There will always be someone who doesn’t understand. Someone who rejects and invalidates your pain. Someone who judges your choices and actions.

Mental illness attacks from within. It changes a person in a way that many will not understand. Symptoms can be easily misjudged as rudeness, awkwardness, or unintelligence. This leads to continued stigma because many are unable to accept it as an illness and not a character flaw.

Your pain is enough. Your suffering is enough. You are sick enough.

You do not need to prove your pain. You do not need to cut deeper, eat less, or withdraw more to prove your illness. There will always be someone who is unwilling to accept what you’re going through.

Everyone experiences mental illness differently. For some, symptoms are easily recognizable, but for others they are hidden.

Remember, no matter the stigma, no matter the judgments, no matter the illness- you are enough. You no longer need to prove your pain; you are sick enough.

*This post was written to someone who needed to hear: “you are sick enough” Hang in there, you got this.

You Should Be Happy

I remember going to a psychiatrist appointment, maybe two years ago, when she asked me if a student could sit-in on the session with us. As a student myself, I understood how valuable hands-on learning is, so I agreed. The student, an older woman likely in her 50s, greeted me as I walked in. We exchanged hellos and commented on the weather. I could feel and see her examining me- well dressed, clean, and tense maybe what she saw. I looked put together, I knew that. I hid behind my name brands and job in mental healthcare. I wanted to appear like I had my life together, and I wasn’t crazy.


The student asked me about my education, job, and personal relationships. Then she looked me dead in the eyes and said: “Wow, with your Kate Spade bag and getting accepted into graduate school, you should be so happy.”


I looked at her, stunned by both her ignorance and bluntness, and replied: “Yeah, I should be.”


My psychiatrist quickly tried to descale the tense situation: “Well, that is why she is here today.”


The problem with the student’s comment has to do with one word: should. I believe she meant to say something along the lines of you have wonderful things in your life, and I can see how depression must be impacting your mental health. Instead, the comment sent a different message. By saying I ‘should’ be happy, it implies that the reason I am unhappy has to do with me and not something out of my control. The comment suggested that I am ungrateful for the wonderful things in my life because I ‘should’ be happy, but I wasn’t.


I was not hurt by the comment, but I was surprised. I was surprised because even in the mental healthcare field, there is still a skewed perception of mental disorders. Even someone studying to prescribe medication FOR mental disorders is lacking basic knowledge about mental health. This is a bright red fluorescent sign that mental health education is severely lacking. How we are taught to talk about mental health as a society is flawed, and change needs to occur.


This was a very minor experience for me. I was not hurt or set-off, and I quickly forget about the comment after I left. Yet, I still remember that comment like it was yesterday. it stuck in my mind so clearly that I am able to write about it today.


I want to reflect on this moment not only because it is a sign of how mental healthcare needs to change, but also because I know I will be told something along the lines of this again. Next time, I want to be prepared. If I were in that situation again, this is what I would say: “Just because I am in extreme pain and suffering does not mean that I am simply unhappy with my life. I want to be able to love and appreciate what I have, but I can’t. This does not mean that I am ungrateful or an unhappy person in general. This means that I have a severe mental illness and I am struggling right now. Which is exactly why I am in this office today. So no, I shouldn’t be happy. I SHOULD be exactly as I am right now, regardless of how it makes you feel.”

 


 

 

Distress Tolerance

When I was in an inpatient program I would hear this Dialectic Behavioral Therapy skill mentioned daily. I have not been focusing on my skill use recently. I get distracted by life and caught up with emotions. Life passes by and I forget these ingrained skills that I sue daily. When I focus on my skill use, I use my skills more often and validate my own success.


I am reactive to my environment, and the smallest things can send my day downhill. Over time, I have learned how to ride this emotional wave instead of allowing it to crush me. This is distress tolerance.


This skill allows me to take a step back. I observe what is triggering me: a conversation, an overwhelming stimulus, a sudden change. I feel these strong emotions and acknowledge them. However, instead of allowing these emotions to control me, I accept them. They will not immediately disappear, but they will lessen over time.


Earlier said than done, I understand that. At times, I still let those little bumps ruin my day. Although since I’ve begun to recover, the days I am able to use my skills outweigh the bad days.


Recovery and the use of skills take time. Life will not get easier when practicing unhelpful coping mechanisms. This is something I have had to learn the hard way. However, with time and hard work, recovery is possible and so worth it. Hang on and ride the wave.