Though it’s a perhaps a bit different from what I typically share, I’m excited to bring this post to you. October 10th was World Mental Day and seeing so many people share their stories and resources was wonderful, but it also made me feel a bit silly because I’ve never really spoken about my experience. I’ve mentioned it here and there, but it deserves to be addressed properly. Rather than droning on without direction, I took inspiration from Rhian HY and will be sharing five things I’ve learned from my mental health disorders.
It’s only right to preface this with a bit of my mental health history. Before I began college, I was diagnosed with depression and an anxiety disorder, which at the time was panic disorder but I’m happy to say panic attacks aren’t a regularity these days. The only reason I went to a therapist and got diagnosed was to have a documented disability to submit to my university. With that, they would be able to allow me to have a single dorm unlike other freshman. The thought of not having any space to myself was terrifying because though no one had named my mental health struggles, I knew something was up and I often needed extra care.
Seriously, I think I was anxious and depressed in the womb. Okay, not seriously, but still.
Even though my goal of therapy was just to get the papers and run, it ended up being so much more. It taught me that I can manage my disorders more effectively and I think it prompted my self-improvement journey, which now influences my entire lifestyle. I’m not perfect or cured, but I have made significant progress over the last few years. Here are just a few things that I learned along the way.
1. Difficulty is subjective.
Though I thoroughly understood and sometimes lamented that activities that were hard for me were easy for others, I didn’t consider the opposite. There are things I do without even thinking while some people regard them as the scariest things in the world. Everyone struggles with different tasks and situations. When I finally made this connection, it changed my perspective and helped me stop comparing myself to others.
2. If you don’t deal with it, it will erupt.
This is probably the biggest lesson I learned and it took a lot of panic attacks and very down days for me to finally take a hint. Think of negative thoughts like clutter in your home. Something stressful happened, big or small, and I’d just throw on the table instead of dealing with the emotions. I’d start to feel down or not like myself, but I’d shove in in the closet or under the bed. Pretty soon your home, my brain, were overrun with all this stuff and suddenly, I couldn’t function. Not fun. Now if there’s stress or sadness lingering, I do my best to deal with it right then before it snowballs.
3. Get out of your head.
It’s hard, I know. When I feel especially low, I just shut down, curl up in bed, pretend that nothing can make me feel better and let negativity consume my mind. In truth, doing anything but wallowing will make me feel better. Yes, leaving my apartment feels scary, exercise feels impossible, talking to someone feels draining, but when I force myself to do it, it snaps me out of my downward spiral.
4. You have more control than you think.
I treated myself like a victim of my disorders for so long. My symptoms just happened to me and there was nothing I could do about it. That is still true in some cases. Gotta love when it comes out of nowhere when you were actually feeling really good. Other times though, I can say no and I do. Telling myself, “It’s only stressful if I make it stressful.” and “I’m going to make today a good day.” has power.
I just realized I’m totally exposing how much I talk to myself… No shame!
5. It might make you feel weak, but you’re pretty fucking strong.
In my experience, dealing with a mental disorder is a lot of work, so managing that on top of everything else is a feat. You’re anything but less of a person.
There is so much more I could talk about, but let’s save it for another day. Remember that what works for me, may not work for you and mostly importantly, whatever you’re dealing with is nothing to be ashamed about.