SURVIVING MENTAL ILLNESS

“Out of suffering have emerged the strongest souls; the most massive characters are seared with scars.”

— Kahlil Gibran

DISCLAIMER

If you’re struggling with depression, thoughts of suicide, or isolation – always seek out a professional. Do not use the materials on this website to replace or delay treatment from a trained medical professional. This website is intended to be used in addition to therapy or other treatments.

The ideas & exercises explained here are meant to be discussed with your therapist. They may have different or better recommendations regarding your treatment. Please always follow their advice over any material you find on this page. You’re worth more than you realize – please don’t go at this alone! 

Identifying Mental Illness

According to the American Psychiatric Association, mental illness is defined as a health condition(s) which affect an individual’s emotional state, their thinking process, or their behaviors. It can be an overwhelming state of affairs when first diagnosed with a mental illness or knowing that your day-to-day affairs seem to have a different vibration than your peers.

I knew from an early age that I was different somehow than the rest of my classmates growing up. My ability to adapt to change appeared to be heightened and I lived in a persistent state of hyper-focusing on the emotional states of others. I also suffered massive anxiety from abuse and trauma which had been a constant companion in my childhood. When I was diagnosed in 2018 with bipolar disorder, a sigh of relief came over me.

I finally knew what was going on, however, could I cope with it? 

Luckily, I’m living in modern America and not the 1800’s. In the past, it was perfectly acceptable to treat mentally ill patients with barbaric measures in the pursuit of science. These often inhumane treatments such as trephination, lobotomy, or insulin induced comas were seen as the proper way to “deal” with those who were “not quite right.” I’m thankful to live in such a conscious time period in human history. While we still have a long way to go for sure, we also have come so far in our journey in understanding the forces of the human mind. As a society, we are making huge strides in treating mental illness instead of ignoring it or punishing those afflicted.

Mental illness can take the form of:

  • Chemical imbalances in the brain such as an unnatural dip in serotonin.
  • Mood disorders
  • Anxiety & Depression
  • Psychotic episodes or mania
  • Eating disorders

And so much more!

Many of us Americans grew up with abuse, PTSD, and generational trauma which was quickly swept under the rug to protect the “pride” of our families. Because of this emotional neglect, a good number of folks struggle with mental illness. Why struggle when you can overcome your biggest opponent – yourself?

WHY BECOMING A SURVIVOR OF MENTAL ILLNESS IS SO IMPORTANT

OVERCOMING THE DIAGNOSIS

I firmly believe that we are more than the sum of our diagnosis.You are not only a “bipolar person.” You can be “A mother who manages bipolar disorder who ALSO writes a blog.” You can also be more than “a person with an eating disorder.” You can also be “a fantastic individual who is overcoming their bulimia.”  I’ve often seen folks give up and live under the mistaken impression that a mental illness or mood disorder is some kind of shameful life sentence which needs to be carried out in secrecy.

No one deserves to suffer in silence when so many beneficial treatments and options for managing their lives exist! 

VICTIM< SURVIVOR < WARRIOR = HEALING

One day, my therapist opened my eyes when she discussed with me that I wasn’t a “victim of mental illness,” I was a “survivor.”  At first, I thought that sounded like I was some kind of refugee from a tsunami. When I think back to my childhood, I realize the flurry of emotional chaos which enveloped so much of my life was kind of like a hurricane or a tsunami. It certainly damaged many aspects of my developmental journey. I had picked up and started over more times than I could count with the only certainty that I would redo the process again in just a few months.

It was empowering to finally have a name for my foe, Bipolar disorder. It was also encouraging to be able to recognize the patterns of my moods over the course of the month. I became fascinated by the intriguing process of journaling my emotions and logging when I was triggered by outside stimuli. I wasn’t just a survivor now. Taking an active role in my healing process provided me with the means to become a warrior of my mental illness. 

TAKING THE LEAP

Let’s talk about the big step here. Realizing that there is an issue and addressing the elephant in the room. There’s no shame in being honest with yourself. Your signs that there may be something amiss with your mental health may come in the form of:

  • Sleeplessness
  • The inability to focus
  • Suicidal thoughts or suicidal idealization
  • Lack of commitment in relationships
  • Flashbacks to traumatic childhood incidents
  • Irritability, mood shifts, or erratic behavior
  • Impulsive decision making
  • Noticing the same patterns repeating throughout your life.
  • Anxiety

ONLY A MEDICALLY-TRAINED PROFESSIONAL CAN ADDRESS THE CAUSE OF YOUR SYMPTOMS

Please keep in mind that diagnosis should be handled by an impartial medical professional. It should not be self diagnosis on the basis of how mental illness is portrayed on television or movies, what your family tells you, or some fleeting thought. Lots of very real and serious physical ailments can cause a variety of symptoms which appear to manifest as a mental health issue. When you go to your doctor, discuss with them what you’ve been experiencing and please follow their advice.

There is no shame in seeking out professional help. It does not define you as “weak” or “needy” or even “broken.” Facing your mental health challenges demonstrates a sense of awareness, emotional maturity, and is an expression of great inner strength.

YOU’VE GOT THIS!

FIND MORE TOOLS & RESOURCES FOR YOUR HEALING JOURNEY