The Light at the End of the Tunnel
What I Learned from my Journey Through Mental Health
So around a year and a half ago, I was diagnosed with bi-polar. The diagnosis changed my life. It both threw it into chaos, as well as brought order to the chaos that I was experiencing. I had an answer to so many problems. I had spent my life wishing there was a magic pill I could take that would make everything better. And although that didn't happen exactly, I had to try many different pills, as well as therapies; I have found the light at the end of the tunnel. I am happy where I am. I am a student and live a crazy never-ending rollercoaster of a life, but in a good way. One that I can see coming and prepare for, and enjoy.
I want to share will you some of the wisdom that I have come up with since starting this journey, and finding the joy again. I have experienced profoundly dead depression, as well as almost a year of Hypo-mania. Both were difficult in their own way. Once I was diagnosed I went through the ringer of treatment, including many different medications, and an outpatient day program at a hospital. As well as an aftercare program once a week. I have learned a lot on this journey, and am going to share it with you.
Hard to Get Started
Seeking treatment is always a very hard thing to do, for most people. Even just realizing that there is a problem can be an astounding obstacle to overcome. Here is the truth, most of us will need help at some point in time in our lives. And although there is a huge stigma around it, go for it, ask for help.
One of the most important things to remember about this process is that you are not a burden, it is there to help you. The people involved want to help you. They want people to get better. They have also all been trained and doing this is their job. Go ahead, unload on them, be completely honest, you will get more out of it.
Asking for help was very difficult when I was depressed. I sat in the doctor's office crying my eyes out. My doctor did a test with me to see how bad it was, and prescribed some medication, as well as therapy. It was all an amazing help.
Do the work, no one will for you.
So your doctor will give you things to help you, do them! That is the most important thing that I can say. Whether this is taking your pills on a daily basis, or going to your therapy, do it. Some of the most helpful things that I learned at the program that I did were: one, that breathing techniques work wonders for anxiety. They are also just great in general, and are very discrete, so if you have a moment in a crowd, you can do them and no one will notice, because you are just breathing.
Number two, a gratitude journal is one of the most amazing tools for changing your mindset. This is a journal in which you write a couple of things for which you are grateful for every day. They can be as much as you want, or simple things, like family, or friends. Even if you just write that you are happy that the day is over, that is just fine. Just write something every day, and it will start changing the way you look at your day.
Education in what you are diagnosed with is always a good thing. Whether that is something like bi-polar, or depression, do some research. Not because I think your doctor is wrong, but because you should know as much as you can about yourself. This lets you figure out what your warning signs are. Warning signs are things that you start doing, or saying that could mean you are relapsing. It is important to know what the things that trigger your symptoms are, and what to do if you are beginning to show symptoms. Make a plan of what to do, and share it with someone you can trust. Do this when you are stable, and then follow it if something happens. Being prepared is always a good thing.
You can get there.
Never forget that you are not defined by your diagnosis, it is simply a part of the miracle that is you. I may be bi-polar, but it is not who I am. Knowing who you are as a person is a journey, and one that will seem weird while you are getting treatment. There may be people that tell you that you changed as a person when you got help. But you should change as a person, you should be getting better and growing, and so changing. I know that I am not the same person that I was when I had crippling depression. Don't let the people who tell you have changed stop you, embrace the change, be the person you are supposed to be. Your friends will follow or fall away, and that is just unfortunate if it happens, but you will find new people. As we say at program, this is the step in the process, where you have to make friends and get a life. It may sound harsh, but it is to tell you that you need to start doing things, and seeing people. Even if it is just one step at a time, go to a library and walk around there, sit and play games on your phone. Just get out of the house.
There is a really great concept out on the internet called a "no zero day." What this means is that you want to do something in a day, doing nothing is a zero. Doing something is not a zero. So have days where all you do is something more than zero, the number doesn't matter, just something. That will start you on a path that will let you be the person you were meant to be.
There is a great word in the english language that will set you free, if you use it, it is "no." Don't spread yourself to thin when you start doing things, let yourself have time to figure things out. And this is a great way of setting boundaries with people. Setting boundaries that you hold onto will help you move forward in your life. Look up methods of setting proper boundaries, and what those might look like. They look different for every person, and there is no one way of doing this. But having people know what you will do and can do, and what you can't or won't is a great way of having a healthier relationship.
Not everyone needs to know.
I know that I have shouted out from the rooftops that I am bi-polar, and I have no problem telling people. But I know where I am in the world and my path to recovery is ongoing, but I have reached that part that is in the sunshine. I am okay with telling everyone and anyone. You don't have to be, you don't have to tell anyone. This is very much your own path and road to recovery. No one else is walking it, you are. So do what you want with it. Tell who you want to tell, and if that's no one then let that be no one.
I am still traveling on this journey.
I am still working on being a better person, that has never stopped just because I have breached the end of my acute recovery process. In other words just because I don't need weekly psychiatrist appointments doesn't mean that I am done with my recovery. It just changes it. People always talk about seeing a light a the end of a tunnel when they talk about recovery, that there is somewhere you will end up. I am there, my recovery train is still going, but it is now in the sunshine.
I was diagnosed at 21. I know how lucky it is for me to be diagnosed so young. I have the world ahead of me. But whenever you get diagnosed, whenever you get help. There is somewhere for you to grow, you are loved. And even if you say "no one I know loves me," I do. I love you the way you are, and hope for all the best things to happen to you in your life. So whether you are in the process of growing as a person, or still need to take that first step I hope this helps you. The links below are for those who need help as well as those who think someone needs help. We are all in this together.