For World Mental Health Day some truth from my head and my heart.
This much I know:
- Mental illness does not and should not disqualify you. Do not disqualify yourself because of it. What you perceive as weakness might be the truth someone else needs to hear, or give you the perception to understand how someone else is feeling. You are not disqualified. For more: read this.
- You are allowed to do what you need or want to do. This is true always but especially when it comes to managing and protecting you mental health. You need to cancel an appointment, go ahead. You need an early night, be my guest. You need help, please ask. You need to get some exercise or fresh air, take it. You are your primary care-giver. Take your role seriously and listen to what your mind and body are telling you you need.
- Mental illness is a bastard. It can be hard and painful and scary. If it hurts and you are terrified don’t try and pretend you are not. Acknowledgement is the first step, always. Be honest about how you feel, to yourself and if possible, to someone else. For more: read this.
- Find someone you can be honest with. My friend Laura is my Bat-Signal friend. If I feel myself spiralling down into anxiety, I text her (send a bat signal up over Gotham city, or in our case, Liverpool). She often responds with something helpful, a kind word, or a gif to help me slow my breathing. But even if she can’t respond straight away I know I have told someone, which means I am already not feeling so alone. For more: read this.
- Lots of people are suffering. You are not ever alone when you feel anxious or depressed. You are not the only one. You are not crazy or strange. You are one in many, let this be a comfort. Know you are not on your own, let this give you the courage to find someone to talk to.
- Therapy is really, really good. I paid privately to see someone, and I don’t regret one single penny of it. It is the best investment I have ever made. I know this is not option is not available to everyone, but if it is pursue it if you need to. Find a therapist who gets you and who you can trust. For more: read this.
- Anti-Depressants are not the anti-christ. I take an anti-depressant every day. It regulates the cortisol I create which enables me to feel calmer. It makes me feel like me again. For more: read this.
- But anti-depressants are not the entire answer either. Lifestyle changes can have a fundamental impact on your wellbeing. Here are some ways you can tilt your life towards health. Small changes can make a large difference. 1. Go outside every day, preferably for a walk of at least ten minutes. Feel the rain or wind, or sun. Know you live on a beautiful planet. 2. Limit your screen time and never take your phone to bed (don’t tell me you need it for an alarm – alarm clocks can be bought for a couple of quid, if you have an iPhone you can afford an alarm clock). 3. Tweak your diet so you eat more fresh fruit and vegetables and eat meals at regular intervals. You don’t have to become vegan, just make some good choices (and if you want to be vegan that’s fine too). 4. Do some exercise. Doesn’t have to be anything crazy – a fast walk will do it, but lots of people find running very beneficial. Exercise helps me switch my brain off and just be in my body, which with as active a brain as I have is a blessed relief some days!. 5. Sort out your bedtime routine. Go to bed early enough so you have time to unwind (read a book, have sex) and then get enough sleep so you don’t start tomorrow exhausted. Developing a good sleep pattern can be transformative. 6. Cut down on caffeine and alcohol. Sorry but it works, especially if you are suffering with anxiety. 7. Get a diary and use it. Be organised so you don’t over-fill your life. Being too busy for a prolonged period can be the first step towards your mental health suffering. 8. Never be afraid to cancel. The person you are cancelling on may well also be relieved to have that hour/ evening back. 9. Create good boundaries for yourself. If you have a friend or family member who is emotionally draining make a decision (and maybe tell someone who loves you to keep you accountable) about how much time you will spend with that person. Remember you won’t be able to help them at all if you mental health suffers. 10. Chase the joy. Pursue the things you love. Make a list of activities you love to do/ people you love to be with and schedule them into your life. For me that looks like drinking red wine with good friends and putting the world to rights, pottering in my garden, walking by the river, baking and putting time aside to be creative.
If you are struggling today know your are not alone, and things can get better.
Big love x