People say secrets keep us sick.
I’d like to relate this to mental health, but in order to do so, we must read this post with the understanding that I don’t consider our experiences a product of illness or an expression of a sickness. We also must assume this only has to do with secrets in-part. So I suppose it has nothing at all to do with that saying.
What I’m getting at is that there are things we do for ourselves that exacerbate or substantially perpetuate our experiences, and there are things we do for ourselves that foster alleviation. Identifying these things is one of the best ways to care for yourself.
For example, diet plays a huge role in my mental wellness. In one of my most upsetting states, I was eating over 200 grams of sugar a day, an unknown amount of fat, and at least 200-300 grams of carbs. Alongside antipsychotic medication, my weight ballooned. After getting off the medication, radically changing my diet, and implementing a structured exercise routine, my depression lifted for the first time in my life, my anxiety lessened, and heavy psychotic experiences were less frequent.
If I skip meals and eat foods rich in sugar or carbs, my experiences worsen again.
Some of us don’t realize what we put in our body effects our mental state. Some of us know, but struggle in the transition. Some of us just don’t want to transition. None of those ways are right or wrong. But they have different consequences.
Some people have learned to take care of themselves through other peers, others with lived mental health experience. I mention this specifically because it’s what I attribute a lot of my own learning to, and also because it’s part of awareness and advocacy; we’ve been on that kick for a couple days now on this site.
What I’ve noticed is that telling your story can be both freeing and suffocating. There are some people who are able to write a blog about themselves, or speak about themselves, or start a small non-profit advocacy program and live a healthy life. There are others who do the same, but are engrossed on the internet and social media, who tell their story so much that their entire life is dedicated to mental health.
I don’t think that’s a bad thing, either. But what I notice is that it doesn’t seem healthy for everyone. I think it becomes detrimental when all you talk about is your bad days, or your good days, your experiences, what makes life difficult, and all these things that only serve to remind you how different and/or limited you are. The more that mindset is fed, the less life is lived.
What I mean by that is when you separate yourself from the whole of society, in a good way or a bad way, you start forgetting you’re apart of that society.
I remember being so engrossed in my depression and anxiety, before I experienced any altered states. And it wasn’t just the experience taking up all my time, because depression and anxiety are both all-encompassing, but it was the fact that I spent all my time thinking about both. I’d think about it in a positive light too. I’d blog my experience and talk to others about it; we’d relate and it was a positive moment in a lot of darkness. But it kept my thoughts trapped in this bubble.
People also like to say in mental health that “We are not our illness”. Again, assume that for this post, and for any post on this site, I do not adhere to the terminology “illness”, “disorder” or “sickness”, but the fact is if you spend all of your time talking about your experiences, in a positive or negative light, you are basically your “illness”.
NOT being your “illness” would entail you living life. It would entail you understanding that yes, sometimes things are hard, but that doesn’t make you special.
That’s another thing about certain advocates. Everything is about mental health–everything. Why focus so much on the hardships? Why not focus on the things you’ve been able to do because you’ve gotten support and found a healthy path? Why not show people what they could potentially do were they to also find their path? That would encourage me, at least. What doesn’t encourage me is people saying #depresssionfeelslike.
I gained a lot of freedom from getting involved in other things besides mental health and from hanging around friends without mental health struggles. Every once in a while I’ll talk about things, express views, but I do it at appropriate times and if people are willing to hear.
Sometimes people think I don’t blurt my diagnosis or experiences because I’m ashamed. Really it’s because I’m not a sum of any diagnosis or any experience. I don’t need to say, “yes I graduated with schizoaffective”. I just graduated. And that’s the whole of it.
Travel. Show yourself you can do something unrelated to the terror in your mind. Volunteer. Find a passion. Reignite a passion. Meet people. If people are too much, maybe a hobby. I’ve had to push myself away from reading fiction books with mental health characters because I want to remind myself I’m still in the world, even when I feel like I’m not.
I want to remind myself there is so much more out there than what’s just in my head.
I think we often forget that.
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