Whether you live alongside mental illness during day-to-day life, or assist someone who does: it can be an uphill battle. A fight that it feels as though it can never be won; relentless and soul destroying.
If I didn’t understand, or didn’t suffer from mental illness personally, perhaps I would too be telling you to “snap out of it”, or that “you’re being ungrateful for the good that you’ve been blessed with”. But the truth is, I do live alongside psychiatric disorders, and have done for most of my life. Within that relatively short span, I have learnt one of the simplest, yet almost universally unaccepted, facts of life: you feel what you feel, and sometimes, nearly all the time, that’s okay. It is not disrespectful to the less fortunate to be unhappy. It is what it is, and there’s no blame in that.
However, maintaining a sustainable-perhaps even enjoyable-level of happiness is, to a greater of lesser extent, within your control. That may, to some degree, empower you. It may scare you shitless. Either is normal, and completely to be expected.
But these are the main methods I use to keep my head above water, and I hope that some, if not all, will be of use to you, too. I’m not a professional, but I know how it feels to hurt, and I know how it feels to recover again.
1. The truth is, some days it is okay to just survive. You roll out of bed, already sensing that today is going to be a write off. No matter what you do, who you see, or where you go, the misery and emotional turmoil seem to stick to your shadow like an ant to honey. The pressure to be happy, to achieve great things, and live a great and fulfilled life can all become too intense. Step away from that weight. Take a break.
If you can’t walk away physically, cut yourself some slack with the tasks ahead. Yes, that essay may be important, and that meeting can’t wait: but all you can ever do is your best, whatever standard that may be. Without meaning to sound trivial or dismissive of daily strains, your health, ultimately, must take priority.
2. Leading on from that, if you do happen to be stuck in an absolute no-escape list of tasks ahead, make sure to plan some “me” time for the next free slot you have. Sometimes even knowing that you have a peaceful evening with movies and duvets can push you through the gritty tasks of the day.
Put that time aside,and let there be no interruptions. Remember, you’ve earnt this. You’ve had a hard day, and it’s important to take the time to recharge, emotionally as well as physically. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.
3. Find people who understand. You don’t need people to undermine how you’re feeling or what you’re facing-and without like-minded friends, life with mental illness can be even more lonely and frightening. Being surrounded by those who ‘get it’ is one of the best survival techniques: and fortunately, nowadays, it is easier than ever to find others in the same boat as yourself. The internet is full of support groups, and full of charity-run organisations.
4. If all else fails, use the “half an hour rule”. When the days seem long, and your coping mechanisms are failing you, it helps to break the day down into small chunks. Needless to say, the idea is-solely-to get through, by hook or by crook, each 30 minutes alive. In the past, I’ve used this technique myself. It may seem small and without any particular purpose, but in a crisis, all you need is a short term boost.
You can and will get through the hard days. You’ve been there before, and you will get through this-whatever it may be-again. There is one thing, and one thing alone, that triumphs over the urge to cave in:
The knowledge that hope, is-nearly always-stronger than fear