Have you ever stayed up until ungodly hours of night because your brain was being mean to you? Gotten super lethargic for no apparent reason? Or struggled to get out of bed or even shower and felt like something was horribly wrong, when nothing necessarily was? Firstly, nothing is wrong with you, and you’re definitely not alone. You could just be experiencing low mental health or symptoms of mental illness.
What is mental health and mental illness? In the same way everyone has their health to take care of and fall ill, the same goes for mental diagnoses; everyone has mental health and everyone deals with the ups and downs. It’s perfectly normal to deal with the symptoms as they come, but I also know it can be so hard to discuss when there’s still stigma surrounding it, making it infinitely harder to reach out when you don’t know what’s going on or have minimal guidance. Dealing with mental illness, or low mental health, is hard.
I have personally lived most of my life diagnosed with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) at the forefront. Though I wish I could tell you I’ve always known exactly what to do with that and how to help myself through it, I’ve only just started getting a handle on it in a way that works for me. Understanding your mental illnesses and what works best for you is a major trial and error process, and one that you won’t always want to deal with.
In the last bit of time, so many people have faced really sitting with their thoughts for the first time, and habits coming up as the days drag on and emotions run high. So many things are happening every day, people are passing away, in-person habits moving online, and even birthdays or anniversaries have changed course. It all takes a toll, whether positive or negative.
I try my best to be open about my personal experience, but it can still feel out of my comfort zone. I don’t want anyone to feel outcasted or go through something alone.
Here are some simple first steps you can start finding what works best for you (but just because it worked for me, doesn’t always mean it will for you):
- Understanding: Analyse your body for areas that feel particularly heavy, look at your thoughts and how you are talking to yourself, what habits do you hold on to day-to-day? Knowing how you’re feeling (not necessarily why) can help you understand what you need in the moment.
- Feel: Let yourself feel whatever way, safely. Don’t try to force anything on yourself, just ride the wave so that you can make it to the mainland again. The negative emotions are hard to get through, but it makes you human. Be gentle with yourself.
- Game Plan: This one is my favourite. When you’re in your good phases of mental health, reflect on your lows and think about what you felt you needed or things that could help you through, and physically write out a list and prepare the items on it in a space that is easy access for you (this could be easy recipes for low appetite, reading, writing, or changing into clean pajamas). Whatever it is, journal it and keep it to refer back to, and update accordingly.
- Reach out: As cliche as it may be, talk to people. If you’re not ready for therapy, tell someone you’re closest to how you’re feeling. Talking out your habits and needs can help people around you notice signs that you may not, which can help them help you through it, as discussed.
I think as a foundation, understanding and reflecting on your changes and habits can help you through understanding yourself and what you need, and it does take time. Surround yourself with people who you are comfortable with. Talking about my experience is not my strong suit, and I’ve been taking steps to change that for the first time. The people in my life that I have had this conversation with help me set goals as simple as getting myself flowers once a month, and it makes a world of difference for me.
See what works for you, accept love because dealing with hard days doesn’t make you any less worthy. I see you working on your assignments, being there for family and friends, and still waking up every day. I see you, and if anyone hasn’t told you: Happy Birthday. Happy Anniversary. Happy Holidays, and everything in between. I’m proud of you. I hope this helped a little.
There are many resources out there in the form of books, podcasts, movies, etc., and if you ever want to discuss things in more detail feel free to reach out to me. With that, I’ve included resources that have helped me.
https://www.7cups.com – online access to free therapy, counselling, or a shoulder to lean on.
https://www.ryerson.ca/student-wellbeing/ – Ryerson University’s option for Student Wellbeing.
https://www.mumchronicles.com – a blog about a mum’s experience losing a child who dealt with mental illness and addiction.
https://themighty.com – this blog publishes stories of people living with disease, disability, and illness; you can find your community within the community.