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Something that hasn’t come easy for me is managing mental illness.
I’ve struggled with some level of depression or anxiety my whole life, but it wasn’t until I was finally diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder and began taking my mental health seriously. Before my Bipolar diagnosis in March 2019, I never took managing my mental health seriously.
Managing Mental Illness in Motherhood
Throughout high school I tried a variation of medications for anxiety and depression. I’d give them a go for a few weeks before deciding “ehh, I don’t want to anymore”. I never saw a point in helping myself. I didn’t care about my mental health. Well, not enough to consistently work towards helping myself.
If I would have taken my mental health more seriously before 2019, I might have been diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder earlier in life. I find myself thinking about that often and what it could have meant or how I might have experienced life differently. But I can’t go back and change the past, I can only focus on working towards the future.
I started taking my mental health seriously after my twins were born.
Something about becoming a mother helped “flip the switch” in my brain and I realized if I want to be the best mom I can be for them, I need to allow myself to get the help I need.
In the beginning, I struggled hard with Postpartum Depression. You can read more about my journey with PPD here. But essentially, I reached out multiple times about PPD and was shot down each time. My voice wasn’t heard until March 2019, which is when PPD was finally confirmed, as well as Bipolar Disorder.
From there, I have worked consistently with both a therapist and psychiatrist to manage my mental health with a combination of therapy and medication.
The journey so far actually managing mental illness has been bumpy.
I went through a dark point where I believed my meds had stopped working and quit them altogether.
Pro tip- never cold turkey your meds without your doctors approval.
I did end up back on them, and have since found a new medication that has led me to literally never feeling better in my whole life.
Along my mental health journey I have found SO many tips and tools for managing mental illness and if you’re in the same boat I was in, I wholeheartedly believe they will help you.
Coping with Mental Illness
Coping with mental illness is what I found to be the biggest struggle aside from actually speaking up and asking for help. It can take a while to accept, but once you are able to recognize that your mental illness does not define who you are, but rather provides a road map of how to better yourself, you’ll be on your way to managing your mental health.
When it comes to managing your symptoms, it really comes back to what it is you are struggling with or have been diagnosed with. There is an abundance of tools out there to help you manage the symptoms you are facing, as well as packed within this post. I recommend starting with therapy. I know you might be wary about jumping into therapy, but honestly, it can help you no matter where you are at in life. You don’t have to be struggling with your mental health to begin therapy. It can simply be a way to connect with someone outside of your circle who can help you better understand your thoughts, habits, and so much more.
After an introduction to therapy, you might have been exposed to new tools to help specifically with what you are struggling with, or you can jump into my following suggestions.
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Self-Help for Mental Illness
I know there is a wariness that comes with therapy. I get it. If you’re not ready to dive into it just yet, there are tons of ways to help yourself through mental health struggles. You could start with apps geared towards mental health improvement, practicing realistic & helpful self-care activities, along with practicing regular exercise and breathing techniques.
None of those things have to overtake your life. Take it easy and do what you can. You could give a mental health app a try a few days each week, for example. Or add in a 15-minute break just for you into your daily routine, which BTW, a realistic & easy routine is SO good for your mental health.
A few ideas:
- set timers to remind you to drink water/eat
- Ask a friend to write you an affirmations list & keep it close on the hard days
- Vent into a voice note in your phone and make sense of it when you’re feeling better
Another way to help yourself is to start journaling. Like I said earlier, you don’t have to let it consume your life. But add it in where it feels right. Journal your thoughts when you are having a hard day, or even a good day! Buy yourself a happy yellow or fun journal that makes you smile. Keep it on your nightstand. If you really want to dive in, search Pinterest for journaling prompts.
But honestly, journaling doesn’t have to be some big event. It can be as simple as keeping a note diary in your phone. Find something that works for YOU!
Bullet Journal Habit Tracking
Something I’ve recently dived into that has been an eye-opening experience is bullet journal habit tracking for following the ups and downs of my moods. For a long time, I was very against it and just thought it was a waste of time. But something about doodling in a pretty journal with some fun pens just makes my heart happy. Filling in the little designs I’ve created every day to track my mood has become a norm and it’s offered me something to bring to the table in therapy that I otherwise wouldn’t have been able to.
This. Right. Here. Brain-dumping is my faaavorite way to get it all out when I am just at my limit. If you aren’t familiar, it is quite literally what it sounds like. You dump your brain. On paper, in your phone notes, just somewhere. It doesn’t have to make sense as it is not for anyone other than yourself. I often find that just getting it all out is enough for me to come to a better place on a rough day. Or I save it for later to bring up in therapy.
Mind Exercises for Mental Health
Something my therapist has drilled into my head is the importance of mind exercises for managing mental illness. She has taught me a handful of exercises, but I want to share two of my favorites.
- Light running through your body: what you’re going to want to do in this exercise is envision a light source running from the tips of your toes all the way up to your head. Envision it running through your limbs, toes, fingertips, everything. The goal here is to check in with every point of your body and soothe yourself in the process. This is something that has become second nature to me at this point in time and it’s extremely helpful in high-stress situations.
- Dropping to the bottom of the ocean: this is a great way to slow your anxious mind down when the world is feeling like too much. To perform the exercise, I want you to close your eyes or stare at a spot on the wall and envision yourself as a tiny pebble floating down to the bottom of the ocean. What do you see? Smell? Hear? Feel? It’s a different take on the typical 5 senses thing that honestly helps me a lot more. It’s even more helpful if you love the ocean as much as I do!
Free Mental Health Resources
If you’re looking for more resources, like books, websites, podcasts, and more, click here for my full mental health resource list. It is an ever-growing list, so bookmark it for later to check back! Or if you have more resources to add, leave a comment or shoot me an email @[email protected]
My goal with this guide for managing mental illness was to lead you towards working through your struggles, and I hope you’ve found something that helps!
If you are at the point of wanting to discuss your situation with a therapist, I highly recommend BetterHelp.com. You can read more about them here.