- Asking for help is strength.
- Small steps are progress.
- Having a bad day is okay.
- You don’t have to be perfect.
- People love and appreciate you.
A new issue of Turtle Way, Write into the Light’s online mental health journal, was just published. Check it out here!
Turtle Way™ is Write into the Light’s online creative arts magazine showcasing the work of individuals suffering and recovering from mental illness. Its mission is to offer experience, strength and hope to those who are living with mental illnesses.
Each issue of Turtle Way™ may include poetry, photography, artwork, and prose (including quotes, meditations, opinion pieces and essays) from individuals with mental illness and/or those who love them.
It has been quite some time since an issue has been published, but I would like to put another one together soon. So, please check out the submission guidelines here if you are interested in being a part of this project.
For a time, sometimes a long time, grief can leave you in a fog. Memories are all you have and the pain is gut wrenching as the sobs pull the breath from your lungs until they collapse in the dead weight of your chest.
You don’t want to, but you get up everyday and you put one foot in front of the other and you move forward, resting often, sighing heavily, straining to act.
But, you are doing this a miniscule step at a time. Every inhale and exhale is a healing force.
Where there’s breath there is hope. Where there is hope, I will create gratitude, for where there is gratitude, I will find peace.
Change is difficult for us sometimes. Often we avoid it or fight it because it scares us. There is a sense of safety in maintaining the status quo even if it is unhealthy.
When positive change occurs it can bring on stress even though the change is good for us. Sitting with the anxiety, feeling it run through our veins, through our heart, circle our mind again and again, letting it exhale through our breath can eventually allow us to become more comfortable with the stress. Like anything or anyone, the more time we really pay attention to the details of it, I mean really, really observe every nuance of something, the less threatening it will seem.
Today I will sit with my discomfort and get to know it by observing everything about it, including where I feel it in my body, my mind, and my spirit, and I will know peace.
When it comes to mental illness, often our moods are “all or nothing.” We are either on top of the world or in the pit of despair. If we are not careful, our behaviors can reflect our emotions, leading to chaos in our lives and problems in our relationships with others.
When it comes to the emotional ups and downs of mental illness, we can fight the temptation to act on them by remembering the phrase “Keep the Pace.” In other words, let’s keep doing what we do when we are stable. Let’s keep showering and going to bed at a decent hour. Let’s keep eating as healthy as we can and exercising moderately. Let’s keep our social activities up, but not excessive, and our verbal and physical boundaries intact and closely moderated. Let’s maintain an appropriate number of projects, neither dropping them all due to inertia nor starting too many.
When I feel myself slipping into either an elevated or a depressed mood state, I will remind myself to “keep the pace” and not feed into the insanity of my disorder by changing my behaviors too drastically. Just like a marathon runner, who neither sprints nor ceases to run at all, I must pace myself to participate fully in the race, and then I will know peace.
When we have a mental illness, it’s imperative to learn all we can about it in order to understand it, because understanding leads to the best collaboration with healthcare professionals when making decisions for our care and medication and treatment choices. Understanding leads to the best advocacy for ourselves when dealing with employers, family, and friends who may or may not get how mental illness affects our performance and behaviors. Understanding leads to self-compassion and patience during times when we are feeling low and can’t do what we want. Knowing it is part of the disease and not part of our character can help save our self-esteem and self-worth.
Today, I will ask my healthcare professional for, or research on my own, two sources to learn something I didn’t already know about my mental illness.
Worrying is a natural part of life. There isn’t one adult person who hasn’t worried about something at some point in his or her life. It is when the worry starts affecting your mental health by way of anxiety and depression, and your physical health (your sleeping, your eating, ulcers, etc.) that it becomes a problem.
We live in a time-based reality. Past, present, and future. Worrying is a past and future minded activity. We are either thinking about something in the past that has already happened, or thinking about something in the future that hasn’t happened yet (and sometimes about something in the future that may or may not even happen.)
This leaves the present time as the only place for us to escape our incessant worrying. We do this by engaging in activities that distract us and keeping our focus on the task at hand; by paying close attention to our surroundings at all times – really listen to the birds tweet, fully take in the grass’ green and the sky’s blue; listen to each word of the song on the radio, each note that is played instead of daydreaming about your worries while driving in the car.
This is called being “mindful”, and it keeps us out of past and future time and out of worrying. The mind doesn’t like it and will try to pull you back into past and future, but you can fight it by consciously choosing to stay in the present moment by never doing anything on “auto-pilot” again. Feel whatever you do with all of your senses and you will be in mindfulness.
Today, I will practice mindfulness or present-time living, and I will know freedom from worry and anxiety, even if only for brief moments.
Mind, body, and spirit are all important parts of a person. When one is ill the others suffer as well. Sometimes those of us with mental illness become so focused on our mind and its problems that we forget to address body and spirit issues as well; issues that could help improve the mind.
What do we do each day to take care of mind, body, and spirit. Are we taking our medications as prescribed? Using positive cognitive skills? Exposing ourselves to healthy media and relationships? Are we eating well-balanced meals? Staying away from drugs and alcohol? Exercising? Do we take time for spiritual practice? Prayer? Meditation? Yoga? Mindfulness? Time alone with nature?
Today, I will pick one area – mind, body, or spirit – and research or think of one action I can take to improve my health in this area. Then I will begin this action within the week.
So often with mental illness being consistent in our daily tasks and responsibilities is difficult. We want to shower everyday, but it is not always manageable due to severe depression. We want to finish the tasks we start, however, mania keeps us frantic and unfocused. Showing up for family events and dates with friends can be daunting when anxiety takes hold and won’t let go.
Yes, being consistent, “a man of your word,” so to speak, is not always possible when you have a mental illness. Guess what? That is ok. Really, it is, because having a mental illness is not a choice; it’s not a matter of will power, or want, or preference, or feeling like doing this or that or not. It is a medical condition that directly affects the centers in our brains responsible for decision-making, motivation, concentration, and emotional regulation, just to name a few.
Today, I will remind myself that my mental illness is not a choice, but a disease I did not ask for nor that I want, and the effect it has on the consistency of my behaviors is sometimes more than I can control. I will be kind to myself and cut myself some slack when I do not live up to my own expectations consistently.