Fifty years ago, mental health was extremely stigmatized. I’m talking take today’s stigma, and multiply it by one hundred. That level of stigmatization. And I feel like a lot of people weren’t so happy back then. When I talk to anyone who was born or lived then, so many of them tell me how lucky I am to live in the times I do, where people are as open as they are.
And I am. I’m very lucky that I can tell people I have clinical anxiety, and I’m met with sympathy and understanding (for the most part, there’s always a few that don’t!) I think the fact that people are happier today is due to the fact that we can openly talk about these issues and illnesses that, all to often, define a part, or more, of our life.
But how did I get from a diagnosis to finding my path in life because of it? Here are my top tips to take your mental health and use it to fuel your life.
Live It Out
Honestly, most people don’t want to hear this one. But I believe that the only way you can find your path is to discover just how your illness affects you. Every single one of us is different. We live differently, eat differently, and, most importantly, we function differently.
Our illnesses will function differently. Just because you and I have anxiety doesn’t mean you can’t leave the house, or that I have moments where I can’t breathe. But the differences don’t mean that my case is any less valid than yours, and vice versa.
So, first and foremost you have to live out your illness and learn how it affects you. Then, you can learn how you can control it, and maintain your life so much better!
Use It To Connect
No, I’m not joking. When I was first diagnosed, I told my parents and my best friend. That was it. Of course, these were the most supportive and understanding people about it all. I was afraid that telling people would make me some sort of outcast (WRONG! If someone makes you feel like an outcast because of your mental health, cut them off sis!).
But I found that when I was allowing my mental health to guide and be a part of my life, I was able to connect with people on a different level. Many were curious to simply know more about it, while others told me they were relieved to find someone who understood. Because everyone desires to be understood on a spiritual and mental level.
So be open about your mental health and where your life is at because of it. You will find you understand people a bit better.
Know What It’s Telling You
My anxiety got really bad when I was at sort of an in-flux point in my life. I had known all my life I wanted to be an actress, and I knew to do that I had to move pretty far from my hometown. I graduated high school and started community college knowing this. The plan was to transfer to a school in Los Angeles. Simple, no thinking.
And then my school of choice (the only school offering my BA degree,) decided they wouldn’t allow me to apply for transfer until the next semester. So there I was, all done with my community college credits, knowing I had to wait to start my transfer process for eight months, with a semi-impending move.
And then my anxiety got really bad. It was affecting my physical health badly as well, and that’s when I needed to figure out what was going on. Yes, I had anxiety before, but this was trying to tell me something. I sat, meditated, and listened to my inner guide.
That’s what you need to do. Mental health can be constant, but swings, episodes, and attacks are almost always telling us something. Use that, figure it out, and let it make your next move. It’s scary, but there’s a reason you’re having a swing, so find it out.
Build Your Lifestyle Around This
I know most people don’t like the thought of this at first, but hear me out. I do not mean to build your lifestyle to include no socialization and no leaving your house because that makes you anxious. Nope. Not by a long shot. I mean, take this opportunity to learn about mental health, self care, chakras, crystals, anything that will help.
Create a lifestyle around this. I focus a ton on self care and healthy eating, because I know that they improve my anxiety. The more sugar I eat, and the less time I take to care for my body and soul, the worse the anxiety.
Do the same. Discover your triggers and your helpers, and build them into your daily life. Maybe journaling helps your depression. Ok. Wake up five minutes earlier every day to do a quick bullet journal. Or maybe breathing exercises help your anxiety. Make an effort to do these before bed.
But, be careful. Don’t use this as an excuse. Sometimes self care means a night in, yes. But don’t make every night a night in in the name of self care. Build a lifestyle, not an excuse.
Understand That This is Meant For You
Personally, I don’t call it God. I call it the Universe balancing itself out. There is a reason you have this battle. It is balancing other things out, to keep the alignment of all things. Coming to understand and accept that does a lot. You aren’t given anything you can’t handle.
Everyone calls it something different, and understand the intertwining and balance of the universe differently. So if you have a battle in the form of challenges in your mental health, know that it is because you are meant to. You need to learn from it.
What you need to learn depends on you. I know I need to learn how powerful I am in my own right, and how much I can do. Maybe your depression is meant for you, so that you learn how much you can get yourself through, or how much you really matter.
This battle is meant for you. Let it fuel your mind and your actions.
Most importantly, remember that your mental health does not define you. It is a part of you, but it is not all there is. Take your battles, push through, and learn from it. As one of my favorite sayings goes, “It’s always darkest before the dawn.”