What I’ve Learned (So Far) About Mental Illness

Struggling with mental health issues has been almost a lifelong journey for me. Anxiety, OCD (Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder), and depression developed in my early teen years and have shape-shifted in my life for the past two decades.

But dealing with mental illness doesn’t mean that you can’t fight it and determine how to thrive. It doesn’t mean that you can’t learn and grow. It doesn’t mean that you can’t overcome.

To that end, I’d like to share a few things that I’ve learned during my mental health journey that will hopefully help others who are fighting a similar battle.

  • Mental illness is real. Others may say that there is no such thing as mental illness, or that you’re making things up. They may say that you’re going through a phase, or that you need to slap yourself out of the funk you’re in. As a Christian, I’ve even been told that my mental illness could be the result of a demon living inside of me. This made me feel horrible and like it was my own fault. But I’ve come to believe that mental illness is real – and thankfully, it can be treated.
  • Seeking help is a good thing. If you’re struggling with anxiety or depression or something similar and it has become overwhelming, PLEASE get help. You can start by talking to someone you trust: someone you care about and someone who cares about you. If that doesn’t help, you might want to seek professional help. It can be difficult to find a good doctor that you can afford, but don’t give up. Keep trying until you get the help you need. If you are in a crisis or are having suicidal thoughts, you can contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 24 hours a day at 1-800-273-8255. It’s free and confidential, and someone will be able to talk with you.
  • Mental illness can morph. As I mentioned earlier, my anxiety, depression, and OCD have changed over the years. I’ve found that at any given time, one of the three is foremost in my struggle. For example, my OCD plagued me for a long time, but as I worked to overcome it and finally found some relief, my depression came to the forefront. This is probably different for different people. I guess I just want to emphasize that mental illness can change over time. It is a complicated beast and it demands a multi-faceted plan of attack.
  • It’s okay to not feel okay. Being honest about how you’re feeling is a big step. I used to be so worried about what other people would think that I held my thoughts and emotions inside. But it’s okay to feel how you’re feeling. And it’s important to find ways to share what you’re experiencing – ways that you find comfortable. You can talk to a trusted friend, write a poem, draw, journal, or any other activity that will help you release some stress. As you share, there’s also the possibility that you can help others who are in a similar situation.
  • Practice self-care. When you’re struggling with mental illness, it’s easy to forget to take care of yourself. You lack energy and motivation, and it may even feel selfish to tend to your own needs. But it’s not selfish to practice self-care. Be gentle with yourself. Give yourself some grace. And take the time to care for your physical needs, such as getting a good night’s sleep, eating healthy meals, exercising, and spending time outdoors in the sun. As I’ve struggled with mental illness, I’ve come to see learning to practice self-care can be a process. It probably won’t happen overnight. But you can take one day at a time, and celebrate each baby step that you take forward. This will encourage you to keep going!
  • Rely on God. For me, one of the main reasons I’ve been able to make it this far is because of my relationship with God. He’s there when you have no one else to talk to. He understand what you’re going through. He promises to give strength and help when you ask Him. He will never let you down. Draw close to God through His Word, prayer, and relationships with others who love the Lord, too. You’ll find that your burdens start feeling a little lighter, and that you begin to have hope. This will give you the strength to keep going – and to not give up.

I hope that these points have been helpful for you. This is obviously not an exhaustive list – it’s merely a list of a few things I’ve learned during my struggle with mental illness. If you have any other ideas that you would like to add, please feel free to leave them in the comments below! And as always, thank you for reading. ❤

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