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Mental Health

How I Learned to Take Care of Myself to Deal with My Mental Illnesses

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A young lady with long black braids is wearing a red and grey striped shirt laughing while covering her mouth with her right hand.
Manhattan, NY

I am currently dealing with clinical depression and social anxiety disorder. I have been dealing with it since I was in high school.

Opening up to people is really difficult, especially family. I have spoken about what I’ve been dealing with to my mom. It was pretty difficult for multiple reasons.

The first would be because she is from a different country. Although she does understand English, her understanding of words like ‘social anxiety’ only goes so far. Therefore, there is a slight language barrier when we’re communicating.

When we finally got past this, the issue of her understanding of why I was dealing with these mental illnesses came up. She couldn’t understand why I was depressed or anxious. My mom felt like I had never experienced any traumatic events that should be impacting me like this in my life today.

She still doesn’t really understand that nothing major in someone’s life can lead to developing a mental illness like depression . It is just something that happens to people.

I also opened up to my older sister about my mental illnesses. It didn’t make a difference either for more or less the same reasons as my mother.

She told me she was always going to be there when I needed her, but this only goes so far in feeling like I have someone to walk through with this. I get that I also have to take action to help myself. But, it’s not easy to do when you’re constantly in the state of physical and mental exhaustion. And, you lack the motivation to really do anything.

For anyone struggling with any mental illness, the first thing I’d say is to just keep going. I try not to be too hard on myself for not being able to perform simple tasks that most people are capable of doing on a daily basis.

Still, I have to also remind myself to not use my mental illnesses as an excuse for not doing what I’m supposed to do. I do appreciate when someone reminds me to drink water or to go for a nice walk. But in my head, it’s hard to do when you don’t even want to take care of yourself.

There are times when I don’t want to get out of bed, or eat food, or speak to anyone. At times, it can feel completely hopeless to even make the effort, but you absolutely have to keep pushing yourself through it.

The second is to remember that taking care of yourself is sometimes going to be ugly. It won’t always look like a girl doing yoga or drinking tea. Sometimes, it might look like having an ugly-cry on the couch at 3 AM after a particularly difficult day. And it is okay.  Embrace your good and bad days.

The third is to never be ashamed of having a mental illness. I know what it’s like to not be believed or be looked down upon because someone thought there was something wrong with you.

Remember that no matter who you speak to in the process of getting yourself help, at the end of the day you have to want to help yourself. You are the only person who knows what you’re going through. And, you need to put the pieces back together. You have to want a better life.

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1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. Tiajuana

    January 26, 2018 at 11:34 pm

    Thank you for sharing your story. Years ago, I was as depressed. It was hard to get out of bed or even get through the day. And you are so right, people labeled me and some ignored my cries for help. However, everything changed when I started going to counseling. My therapist was so understanding. She gave me the tools and resources I needed to overcome depression. Knowing that your depressed is the first step however, seeking help to overcome depression is life saving. Thank you

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Mental Health

How I Overcame My Bipolar Disorder

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A young white man with a beard and brown hair shares how he overcame his bipolar disorder in his life.
New York City, NY

I became aware of my bipolar disorder when I was sent to a mental health institute after telling people I wanted to take my own life at the age of 16. They diagnosed me with it there after monitoring me for about 30 days and put me on medication.

Having bipolar disorder has made everything more difficult. Because of my severe ups and downs, irritability, anxiety, loss of interest/pleasure in things, difficulty concentrating, and tons of other issues that come from it, I had problems with skipping a lot of class in high school and ended up dropping out.

I’ve quit multiple jobs because I can’t deal with stress very well. Having a mental illness in general drains a lot of energy just to ‘stay alive’ & be ‘okay.’

Depression especially lies to you and tells you that you’re worthless, so that affects your mindset and outlook on life a lot , and when you think of the things you tried to do and failed, it makes it more believable.

But, that’s not to say that people can’t manage it better and be successful, because people can and do, especially with the right treatment.

I’ve learned a lot of coping skills over the years, both by myself and through therapy. Mainly, including calming myself down from anxiety by wording things differently in my brain, like if something didn’t go entirely right I can say ‘this part did go right’ or something.

I have to try to keep my mind busy/distracted from the negative thoughts, which sometimes even results in temporarily ‘disconnecting from reality’ by playing a game, watching science fiction once in a while, listening to new music, or just sitting/laying down trying to relax.

Other times, it’s great to have people who can relate to talk to about it; having social media where a lot of people relate to me has helped me a lot, and I feel good about being able to help them at times too which makes me happier. I’ve learned to manage my illness better by understanding it.

Instead of giving up on something because I’m frustrated, I take breaks and believe/know that I can do it. So failure is usually more successful now for one thing.

By becoming more positive in general, telling myself those things, reading them, telling them to other people, it’s actually made me feel more positive. I’ve also become a more sympathetic/caring person because of what I’ve gone through and deal with. And I have learned how it can affect other people too.

I used to be a lot more of an angry person and took out some of my problems on other people. Now, I often care a lot about and make some sacrifices for other people, but ultimately if my mental health needs care, I have to put that first to be okay, then come back to what I was doing.

Sometimes you take some steps back, I suppose, but you don’t really lose the mental progress in what you’ve learned, and what’s made you strong to be able to deal with the future. It’s just more like a bump in the road, even when it’s a rather severe one that can send you off the road completely, you can get back on it with time/healing and keep going.

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Mental Health

How I Learned to Manage Stress

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A young lady with a dog explains how to manage stress.
Harrisburg, PA

Google defines stress as the ‘state of mental or emotional strain or tension resulting from adverse or very demanding circumstances.’ As a student, I certainly know this feeling along with the emotional and physical damage one can experience due to significant amounts of stress. It can lead to severe mental disorders, like depression or anxiety.

Although I do not believe I have ever been affected by depression, I have experienced the side effects of increased amounts of stress. A time I remember being the most stressed took place in my senior year of high school. During this time period, I had not decided where I was going to attend college which scared me due to the unknown approaching so quickly.

At that time, I was president of two clubs and sat as a student representative on my districts board, while working two jobs to save money for my college expenses. All of this, on top of a relationship, where I felt trapped and unhappy in, pushed me too far.

I experienced shakiness in my body, increased heart rate, headaches, a loss of appetite, sociability, and disinterest in activities I used to enjoy. I believed that in order to get through this hard time in my life, I had to keep pushing through my stress, which I later found untrue.

A huge part of my stress came from being in this relationship. If I could give my younger self advice, I would tell her to break off this unhealthy relationship because of the anxiety he caused her.

I would tell her to learn to eliminate her stressors and learn to not wallow in her sufferings, but to advocate for herself and eliminate unnecessary origins of stress.

This, of course, does not mean stop studying for classes because they stress you out, but to learn to plan your day and better manage your time.

I believe one should push themselves to achieve great things, and put in the work to achieve those things, but always know that there are ways to lessen your stress. Through accommodating to your situation and eliminating people or extra activities out of your life that are triggers for stress.

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Mental Health

How I Learned to Control My Negative Thoughts

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A young lady explains how she has learned how to control her negative thoughts.
Orange County, NY

Going to an all-girls high school, you would think I did not have to deal with the normal problems most high school girls deal with. Wrong! I dealt with the same kind of issues just in a different way.

One of the many problems I dealt with was academics. During high school, I had to transfer from my old school because of budget cuts to a new school, outside my district, that I struggled with adapting to the new environment.

My teachers felt that I hadn’t had the proper education because of the district I came from. They treated me differently. I wouldn’t receive the same attention as the smarter kids.

Making friends was also hard since students tended to group up with who they thought were going to look good in terms of popularity, so I always felt like an outsider. Everything in school felt like a competition. It was very challenging.

My struggles at school led to anxiety and insecurity issues. I would always overthink everything. And I started stressing with the fact that I wasn’t good enough to attend my high school or even attend college.

The only thing that helped me get through this was talking to my friends and getting a lot of unhealthy thoughts off my chest. But even then, that wasn’t enough.

The thoughts of me not ‘being good enough’ for school escalated to ‘me not being good enough at all.’ These thoughts isolated me from my friends.

I thought nobody was ever going to like me, and that I would never develop a love life. I had to teach myself about self-love. It was not easy.

I tried really hard to make sure that any negative thoughts that would come to my mind would be replaced with positive ones. I had to constantly remind myself that if I cannot love myself then how can I expect anybody to love me. Repeating that to myself everyday helped me a lot.

Little by little, I started realizing that I was valuable. That I was good enough. I realized that I was loved and that I had supportive friends that were there for me.

My daily routine of just reminding myself that I am good enough has transformed my life. Since then, my insecurities and anxieties have slowly vanished.

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