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About illness, Mental health

What helps?

Recently I wrote some stuff about my progress. It’s really hard to see from the inside, but on days when I feel frustrated and sad and sore and tired, it’s good to remind myself how far I’ve come. 

Some people have asked me how I’m doing it. How I’m managing to make small steps forward, both in my physical and mental health.

I’m going to share some of the helpful things, but this come with a caveat: these sorts of things are only helpful when you’re already at a certain point in getting well. When you’re very ill, and/or very depressed, they can be pretty much impossible. It took everything I had to claw myself back from the edge enough to actually even face doing these things. Before that, none of them would have even been possible, let alone helpful. So, before you go telling anyone to reach out and do them (or beating yourself up because you feel like you can’t) – please remember about reaching in.

1. Psychotherapy

I am incredibly, incredibly lucky in that I got unwell enough to be given the opportunity to do psychotherapy. (How ironic.) I could never afford to pay for it, and my therapist is phenomenal. It’s very intense and very difficult work and I spend several hours actively doing it every week, and much of the rest of the time thinking about it. It’s different from any counselling work I’ve done, it’s far more helpful for me. I wish I could share it all because I think it’s life-changing. I’m finally understanding why I am the way I am, and how I can be who I am without being unwell.

2. Being on the right medication 

I also was lucky enough, ha-de-ha, to be referred to a psychiatrist. I was not on the right medication last year. The moment I started reducing it, things began to improve. Even if you can’t get to a psychiatrist, I urge anyone to do lots of research and talk to your GP and listen to your body to make sure what you’re taking or not taking is right for you.

3. Moving house

Obviously your physical space, and the people you surround yourself with, have a huge impact on your physical and mental wellbeing. Moving is stressful, and I had to wait a long time for the right house and the right people, but now that I made that happen – things are so much better.

4. Eating right, including supplements

Cliches, cliches, cliches. But eating right – like, eating at all, in my case – feeds you. Feeds your brain and your body and your emotional system. I have a very difficult relationship with food, but I’m managing three meals a day and I know this is helping rebuild me. I’m also taking a whole bunch of different supplements and I can’t recommend enough finding someone who will help you find out which things you need.

5. Exercising

I know I have poo-pooed exercising in the past – and I stand by that: it’s not a cure for depression. But it does help. Even walking around my garden helps, on days I can’t go any further. It helps me process things, it calms me down when I’m distressed, it helps me sleep. (Which is another thing that is totally and utterly necessary!)

6. Choosing the right relationships

Beyond all our expectations around family and social obligations and not wanting to hurt others: you actually do get to choose who you have in your life. If a relationship doesn’t feed your spirit… find ones that do. I know this is way easier said than done, and I struggle with it constantly. But you have a right to care for yourself. There are many, many wonderful people out there wanting to be a part of your life. Let them. Let those who don’t go.

I hope some of this helps. I hope it’s not too preachy. I’m very conscious of the whole “I got better and so now I know it’s possible so I’ll tell everyone else how to get better!” schtick some people do and I don’t want to be like that. Besides, I’m not better. I’m just here. Taking one day at a time.

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About writehandedgirl

Sarah is a writer who is passionate about social justice, feminism, politics, and cats. She is a columnist and poet and currently lives in Nelson. You can follow Sarah on Twitter (@writehandedgirl) or read more of her writing at writehanded.org

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