In life, it seems like everyone starts out on the edge of a jungle. In order to get through that jungle you are given a machete. That way you can chop your way through the dense areas and make it through. Those with a mental illness got the stupid, dull machetes. Yay us.
Jungles get really thick at some points, as does life. You have to work hard to get through it. Those with the really nice, sharp machetes work up a sweat but their progress is readily apparent. Then you look back down to your machete in all its dull glory and decide to start hacking away. You put all your time and energy into getting through this rough spot and you are making little to no progress. Well that’s disappointing. Then thoughts start to creep up and you tell yourself “what’s the point in trying if I’m never going to get anywhere?” “It seems so easy for everyone else.”
Those are the warped negative thoughts that depression can give you. You are overwhelmed and start thinking about how unfair this is. That can become consuming. Your continuous negative thoughts feed your depression. The jungle is closing in and it starts getting dark. It becomes a vicious cycle if you don’t stop it. How do I get out?
Getting out may seem daunting but believe it or not, breaking it down into smaller pieces may help. Instead of comparing yourself to others and the way they do things, realize that you have your own unique way of dealing with problems. You can chip away at them little by little. After a while the problem is very small and you can now move on. Setting small goals instead of looking at the large goal of doing it all at once, makes it a lot less daunting.
Now that you have smaller more manageable goals you can think about the tasks in a more positive light. Getting from A to Z seemed really hard, but A to B doesn’t seem so bad. When you have accomplished a lot of little goals it seems like you have been doing quite a bit and then you have got the ball rolling. Your thinking gradually becomes more positive and the outlook no longer seems as dim.
Yeah, a lot of people have really great, sharp machetes. So what? You and I have one too. It may be dull, but with some extra forethought you can wield it in a more efficient way. Your skills become considerably more refined with all that extra effort you put in. It looks to me like you will come out of the other side of the jungle just fine.
60 million people in the United States suffer from a mental illness and most of them try to hide it. Why? For the fear of being called c-r-a-z-y. This is the effect stigma has had on mental illness.
There seems to be a high price to pay in admitting that you have a mental illness. Many choose not to tell their employers in fear of getting fired. Is that legal? No. Yet, it still happens. I’m guilty of not letting my employer know. But I valued my job more than I valued the understanding of my co-workers. Of course I wish that I could disclose that with my employer. The relief in not having to conceal that part of me would be tremendous. However, the threat still looms of being terminated.
There’s a constant vicious cycle. Stigma causes one to hide or be dishonest about their mental illness, that leads to shame, which turns around and adds fuel to the stigma fire. We all love it when someone fights stigma by talking about it. That takes a lot of courage. But how many people are going to stand up when the bad outcomes outweigh the good?
Those with a mental illness are not broken, flawed people with weak characters. In reality, they have unique strengths. They have survived all the woes of their illness and have come out the other side a better person. They have become resilient and have overcome adversity. That should be what comes to ones mind when they think of someone with a mental illness. But that’s not how it is. Now that’s a shame…
Writing=therapy. Not a new concept but one that I have never really thought of in quite that way until recently. Since I have started blogging I have learned that I love to write and that it actually helps me. Despite this revelation I didn’t really know how or why.
It’s extremely easy to do and if you are like me, than you may be doing it before you realize it. You can write about whatever you want, however you want and whenever you want. It’s something that you can start and stop anytime, so it’s very handy. Plus, you don’t have to have any talent in order to write! This is especially helpful in my case. So what exactly constitutes it as therapy?
When you write, you then have a venue where you can organize those random thoughts and get them out. That gives a sense of control over the thoughts that at times seem to control us. When writing about negative experiences it helps to break up its enormity and put it into smaller more manageable pieces. That in turn, can give a sense of understanding and control. Regarding my negative experiences, having that sense of control and manageability is priceless. My mind builds walls and barriers around those experiences but writing takes those beyond the limitations my mind has created.
Writing has been shown to have benefits with a number of problems and ailments but it can help specifically with mental illness and bipolar. So what are some of them?
- Reduced stress
- Improved mood
- Greater feeling of well-being
- Reduced blood pressure
Those benefits are the tip of the iceberg. But they’re enough to make you stop and think whether writing as therapy is for you.
Whether you decide to write short stories, blogs or a journal, just write. It’s free, handy and beneficial. You can keep it to yourself or put it out there for the world to see. I’m not a great writer and I have only been at it a few months but I already know I won’t stop anytime soon. What about you?
There seemed to have been some confusion regarding my last post, so I’m going to cover this topic more extensively today. I had talked about how the use of “masks” can help to fill the void in between your mood and some type of normalcy. This was not supposed to come across as hiding your true self and be fake but how the masks can have a positive effect. So lets talk about it more.
I read a post over the weekend that I loved and it may supplement this topic. If you have time, please read that post here. It talked about how our attitude can influence our behaviour and how our behaviour can influence our attitude.
“Leonardo da Vinci also observed that it’s no mystery why it is fun to be around happy people and depressing to be around depressed people. He also observed the melancholy that painters usually give to portraits. He attributed that to the solitariness of the artist and their joyless environment.
According to Giorgio Vasari (1568) that while painting the Mona Lisa Leonardo employed singers, musicians and jesters to chase away his melancholy as he painted. The musicians and jesters forced him laugh and be joyful. This behavior created the attitude of joy and pleasure as he painted. As a result, he painted a smile so pleasing that it seems divine and as alive as the original.”
This was an excerpt from the post I mentioned above. I found it quite interesting that something so simple could positively influence something that had such a profound effect. That being said, why can’t ones with a mental illness do this as needed?
Putting on a “mask” or projecting an attitude/behaviour that is more pleasing than our mood can have a positive effect. Those with a mental illness all know that no matter how hard you try to cover your moods/emotions up that they still peek through. When I’m depressed or irritable you are going to know it regardless so I’m not fooling anyone. But I choose to improve that by “masking” or projecting a more positive mood. Not only does that make me easier to be around but it improves (by however slim or great a margin) my mood. So when your mood is on the negative side of things, why not project a more positive outlook and actually improve it?
Normal days are often few and far between for those with bipolar disorder. In my case the majority are down days, some normal days and then some days that are a little too good because I’m hypomanic. However your days measure out, there is a gap to fill in. You have to fill in the positive and negative gaps to get back to normal. So what mask are you wearing today?
It seems like depression is what requires the most covering up. There are days that the only mask that will fit is the one that barely gets you through the day. Other days, you only feel like a shell of yourselves and the mask you put on helps you fake it the rest of the way to happy. When you’re irritable you have to put on the mask that makes you somewhat pleasant and makes you seem like not too much is bothering you. Hypomania/mania has its share of masks too. You may try to mask that your operating at hyperspeed or that you are close to spinning out of control.
You may be faking it when you put on your mask but the masks themselves aren’t. They’re still you, they just aren’t the you at that particular moment. Putting on the mask is a way of coping and compensating. It enables you to play a character that best helps you get through the day. It’s a tool of sorts. One that comes to our aid when we mentally cant do it.
The days of normal, when the masks aren’t needed are the best. Your personality is at 100% and your genuinely happy. For the days that aren’t like that I’m grateful that I have my masks. No, faking it isn’t ideal but I can still go through the day and actually live instead of just function. What about you? Do you have masks?