I’ve been thinking a lot about this over the past few weeks, wondering if I was going to write about it. By “it,” I mean talking about getting through difficult times. As someone with a mental health diagnosis (four of them, in fact,) sometimes I wonder if I have the right to give any advice on how to get through anything. That feeling happens on days where I’m struggling, where I wonder how I’m going to make it through the next hour, much less the next day.
But I believe that I was brought to this place, this comfy couch on the Internet where we can talk about all things mental health, so that I can share such things with you. As with all things, take what you can use and leave the rest, but I thought I would share a recent evolution in my own mental health journey that has brought me incredible peace. I’m hoping that it helps you as well.
The past six months have been incredibly rough. I’ve struggled financially, personally, and spiritually. The world of writing became harder and harder, and with longer and longer payment times, terms, and issues, I lost my health insurance. A few months ago, it came down to keeping my apartment or keeping my medication going. I had to make a choice none of us should ever have to make. It was demoralizing and very, very hard. Additionally, my grandmother passed away in the midst of all this. Let’s just say that up to now, 2016 and I have not had the best relationship. Every single trigger I have seemed to hit all at once.
I could go into the descriptions of rapid cycling, of the frantic thoughts and reactions of PTSD, the days where you crawl back into bed because there’s no more fight left within. I could, but you know all that already. If you have a mental health diagnosis and suddenly you’re dealing with all your issues at once, you’ve experienced what I just went through. You show up for what you can, but essentially you go into survival mode. You shut down everything but what it takes to make it through, which is what I did. Because I realized that I love myself enough to give myself the time to heal.
I should repeat that again: I love myself enough to give myself the time to heal.
I feel like anyone outside of mental illness needs to hear that, and anyone suffering from bouts with their disease — medicated or un-medicated — needs to read it. The fact of the matter is that the desire for healing, that will to make it through the other side, the power to pull yourself up and do what you need to do for yourself — all of it comes from a love of yourself deep within. You may not know it now, but that love is the greatest relationship with the most powerful ally you will ever have. We don’t have to do this alone, but it does start with a deep, abiding love for yourself that means that you know that you want to make it through to better days on the other side.
I had never been able to articulate it that way before. In times of self-loathing and utter frustration with external lack of understanding of what was happening to me, I have said things about and to myself that I would never say to another person. Yet, somewhere deep within me was a voice that denied those claims, that knew I needed to vocalize frustration in order to make it out. Shake your fist at the sky, cry, punch your pillow — do what you have to do to get it out, but don’t take it out on yourself. You are the most powerful person you know. Look at all you’ve been through to this point. Today is going to pass. Tomorrow is a whole new opportunity. If you have to take it minute by minute, do that. Hour by hour? Fine. But loving yourself enough to give yourself what you need is the way to make it through the fire and into a life you know you deserve on the other side. Find your resources, carve out the space you need to work through it, ask for help, and the storms will pass. But find that love within. It’s the saving grace you need at all times, good and bad.
The love I have discovered within myself has led me to medication clinics that are willing to help me, to find doctors who will work on a sliding scale, and to discover groups where I can talk about what has happened to me and where we can help each other get through our collective concerns. I love myself enough to get back on the medication I need, to seek resources that understand my health needs, and who treat me with respect and compassion. The compassion was what was missing for so long, and I’m so glad to say that I’m delighted to find it externally, but it started with me. I have loved myself enough to seek help, and I’m ever so grateful.
It might sound trite to tell you to love yourself more in the middle of hard times, but that’s when you need it the most. Dig deep, become still and quiet, and focus on being the ally you’ve wanted and needed in your roughest times. You’ll find an affection you never knew you had, and it might be the ultimate change that gets you to an even better stage with your recovery. Life is better knowing that I am my own best friend, and that love I have found within has led me to brighter days, filled with hope and grace. The world is a better place, and I have myself to thank for that.