Let’s talk about one of the biggest mental health buzzwords floating around right now: mindfulness. We all hear how we should be practicing mindfulness in our daily lives. It’s the key to staying content, being healthy, and living a long life. It will change your life!
Or so they say. I mean, how is eating an orange super slowly going to help me manage my illness?
Basically, mindfulness feels like some weird little thing therapists and friends throw around when we talk about our unending depression or inability to feel anything. Like somehow that orange is going to save me. What even is this mindfulness thing anyway?
It happens to all of us. No matter how skilled, or strong, or capable, we all eventually hit that moment. We’ll be going along, doing our thing, when suddenly we realize it’s just all too much… We become overwhelmed. Some call it the straw that broke the camel’s back, or maybe the age old “when it rains, it pours,” but it will happen.
And honestly, it sucks.
But guess what! It’s at least a little bit preventable. I mean, it’s part of life, but you can definitely decrease the likelihood of your day going under. Much like taking your car in for an oil change can reduce problems later, taking the right steps now can prevent overwhelm. So, how do we do it? Let me share some of my favorite ways!
I have to say…it’s a scary feeling, knowing I have no motivation. After all, I have goals. I have dreams and passions and things that I want to get done. But the fact is, I have no push to pursue them. Hands down, it’s one of the worst parts of chronic depression. It’s that moment when your brain looks at everything you love and tells you: eh, you don’t need that.
Seriously. Not. Fair.
But it also forces me to ask myself: What can we do when we have no motivation to do anything? Here’s what I’ve learned so far…
It’s been a hard day. Let’s be honest here, it’s been a hard week. There’s a lot of stuff I don’t really want to dwell on, but to summarize: Emotions are high, energy is low, outside things are going wrong, and, oh, panic attacks suck. But when you’re a parent, you just have to push through the pain. Life keeps moving, yeah?
But sometimes it all goes wrong.
We all struggle sometimes when it comes to life. I mean, you can’t stop your car breaking down or the dishwasher exploding. That’s just how it works, right? Okay, sure, you can do some things to reduce the risk, but ultimately things are just going to go to crap now and then.
In my case, we had a batch of really emotional days here. When I get really moody, I tend to isolate. Admittedly, sometimes that’s really helpful, but others it makes things worse. The other side effect is that my mood tends to get absorbed by everyone else. So, a bitchy Hana makes for a bitchy Mike and Morgan. When I’m depressed, suddenly everyone else is depressed.
Wanna guess why I hide?
Add it to it a bunch of random stuff going bad and a couple fights, and… well, you get a panic attack. Actually, I don’t really know where the panic attack came from. That’s just my best guess.
So I push through the pain.
In this case, it was quite literal. Yesterday I had a panic attack much like the one that sent me to the hospital. I was in the car when it hit – clenching chest, knotted neck, difficulty breathing. The first time this happened, I seriously thought I was dying. The pain was so intense, it felt worse than childbirth (with no painkillers…). So, when I say it hurt, I mean it.
The problem was, we were on our way to get a whole bunch of errands done, so there wasn’t a lot of room for coddling myself. I had to push through the pain and get stuff done.
Now, is this healthy? Probably not, but it’s a problem pretty much every parent faces at some point, regardless of mental health status. You get a cold? The kids still need to get up and ready for school. You only got two hours of sleep? I’m sorry, but there’s parent teacher conferences today and you can’t just skip those. Day three of a depression bad enough you can only eat the bread sitting on the counter? That’s rough. Kids still need dinner, and no, they can’t just have bread.
What can we do?
It’s an important question. What can we do about the terrible stuff that doesn’t seem to care we have obligations in life? Sadly, not much.
I know. We want to hear “Of course there’s a handy trick that makes it all better!” But there isn’t. Does that mean we’re completely out of luck and destined for a life of misery and pain? No.
There’s no miracle cure, true, just like there’s no miracle cure for our illnesses. That doesn’t meant we are powerless to ease the struggle. We can’t keep our car from breaking down eventually, but we can do preventative things to make it less likely and be better prepared for when it happens. If you know it’ll happen eventually, you have a better idea how to prepare.
So, let’s listen to our doctors and get rest, eat well, exercise as able, and all that jazz. Practice those coping skills. Create a crisis plan. Be around loved ones and make time for the things that bring you true joy. Then, the next time you have to push through the pain, you’ll be ready for it. You’ll have help.
We can get through this together.
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Here I am, standing in front of this mirror, just like my therapist told me to. I screw up my courage and bravely tell myself my new affirmation: “I am in control of my reactions.” I say it five times, write it on the mirror where I have to look at it every day, and somehow….eventually….. I learn that I can’t trust myself.
Yeah, I know. That’s not how it’s supposed to work, right? Affirmations are a well-accepted therapy technique for people struggling with all sorts of things. Whether it’s self-love, trust, overcoming fears, or pretty much anything, if you say it enough it’ll eventually come true. Supposedly. Possibly. Maybe….maybe not.
In the mental health community, there is a ton of talk about the importance of self care and coping mechanisms. Both of these are critical parts of the healing process, but today we’re going to focus on coping. I hear you asking: Cope with what? Well, that’s the thing. Joys of bipolar and all means there’s an awful lot you have to cope with. So, here are my top ten that I use pretty much no matter how I’m feeling.
Let’s be honest here…life with mental illness is a full time job. Some days are not bad, some are even good, but some are completely horrendous. For myself, most days fall into the “not bad” category, where I can function and even have good moments, but they’re still colored by an underlying depression. The good days are a treasure. The bad days, though… The bad days can be really bad. On those days I lie in bed, watch TV, and pray it ends soon. On those days, it feels like the only way to keep going is by distracting myself, but that leaves me with a question. Is distraction a healthy way to cope, or am I making things worse?
I have a confession to make. I’m one of those “trendy” folks currently riding high on the bullet journal train. Admittedly, I didn’t get started with it out of any great desire to fit in. I had just gotten frustrated by the lack of adaptability of traditional planners. My needs tend to change based on the time of year, so a published planner ends up only being useful for a short time. Enter the bullet journal.
The weekend of my major breakdown, I got a new ESA. I had had pet rats for emotional support animals before, but my last one passed away around a year ago. Given my mood, when a breeder contacted me out of the blue saying she had a lone little boy, I jumped at the chance. Meet Franklin. He’s incredibly adorable and my new ESA. He’s a special friend and an added responsibility, but for me he can also bring an amount of comfort. We learned a few years ago that I am one of those that gains strength from having an ESA, and I’m particularly fond of rats.