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To Those Who Are Exhuasted From Living With a Mental Illness

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One aspect of living with a mental illness very few people talk about is the exhaustion you feel after completing simple day-to-day activities. Just getting out of bed is sometimes the hardest thing to overcome. Then, you have to complete simple tasks like brushing your teeth, changing your clothes and putting on makeup to look presentable to the people you may run into that day. All the while, you are fighting your gut instinct to simply crawl back into bed and be done with the whole process.

Once you actually get into the car and drive to where you’re going, there is an overwhelming feeling of trepidation. Even if you are someone who normally enjoys being around other people, when you have a mental illness, there is a certain dread of having to put on a fake smile and be nice to others, when all you want to do is run away and hide.

Sometimes you can make it through the day with little to no repercussions. Usually for me, those are the days I can sit at my desk, keep my head down and nobody notices I’m not my usual “bubbly” self. However, there are other days when every interaction, no matter if it’s with a co-worker, your supervisor, a family member, friend or even the bank teller, leaves you feeling emotionally and mentally drained.

It gets to the point where your eyes start to cross, you feel like your head is full of pillow stuffing and you can’t seem to keep your thoughts in order. It’s like that feeling when you’ve been awake for more than 24 hours. All you want is to be in a safe place, where you can close your eyes undisturbed.

That’s how it feels when you are constantly fighting your mental illness. You are beyond exhaustion. Your brain begins to shut down. You can’t think straight or focus on any one thing. Add to this the stigma that comes along with any type of mental illness, and you feel like a failure. You can’t seem to do the things other people accomplish every day because it saps so much energy from not just your brain, but your body as well.

Some days, simply getting out of bed and moving to the couch takes up so much energy you feel drained by the time you pull the blanket over your head. Forcing yourself to get out of bed, much less doing more necessary things like grocery shopping or paying bills, can be incapacitating. It affects every aspect of your life, from not having groceries on hand to the lights being cut off because you did not have the energy left to take care of mundane daily chores. Between the exhaustion and the stigma, this combination can easily make your mental illness worsen, turning it into a dark, downward spiral difficult to ascend.

I wish I could tell you the secret to staying away from this  state, or an easy way to get out of it once you’re there. I am still trying to discover this myself. I consider myself lucky to have a couple of close friends who also suffer from mental illnesses and whom I can talk to about the exhaustion and anxiety attacks. I also have a good psychiatrist, who truly listens to what I have to say and helps me figure out solutions to some of my symptoms. However, as with anything else, dealing with the exhaustion of living with mental illnesses is still unbelievably difficult, and some days I still spend all day lying in bed, simply waiting for the day to be over, despising myself for my inability to function.

If I could say one thing to those who are feeling the excruciating exhaustion of living with a mental illness: it’s OK to feel exhausted, and it’s OK to rest. There are a number of us out there who understand some days you need to give time to yourself to recuperate, and to restore your positive mindset, even if you feel like you haven’t done anything to deserve it.

Stop beating yourself up and start taking every day as it comes. If you have a day when you feel the exhaustion hanging over your head, then ignore that annoying voice in your mind that tells you you’re not justified in feeling this way. Take a nap, binge-watch Netflix while eating your favorite snacks or read your favorite book. It doesn’t matter what you do, as long as you are getting the rest you need to face the day when you are ready again.

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Finding the Right Therapist for Your Child

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To most parents, their child is the most important part of their world. When you are looking to reach out to get help for your child you are allowing someone else access to their inner world. No wonder this can feel so threatening. There aren’t as many child and youth therapists around as there are adult therapists so it would be easy to just go for the person who is nearest to where you live. This short article aims to give you some practical pointers on how to choose the right therapist for your child.

Are they qualified?

Firstly, make sure your potential therapist is fully qualified and part of a governing body such as the BACP, UKCP or PTUK. It’s important to remember anyone in England could call themselves a therapist, so don’t be afraid to check out their qualifications. You also want to see if your potential therapist has an up to date DBS Certificate (these used to be called a CRB Checks) to show they are cleared to work with children. Don’t be afraid to ask to see copies of these certificates — a good therapist will be happy to do so.

Are they qualified to work with your child’s age group?

On similar lines, look or ask what specific training the therapist has to work with your child’s age group and particular difficulties. Working with adults therapeutically is totally different to working with children. A children’s therapist (and I’m including young people in this category) need to have an understanding of the different stages of child and youth development and also how they communicate at different stages. Equally, you would want your therapist to have specific training in working with people under 18 or a lot of experience in doing so.

Any recommendations?

Your potential therapist may be recommended by someone you know. In the world of counseling getting reviews or recommendations can be difficult due to confidentiality and the delicacy of situations dealt with. Some therapists may be able to give you anonymous feedback from previous clients and this may be shown on their website. However, a lack of reviews doesn’t necessarily mean they are a bad therapist.

What is their therapy room like?

This may sound strange, but if you think about how your child decorates their room it is very different to how an adult may decorate their bedroom! In the same way, a good child or young people’s therapist will have their room presented in a way that is child or youth attractive. It should look like an “OK” place for your child to spend some time in and ideally should have resources e.g. play or creative materials that may help your child to communicate.

How do they get on?

Finally and importantly, if you go along to a first session, watch to see how your child reacts to the therapist and listen to what they think of them. There have been a lot of studies into what makes the difference in seeing a person move forward with their difficulties. Again and again the research has shown it is the quality of relationship between the client and therapist that makes the difference. After your first session, you want your child to want to go back again. That is the best sign you have found the right therapist for you.

If you follow all these steps you will have a much better chance of finding someone who will be a good match for your child. 

Image via Thinkstock.

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To the One Walking Through the Storm of Mental Illness

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Dear You,

I know you’re sad and tired.

I know you wish you could disappear.

I know you’re hurting.

I know you’re lonely.

I know you feel like everything is falling apart.

I know you’ve lost hope and faith.

I know the world has knocked you down to your knees.

I know you don’t want to get back up.

I feel your pain as if it were my own. I’ve felt every splinter in your heart, every crack in your soul, every ache from the emptiness. I’ve made friends with the roots of the flowers you wish shared their beauty with you. I’ve cursed the clouds for casting me in shadows. I’ve pounded my bleeding fists against the earth, begging for the pain to leave me.

I have felt everything you are feeling now. It’s a hurricane inside your chest, and you feel it sweeping across lands with no control. Chaos is left in your footsteps and you can’t stand to see the mess you’ve made.

But darling, if only you knew storms rip up the old roots, only to allow the new ones to have their chance.

Let the storm come through. Let it cleanse you. Let it toss you around.

You will rise again, anew.

You will be cloaked in strength and hope.

You will be at peace with the storm inside you.

Darling dear, I feel your pain. I feel your hopelessness. I feel your fear.

But I also feel that small flicker of hope you shelter from the winds inside you. It’s the last thing you have, and you’ll be damned if it gets destroyed. But know this, my love: wind feeds fire. Let that small flame of hope burst into a wildfire that will run rampant in your heart. Let it take over you, consuming every ounce of your being. Let it be the light to guide you through the darkness. Let it melt away the numbness and cold that has plagued you for far too long.

Do not spend your time running from a tornado. It’s time to turn around and face it.

I will hold your hand. I will make sure you do not fall. I will whisper encouragement. I will be there when you fear everyone else has gone.

Let the storm rage on tonight, for tomorrow will be a new day that has been cleansed of heartache and despair.

My dear, you are never alone.

My dear, you are loved.

My dear, you are a masterpiece.

My dear, you deserve to live.

Love,

-c.j xx

This post originally appeared on Pocket of Rambles.

If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources page. 

If you need support right now, call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255

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The Importance of Finding Your 'Tribe' When You Live With a Mental Illness

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There is an old saying, “It takes a village to raise a child.” Until recently, I didn’t realize the importance of having your own tribe. No, I am not talking about having a tribe of children. I am talking about having people around you to call your own, whether they be blood relations, friends or your chosen family. It is important to have people around you who you identify with.

Years ago, I had a tribe of my own, a group of friends I confided in and hung out with. When I had a tribe, I had everything I lack now: self-confidence and a purpose. I gave them my all and often went above and beyond.

However, in the end I left my tribe all together (of my own accord). My husband discouraged my relationship with my tribe because he felt I was being taken advantage of. His intentions were good. Still, I was disillusioned and shattered by the loss, and never truly found another tribe I fit into. Sure, my tribe hadn’t been perfect, but they had been mine. It was a place I felt comfortable and accepted.

Those relationships had taken years to form, and while I desperately searched for another tribe to accept me, I often became impatient. I couldn’t find that place of comfort I longed for. Fast forward almost 10 years and I no longer had a tribe to call my own at all, my marriage had but broken down and I had become extremely lonely and depressed.

In talking to my therapist, she suggested I need to get out, see friends and do some things I found enjoyable. I was forced to admit I have very few friends who I physically see, and told her the story of losing my tribe. It was a light bulb moment and possibly one that would save my marriage and my sanity.

In losing my tribe and not being able to find another, I had moved all the expectations of what they had provided me onto my husband. There is no way a single individual can do the job of a tribe, so repeatedly I felt let down, like my needs were not being met. They weren’t, but they couldn’t be. The resentment of him “taking” my tribe away and then not being able to fill their place had taken its toll. Even though in the end, I had chosen to leave the tribe, the fear of abandonment and betrayal meant I had unknowingly self-sabotaged any new relationships.

I am now in the process of establishing myself a new tribe. Unfortunately, integration back into the old tribe is just not possible, but I am learning your tribe does not have to come from one place — it can be filled with people from all walks of life. I have managed to re-establish some old friendships and am working at making new ones, armed with the knowledge that it will take time and patience to form a bond.

And my marriage? The improvements over the past few weeks have been positive. Lowering my expectations of what the relationship should be, I have been able to re-establish healthy boundaries and enjoy his company for what it is, not what I expected it to be.

I see this often when people get into relationships. The other person becomes their entire world. They invest everything in them and often leave their tribe behind in hopes that this person will fulfill all their needs. The truth is it takes an entire village to raise a child — and support an adult.

You need the vast array of opinions that comes with having different life experiences. Take a chance, reach out and make new connections and even re-establish old ones. Stay safe, and stay well.

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Facebook Messenger Chatbot, Joy, Wants to Help People Improve Their Mental Health

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It’s not uncommon to track how much you walk, sleep or eat in a given day, so why not track how you feel? That’s the question Danny Freed, creator of Joy – a Facebook messenger app that monitors and tracks your mental health – seeks to address.

Unlike other apps and trackers, Joy is meant to be more like a friend. Through Facebook messenger, Joy sends daily check-ins, asking how you feel and what you did that day. Joy then uses your response to interpret your mood and respond appropriately. If you are feeling anxious, for example, Joy will offer you some tips that can help you reduce your anxiety.

Screenshot of chat with Joy

There are some limitations to how life-like Joy is. Currently, Joy can ask questions, but struggles to respond when you ask her questions. “Sorry I can’t answer most questions yet, I can only ask them. I’m getting smarter though, hopefully soon,” Joy responds when asked a question she can’t answer.

While talking to Joy is not the same as talking to a person or mental health professional, the highlight of her programming comes in her ability to track your mood. “Right now, [Joy] will generate a weekly report of your mood based on what you’ve told her,” Freed said. “Soon, she’ll be able to offer longer term solutions and therapies based on deep analysis of your emotions over time.”

The idea for Joy came after a close friend of Freed died by suicide. “I really didn’t know a lot of people struggle with their mental wellbeing or that mental illnesses are real, debilitating and potentially fatal disease until relatively recently,” Freed told The Mighty. “This forced me to not only recognize the impact that our mental health has on or overall wellbeing, but to learn about it — for my own mental health and also so that I could potentially help others that might be silently suffering just as my friend did.”

Approximately 20 percent of American adults will experience a mental illness this year. Joy is designed to help people open up about their mental health. Because chatting with Joy feels more like talking to a friend than putting your data into an app, Freed hopes those who use Joy will be able to use her as stepping stone to talk to others about their mental health.

“My hope is that the more people start tracking their mental health, the more normalized it will become,” Freed said. “This will play a big role in shattering the stigma against mental illness so that people feel comfortable seeking real help when needed.” Future updates to Joy may include connections to a live therapist who is professionally trained for those who need additional support services.

“Joy is always there, ready to listen whenever you need someone to talk to,” Freed said. “It’s a small step, but if Joy can put a smile on your face in the midst of a bad day, it’s a step in the right direction.”

If you or someone you know needs help, visit our prevention resources page.

If you need support right now, call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.

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When a Girl in My Class Jokingly Said to Her Friend ‘You Belong in a Mental Hospital’

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It was an ordinary day in fifth period, U.S. history class. The bell hadn’t rung yet and people were walking in and out of the classroom. It was the afternoon and we are all restless, near the end of the school day. The bell rang and the kids in my class started getting settled into their seats. There were a couple of girls in the corner laughing and pushing each other around. I don’t know what exactly they were screaming and laughing about.

When everyone settled and they were they only ones talking, one of the girls yelled to her friend, “You belong in a mental hospital.” I’m sure they were joking, and I’m sure they didn’t understand how it could hurt, but it did. I have obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and depression.

I try to let go of statements like this. I know people aren’t always educated about mental illness so when they say, “That’s so OCD” or “You’re acting psychotic,” I try to correct them. I try to explain to them how that can hurt, but this one hit me in the core.

I had just come back to school from a three-month stay at a “mental hospital.” (I prefer psychiatric hospital.) My mental illness had hit a low point and I admitted myself into a residential treatment center. Prior to this admission, I had been to two inpatient psychiatric hospitals for suicidal ideation and one outpatient, which unfortunately was unsuccessful for treating my OCD.

The way she phrased this was painful and made me enraged. Little did she know how brave people have to be when they go to treatment. Checking yourself into treatment and asking for help is ultimately one of the hardest things to do. Then, staying in the hospital and work on bettering your mental illness is a journey in itself, even though it is well worth it.

The way she said her friend  “belongs” in one because she was “crazy” didn’t go well with me either. The people I’ve met in these hospitals are the most amazing, creative, caring and interesting people I’ve ever met. I’ve made lifelong friends. The people in these hospitals aren’t “crazy.”

They’re fighting a battle in their brains, from which the symptoms are hard to deal with. It’s terrifying for them and, but we’re surely not crazy. Those people are there to get help because they know they are stronger and bigger than their mental illness. It’s not funny or comical for people to make fun of.

To the girl in my U.S. history class, or anyone for that matter, I hope you will think before you speak. Think about what you’re saying and who it could affect. Try to get informed about mental illness. We are all people. We are all different, but please, don’t continue to spread the stigma around mental illness. It only makes it worse.

If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources page. 

If you need support right now, call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. 

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