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Why It's OK to Feel Unproductive While You're Healing

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Anxietydepression and stress can leave you feeling like the day is over before it has even properly begun. You can feel like there is a million and one things that you should be doing, but there is simply no energy there to do them, and that’s OK.

Feeling unproductive, exhausted and unmotivated is perfectly fine. There is nothing to be ashamed about there. Those feelings can lead to binge-watching or binge-eating or binge-sleeping, and all of those things are perfectly fine, too. If you’re dealing with lack of self-worth or self-confidence, you’re owed days like that.

Having times like this can make you feel like you’re never going to make it, whether that means you’re never going to make it in a professional stance or generally get through the next week. Try to remember that small tasks count. Even if all you do today is drink a cup of tea or change your socks, it doesn’t matter.

You probably haven’t given yourself enough credit for doing the small things, because those small things are victories too. Whether you’ve sent a text to your mom or updated your resume with your new address — both those things are important and count towards your future and your healing. If I could, I’d give you a sticker for each small thing you accomplish. I sure would like a sticker.

Big things tend to be accomplished in small steps. Creating something awesome, whether it’s a top-notch blog or the first few chapters of an epic novel, tends to not happen overnight or in a day. Things take time, just like humans. We take time to grow, mature and heal.

The world gives off the impression that if you don’t do something today, then you’ll never do it. We all must rush around, chasing our dreams or money, or both ideally, before it’s too late. But when is too late? Who says there is a time limit on doing cool stuff? Time didn’t stop this awesome 90-year-old lady who graduated college recently, so why should it stop you?

Just because you’re not accomplishing your dreams today doesn’t mean they’ll never happen. They will happen when you decide to work for them. They will happen when you are better. You can start to get things in motion of achieving whatever you want to achieve at any time.

Depression, anxiety and stress can literally suck the life out of you. Your motivation, energy and general lust for life diminishes, so do not punish yourself for not getting back on your feet in an instant — it’s going to take some time to get back into the swing of things.

It’s not a race, and everybody gets better in their own time. Trust me when I say that the more small steps you take, the better you’ll feel about yourself, which will only lead to more small steps being made. And what do lots of small steps make? A really nice walk to wherever you want to go.

Let’s take small steps together to something awesome.

Image via Thinkstock.

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'The Weather Has Been So Bipolar' and Other Phrases We Need to Stop Saying

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As someone living with a mental illness, there are some things I hear that just hurt. Like when we use names of mental illnesses to describe things that have nothing to do with the illnesses themselves. Or when we perpetuate stereotypes about certain disorders, when real people live with these disorders every day. So here are some words and phrases I believe we need to simply eliminate from our vocabulary.

1. “The weather has been so bipolar lately.”

This phrase minimizes the very real struggle of people who live with bipolar disorder by comparing it to simple weather patterns. Bipolar disorder is complex, and is not reducible to a fluctuation between hot and cold air. And when we misuse this word, we are misunderstanding the truth of the disorder, making people who live with it feel minimized and made fun of.

What you can say instead: “The weather’s been all over the place lately”.

2. “I’m really OCD about things.” 

Unless you have actually been diagnosed with obsessive compulsive disorder, please don’t say that you, or anyone around you, have OCD. This perpetuates stereotypes about this disorder, like that people with OCD just want things to be clean all the time, which isn’t even an accurate representation of this disorder.

What you can say instead: “I’m really anal/type A about things.”

3. “That roller coaster was insane/crazy.”

Using words like “crazy” or “insane” mock people who live with mental illnesses. While it may not seem that way to you, it can come off as really rude and insensitive to someone who has felt “crazy” their entire life.

What you can say instead: “That roller coaster was ridiculous.”

4. “That movie was so depressing.”

Unless you have a diagnosis of depression, I recommend cutting this word out of your vocabulary completely. Misusing the word “depressed” has led to myriad of misinformation regarding the disorder. The more we misuse and misunderstand this word, the more people who live with this disorder feel misunderstood and shamed into silence.

What you can say instead: “That movie was so sad”.

5. “That kid is acting manic.”

Mania is a very real part of bipolar disorder that affects people in very difficult ways. When we refer to anything as “manic” when not referring to the disorder, we are, again, misunderstanding the symptoms and perpetuating stereotypes.

What you can say instead: “That kid is full of energy today”.

Misusing words associated with mental illness can be really damaging. It perpetuates stereotypes about these disorders in society, which shames people who have these disorders and makes it difficult for people to seek help when they need it. So please consider changing your vocabulary. It might not be easy to stop saying these things at first, but make a commitment to treating these disorders with more respect by not misusing these words.

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Dear Person With a Mental Illness

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Dear person with a mental illness,

You feel alone and empty. Sad and angry. You feel so many feelings, I can’t even name them all. It’s not always easy to be you. It’s no easy life. I want to tell you: You can do it. I want to hug you and tell you that you’re worth it. That you are strong.

You are not useless. I know you feel like that. You are not damaged or broken. I know that’s how your body and your mind feel. You are not a failure. I know you think about yourself like that. You are not a monster. I know that’s what you see when you look in the mirror. Instead, I want to tell you what you really are. You are a warrior. You are a fighter. You are a survivor.

And you are loved by so many people — it can just be hard to see when you’re stuck in your own hole of darkness, emptiness and sadness. They are there for you. You just need to take a look around.

You are worth it. You are a unique, wonderful, beautiful, intelligent, curious, kind, smart and an inspiring human being. You deserve a good life. You are a winner. Your world is full of light and darkness. And that’s OK! That’s just the way your are and I’m fine with that.

You are a person filled with light and darkness, black and white, happiness and sadness. This doesn’t mean you’re broken, damaged or split. I know you feel like that, but please, stop it. It’s not your fault.

People treat you differently as soon as they hear the words “mental Illness.” They change, but please, stop thinking that’s your fault. It‘s not even your problem. Forget about them. They are not worth it. You are! Say goodbye to them and never look back. They don‘t deserve your kindness, wonderfulness and uniqueness. They just don’t deserve you. You are better than them.

I know you feel like you’re not strong enough. Believe me, mental illness has nothing to do with strength. You are not weak just because you have to deal with that. It rather means you are so strong. You are still alive, aren’t you? I love you for being so strong and brave. I’m thankful for you being strong enough to stay alive.

We are all humans. We make mistakes. This doesn’t depend on whether you have mental illness or not. Forgive yourself for the things you’ve done or never did. Forgive yourself for everything. You don’t need the shame.  You don’t need the regrets and the sorrow. Forget them. We all make mistakes and that’s OK.

You are a dreamer. You can create stories from out of nothing. You can fill hours and hours with tales you just excogitated. You are creative, a dancer, a singer. You are special. You are great. Never forget that.

I know how you feel. I am you. You are me.

It’s not easy for me to write this down. I know tomorrow you won’t listen anymore. Tomorrow, you won’t see it this way, but I have to write it down for you. Maybe you will listen someday. I write this down for you, my dear. Maybe you can read it when you’re down or when you’re broken. Maybe it helps you out, I don’t know.

I hope I’ll come back soon. I want to give you the strength you need to carry on. Please, never forget you don‘t need to carry the world on your shoulders. You deserve breaks. You deserve a good life. You deserve the good things that happen to you. You are great the way you are. You are loved. I love you, and I will always be there, somewhere inside. Just don‘t forget me.

Be you, my love. Laugh and love. Cry and scream. Be silly and ridiculous. Listen to music and dance on the floor as wildly as you can. Jump and run. Swear if you need to. Watch silly films and television shows. Climb on woods.

Read books. Or even better: finally write your books! They are already hidden inside of you. Write your songs down and sing them as loud as you can! Dance to your own kind of music. Be your own kind and never feel guilty for it. Take the time you need. Take the healing you need, and never ever ever feel guilty. Never!

You are not alone. We will stand this together. We can lean on each other.

Love,
Yourself

Image via Thinkstock.

This post originally appeared on Impression of Dreams.

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. You can reach the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741-741.

 

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To the People Who Are Struggling Right Now

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To the people who are struggling right now,

I first want to tell you that you are not imagining this. You are not “insane.” There is nothing wrong with you.

You are broken right now, yes, but you are also beautiful. You can be both at the same time.

I know right now it seems like nothing will ever be right again. I know it feels like there is nothing good left in this world, like there is nothing worth holding on for.

I know some days all you can do is sit on your bed and cry, and I know it feels like no one understands what you’re going through.

I get the crushing weight you feel in your chest, the way your stomach clenches and your hands shake, the way your mind is a whirlwind of thoughts that you can’t even begin to sift through right now.

I understand how your heart aches for no reason, how you feel numb even on the best of days.

I get how you feel alone even when you’re surrounded by a room full of people you used to be comfortable with.

I understand that you’re struggling. Because I’ve been there.

I’ve been at the point where getting out of bed feels pointless, where you want to be locked alone in your room and held by someone at the same time.

I have struggled.

And I am struggling.

And I will struggle for the rest of my life, probably.

But I’m also surviving, and living, and laughing, which I never thought I’d ever be able to say again.

So to the people who are struggling, I want to say that I know how endless this feels to you right now. And I can’t promise you that one day it will magically disappear and everything will be OK. But I can say with certainty that it will get better. One day, the weight in your chest will feel a little lighter. And it’ll only take you nine minutes to get up the courage to venture out of your bed instead of 10. And you’ll want to be around people again.

And when you smile, you’ll actually mean it. I promise.

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3 Tips for Dealing With the Bad Thoughts That Can Come With Mental Illness

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We all have odd thoughts sometimes. We get sad. We get happy. Our minds go in many directions. Having a mental illness makes you more susceptible to bad thoughts. Those of us with psychotic conditions may have paranoia, delusions and hallucinations.

Depression can cause thoughts of hopelessness worthlessness. It can cause you to doubt yourself. Anxiety can turn you into a hysterical mess. We know about these things because we are in our own head. Sometimes, this can become difficult. You only know what is going on in your brain. You can’t speak from the other side. Sometimes, the line between a “normal” thought and a bad thought is very thin.

A simple example: crying at a movie. Sometimes, when watching a particularly sad movie or television show, you may cry. You may start wondering if you’re too sensitive. You may feel self-conscious about it. Trust me. I’ve cried so many times over ridiculous, petty things. Sometimes, it helps to let those feelings out.

Depression often comes with many bad thoughts. Sometimes, you may feel extra sad about something normal. For instance, a breakup may send you down a spiral of bad feelings and thoughts. The anxiety will make you relive and analyze every little detail. Your brain will replay conversations you had. You may start crying at the mere mention of your ex. It is really hard to tell if these feelings are symptomatic, if you are mourning the relationship or both. People who don’t have mental illnesses many not easily understand the struggle.

We are fighting our own minds every day. When you are plagued with these bad thoughts, remember these things:

1. Negative thoughts are normal.

We have billions of thoughts firing up in our brains every day. It is inevitable that you would eventually move to negative thoughts.

2. You don’t have to believe your negative thoughts.

Unfortunately, you may have some seriously negative thoughts. You may have to consciously change your mind away from these thoughts.

3. You can get positive about negative thoughts.

Find ways to make these thoughts seem positive. Re-think them. Use your logic to reason your way away from these thought patterns. You can do this! Keep fighting!

Image via Thinkstock.

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When My Oldest Son Read My Mental Illness Blog

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For years, I tried to hide my mental illness from my children. They were aware I had some issues, but I downplayed the severity of my situation.  

I shared joint custody of my boys with my ex-husband, and they would travel back and forth between our homes. When they were with their father, I would do the bare minimum in order to stockpile my energy for their joyful return.  

When they would arrive, I would do my best to greet them with exuberance, making plans with them and baking their favorite treats. I would paint on a smile and pretend everything in life was as it should be, hoping to be that idealized mother I felt they deserved.  

My children were my everything, and I wanted every visit with me to be special, whether we ventured out to do things or stayed home for family game nights or bad movie nights. We always made time to have extended talks about books, movies, shows, games, friends, school and life in general, so that they always knew every aspect of their lives was important to me.  

Meanwhile, my demons were eating me alive from the inside. I’d take long showers, silently sobbing so they couldn’t hear me. After they went to bed, I would quietly sob into my pillow. When they left to return to their father’s, I would collapse until their next visit. Wearing that facade was exhausting.

I dreaded them discovering how bad things truly were for many reasons. I didn’t want them to view their mother as damaged or broken. In my mind, parents were supposed to be these strong, invincible, larger than life entities who guide their children through life.

Children weren’t supposed to worry about their parents. Their parents weren’t supposed to be weak or easily destroyed by their own emotions. I was supposed to be their rock, their pillar of strength, someone they could look up to in life. I felt that by letting them see how bad things truly were, I was somehow failing them as a mother.

I also feared their father and my ex-husband. As much as I try to never speak unkindly about him, especially within earshot of my children, our breakup was horrendous, truth be told. 

I carried with me the constant fear that the severity of my depression might get back to him, and it would be used as a weapon for him to try to lessen my time with them. From time to time, we would end up back in family court because he wanted to change the order for no other reason than that frequent swaps were inconvenient. I dreaded him getting his hands on true ammunition he could use to get his way.

One of my biggest fears, though, was that my children would have questions for which there were no easy answers. I’ve gone through different types of abuse from different people throughout my life, some of whom my children genuinely admire or love. These people, though they have caused me heartache, have always been good to my kids, and I didn’t want to be the one to share anything with them that may cause them to see the people they cared for differently, especially their father.

There may come a day when those hard questions will be asked, but I never wanted to taint their childhood or make them feel they had to hate anyone solely based on my interactions with them.

There were a handful of times when I had breakdowns throughout their childhood and would end up in an inpatient setting for a short period of time. As far as my ex-husband knew, it was to balance medications. As far as my children were concerned, I was just feeling under the weather

Eventually, though, my entire life collapsed. My then fiancé had left me for another woman. I had no real support system and no family to turn to in my time of need. There was no way for me to paint on a smile and pretend everything was OK. Things were the farthest from OK they could possibly be, and I was scared to death. There was no way to hide it.

By this time, my boys were 15 and 18.  They were no longer the fragile little children I had to watch over and protect, regardless of the fact that they were still my babies in my heart and mind.

I sat down with them, terrified to the bottom of my soul, and had the most honest conversation with them that I have ever had. I didn’t go into details about a lot of my past abuse, but I didn’t sugarcoat its effect on me, either. I explained the struggles ahead and all I would need to do to put my life back together and get back on my feet. While I let them know there was a light at the end of the tunnel, I made it clear the journey ahead wouldn’t be an easy one for me.

I also let them know I had begun to write, having put my life’s story out there both in a book and a follow-up blog. I told them they may want to wait until they’re older to read my book because while I discussed things I needed to talk about for my own self-healing, there were some hard truths in it I didn’t feel they were ready to face.

I welcomed them to read my blog, however, if they wanted to so they could follow my journey as I worked through things and healed. I also let them know I would answer any questions they had because I didn’t want them worrying that things were worse than they appeared.  

Both my sons hugged me tightly after our talk and have continued to do so more often since then. They both admitted to not feeling ready to read anything I’ve written, so I did not press the issue. I hadn’t expected them to want to read anything I wrote or to have any questions, but I wanted to leave the lines of communication open just in case they wanted to talk.

I had another blog I had begun as well that focused primarily on the positive aspects of my healing. I welcomed them to read as an alternative to the blog that revolved around my challenges with mental illness. The other day, I recommended my oldest son to read my most recent positive blog about stepping out of my comfort zone and trying to live my life more fully. After reading that blog, unbeknownst to me, my son decided to follow a link to my mental illness blog. Much to my surprise, he read every entry I had posted so far. After finishing, he left me this message:

“After I read that article you sent me earlier, I saw the link to your blog and read it. I didn’t want to at first, but something in me told me to listen to your story and finally be able to truly empathize with you. After reading it, I can hardly believe you went through so much without reaching out for so long and am glad you finally did.”

Truthfully, I cried when I received that message. And we’re not talking about tiny tears cascading gracefully down your cheeks. These were chest-racking, snot-bubble-inducing sobs that shook my entire body. 

For so long, I had been terrified of my children finding out about the extent of my mental illness, fearing they would see me as broken or damaged or not worthy to be their mother. Yet my son, after reading only a fraction of what I had endured, was able to empathize with how much I had struggled. Even more amazingly, he was proud of me for surviving it all, finally coming out with my story and reaching out for help.

The truth is, as much as in my heart and mind my children will be frozen forever as those sweet-faced, innocent babies they once were years ago, they’ve since grown into strong, intelligent, empathetic young men. While it is every parent’s greatest fear that they will let their children down in some unforgivable way by not being that strong, unbreakable entity atop a pedestal, in reality, no one can live up to that ideal.

I’m slowly beginning to accept that mental illness is nothing to be ashamed of because we all have our challenges to face. I couldn’t be prouder of the men they’ve become or how supportive and compassionate they’ve been when facing the harsh truths about my mental illness.

A version of this post originally appeared on Unlovable.

Lead photo source: Thinkstock Images

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