You've Been Diagnosed With a Mental Illness. Now What?

1. Find a psychiatrist who takes you seriously.

Psychiatrists can be expensive, but they are extremely important to your recovery. Find one who you feel comfortable with, one that listens to you and takes you seriously. You’re paying for their services. If they kick you out after five minutes, then are they really taking enough time to listen to your personal story, your symptoms and what you want to work on?

It can be embarrassing to admit you struggle with suicidal thoughts or you hear voices, but the more honest you are, the better equipped the doctor is to help you fight your personal battle. Don’t let the doctor walk all over you. Put your foot down if you don’t want to take a certain medication or if you feel like you are not being heard. This is your life, your story. Take control of it.

2. Find a counselor who you trust.

You probably have a lot of thoughts, feelings and concerns about your diagnosis and what this means for your future. A counselor can help you set up an action plan for your recovery. Making a list of warning signs for when things are going downhill and you need help, what medications you take and who your emergency contacts are. These are a few things to keep in mind and will help you to get started on your recovery plan.

A counselor can listen to your concerns and view them from an outside perspective unlike a friend or family member. Furthermore, they have been specifically trained to help you with your problems. They know your story, top to bottom, unfiltered. Therefore, they know the best ways to help you stay in school, get and keep a job and maintain healthy relationships. Many churches have free counselors, as well as schools and colleges.

3. Build a support group.

Living with a mental illness can be lonely and hard. Feeling misunderstood is common. Friends and family can be helpful. They know you best and can tell when you’re having a hard time. However, make sure you are connected to a few people who know what it’s like a have a mental illness. There are plenty of Facebook groups you can join that offer support. Admins of the groups post daily medication reminders, and members of the group often compare the side effects of medications. You can read the stories of people just like you all over the world.

It does a world of good to know you are not alone. If you want to meet people in person, you can search for a National Alliance of Mental Illness support group. As strange or unique as your illness can be, you’d be surprised how many people struggle with the same symptoms as you do.

4. Learn coping skills.

Over the years, I have learned that coping skills are the number one thing to have in your mental health toolbox. They are free of charge and never run out. For panic attacks and general anxiety, breathing exercises are helpful. Simply focusing on your breathing can divert your focus away from whatever is causing the anxiety. Meditation is helpful in clearing and calming the mind. Simply searching guided meditation on Youtube and listening with headphones can promote relaxation.

Progressive muscle relaxation and guided imagery are also ways to divert your focus and reinstate a sense of calmness. Stretches are good for loosening up tight, stressed muscles and exercise releases endorphins. Coloring is a more popular stress relief, as well. There are so many coping skills to discover. You just have to find out what works best for you.

5. Educate yourself.

Educating yourself on your mental illness is one of the most important things you can do to ensure recovery. Go to the library or search the web. Knowing what you struggle with can help you fight it better. Identifying your symptoms is the first step in recovery.

For example, if you know you struggle with social anxiety, then you can prepare yourself before speaking in front of the class by doing breathing exercises. Furthermore, figuring out where your symptoms end and where your personality begins helps you know what you are fighting.

You are more than your illness. You have purpose, strength and love to pour out into the universe. Be the best you that you can be. Educate yourself and those around you. End the stigma in yourself and in the world. Accept and support each other in unconditional love and understanding.

This post originally appeared on Niume.

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