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The 'One Hour Rule' I Use on Days When Mental Illness Makes It Hard to Get Out of Bed

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As much as I would love to be one of those people who jumps out of bed in the mornings, wide eyed, refreshed and ready to take on the day ahead, it just isn’t me. I am not a morning person at all. That being said, on the good days when I plan things to look forward to, or am in a good head space, mornings are inevitably easier. However, on the difficult mornings, my bed holds me hostage. I don’t want to face the day, I don’t want to wake up and I certainly don’t want to leave the cosy sanctuary of my blankets.

But I have found something that helps. I call it the “one hour rule.”

Within one hour of waking up, I have to be out of my bed. If I look at the clock when I wake up and it is 9 a.m., by 10 a.m., I cannot still be lying in bed. I am a competitive person, and even some gentle competition with my own brain helps me sometimes.

I tell myself: Just try. Get out of bed and get up. If it doesn’t work, and in an hour you feel worse, then you can go back to bed. And sometimes, I will. And that’s OK. But I make myself try. Try to taste the day. I don’t have to like it, I just have to do it.

I have to be up though. I have to be doing or moving or creating. It can work like a domino effect. If I am up, I may as well take a shower,
may as well make some breakfast, and hey — seeing as I’m already up, I might just leave the house today.

I can’t promise that it always works like this, but one thing I do know is that I always feel better for giving it a go.

I encourage you to give yourself one hour, 60 minutes, 3,600 seconds.

It might suck, and you may get out of your bed just to end up on the floor instead, or sitting on the landing, or you might make it to sit on the shower floor. But at least you tried. You got up and you gave today a chance. You did the absolute best that you could, and there is no shame in that. It does not go unnoticed.

There is so much power in baby steps. You can do a lot with sixty minutes.

You are fighting. You still got out of bed.

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Unsplash photo via Bekah Russom.

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When I Can't Seem to Open Up to My Counselor

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Your lungs are screaming and working tirelessly, desperately searching to find the accurate words, but you can’t. Your brain has its little party while your anxiety controls you within and says no. That’s the pain, the fear, anguish we can’t let out.

More and more people are opening up about their struggles, and believe me that’s good, but it’s the speaking that’s the real issue for me.

You try to remain calm, but that small room swallows you in your fear as you walk through the door. This is where it begins. This brings me to the surroundings. Every session you’re filled with the many issues that revolve in this never-ending world. They somewhat still linger through the air and make you  feel claustrophobic. This is where the struggle begins. You begin to shake, tremble, stutter with exhaustion as you’re grasping to pull your pain together. You stumble across your words.

You do all of this in the desperation and hope of being noticed, heard.

It seems like your pain inside you should be so easy to release and communicate about, but it’s been the same person, the same room for eight anguishing months, and you’ve still had to hide in your shell anonymously because talking is merely impossible. There is that vicious pounding in my brain, taunting me and beating me up as to why I can’t do the simplest things like talking to my counselor.

There may be a reason as to why we are like this, and there is no easy road to mental illnesses and recovery. The silence does not mean we don’t have anything going on; it’s just the frog in your throat waiting to jump out, but it can’t.

And that’s OK.

This is where it begins.

There is no easy road nor is there a “right way” to recovery, but once you find your support, believe me, you can see the light at the end of the road.

What I have learned over these past eight months is even by the end of the sessions you may feel exhausted, but every step of the way to recovery is worth it.
The first steps are terrifying, but you may be glad you were strong enough to go.

You may still struggle to communicate and that’s OK because the person you talk to will try to engage and understand you more as a person.

I believe recovery is a long process, but to whoever is reading this, there is someone who will listen, empathize and understand you. They’ll take your problems and listen, and all that anxiety you’ve gone through just to enter the room can, session by session, start to disappear.

There is hope out here, and there is love.

Everything can be OK.

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What I've Learned From Falling in Love While Having a Mental Illness

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Sometimes, the only thing worse than bringing a guy home to meet your parents is bringing a guy home to meet your mental illness.

It’s a part of you that you’ve learned to handle, to treat gently, to get through the day with. Sometimes it’s a part of you that’s easy to love and stand up for, and sometimes it’s a part you wish you could get rid of. But you know how to manage. There’s safety in knowing.

Love is filled with unknowns. Will this person still want to be with me in a year? In a month? Will we grow in different directions? Will I just end up getting hurt? A particularly difficult unknown is how will this other person, this new, fantastic, wonderful human being, react when I get depressed or anxious or have a PTSD flashback? Will they be kind to this part of me? Will they get scared and run away?

The relationship between love and mental illness isn’t discussed enough, so I want to share some of my experiences in the hopes someone will be able to relate.

First, there was the boy who didn’t know what to do. I was just beginning to experience the symptoms of my post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and I wasn’t yet able to articulate what was going on. When I had a flashback, breakdown or an anxiety attack, he would retreat. When this happens, I was tempted to blame myself. I felt like some sort of monster, scaring people away. I felt like I was too much to handle, and I did’t want to reach out anymore. Opening up to people is hard after someone has convinced you that you’re mental illness is an ugly part of you.

How do you deal with this? Remember you’re a mosaic window, and it’s not your fault if all he sees is broken glass. Remember everyone has something they struggle with, and that doesn’t make them ugly or scary. Remember that sometimes, people won’t be able to handle your vast emotions and if they have to leave, it doesn’t mean there’s something wrong with you.

Then there was the one who did know what to do. This was the first time I had a boyfriend whose experience with mental illness was similar to my own. I felt something I had never fully felt before: acceptance. Here was someone who understood what I was going through. He stuck with me through my flashbacks. He was patient and kind through my anxiety attacks. He loved me for who I was, never making me feel like I was too much to handle. It was wonderful.

This experience was very healing for me, but there’s something else people don’t really talk about: what happens when people trigger each other. We had some conflicting symptoms that made healing hard at times. For example, we had mutually exclusive obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) symptoms —his mood swings would trigger my mood swings, or we would both get depressed at the same time and not be able to help each other. Sometimes, we would even make each other feel worse.

It’s important to know there are a million reasons for a relationship to not work out. If your respective mental healths are suffering in a relationship, it’s not fair to either of you to blame mental illness as leading reason for a breakup. The way your brain works doesn’t make you unloveable. Sometimes, two brains just don’t work together. And that’s OK.

It’s hard to be vulnerable when mental illness isn’t represented in mainstream love narratives. You might feel like you’ll never be able to achieve that “perfect Hollywood romance” because some nights you’re too depressed to go out on a date or some days you’re too anxious to relax. The truth is, no one has that “perfect Hollywood romance.” It doesn’t exist. Relationships are complicated and challenging and exciting, and mental illness is just another variable. Just another part of you for someone to love.

We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here.

Thinkstock photo via Tijana87.

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What It's Like to Work in Customer Service With a Mental Illness

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It’s not easy being me. I admit that I have some problems, and I accept them as who I am. But there is one thing I struggle with each and every week, and that is having a job.

I work as a customer service team member in a fast food restaurant, and it gets difficult. Some shifts are easier than others, but I tend to manage. It was my last shift that has brought me to this topic. On my last shift I realized it has almost been two years since I started working, and those two years have been some of the best and worst times of my life. In those last two years I have battled depression, anxiety, an eating disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and a multitude of other mental illnesses. In the past two years I went through the most important time of my life and that was graduating high school and transitioning to adulthood, and in the past two years I have also learned how to deal with most of my problems.

Having to work in customer service has both helped me and brought me down. Some shifts are a lot easier than others. When we are short staffed and it suddenly gets busy, that stresses me out because it means I have to do twice the amount of work I would normally do compared to a quiet day where we have everyone on the floor.

There was this one shift where we were really short-staffed. I mean it was just me, the manager and one other staff member. We had to call in others from another store to come and help, and I am really grateful for them. But that night, we got so much abuse and by the time we closed both the manager and I were in tears because of the stress. But there was this one lady who saw me crying and reassured me and said it was going to be OK and I would get through it.

Ever since that night I have gotten stronger and haven’t had as many meltdowns. But if I am close to one and the store manager is working, she knows how to prevent it. I have my days, but I know how to deal with them. I just have to take a step back and relax for a moment, though I’m not always successful.

People always seem to ask me if I’m OK because I’m not as happy as I normally am, and I just say, “I’m just tired, thats all,” and people just put it behind them, not thinking it’s a problem. There are only a few people who I can actually come out to and vent to and know they won’t judge, but I sadly don’t work with them that often. But in a way, having a job in customer service is helping me in my recovery.

Working with a mental illness is hard, but it is in no means impossible. Yes, there are some good days and bad days, but that is life and I have to learn how to deal with it every day. It’s like a two-steps-forward-one-step-back sort of thing. I can have two good shifts and then have one bad one, but I learn from those bad shifts and work towards getting better at what I do.

For those of you who have a mental illness, such as anxiety, and work in customer service, you are by no means alone in your battles. Just remember to try your hardest, and that will be more than enough to take a step forward.

We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here.

Thinkstock photo by RL Productions

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Lady Gaga, Prince William Discuss Mental Illness on Facebook Live for #OKtoSay

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It’s not every day you get a call from the Royal Family, but on Tuesday, Prince William – the Duke of Cambridge – FaceTimed with Lady Gaga for an important cause.

Moved by Lady Gaga’s open letter about living with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), Prince William reached out to the singer to discuss mental illness and stigma as part of the Royal Family’s Heads Together video campaign. The video series, #Oktosay, features people from all different walks of life discussing how mental illness has affected their lives.

“For me, waking up every day and feeling sad and going on stage is something that is very hard to describe. There’s a lot of shame attached to mental illness. You feel like something’s wrong with you,” Gaga told Prince William from her kitchen in Los Angeles. “And in my life, I go ‘Oh my goodness, look at all of these beautiful, wonderful things that I have. I should be so happy,’ but you can’t help that if in the morning when you wake up: You are so tired, you are so sad, you are so full of anxiety and the shakes, that you can barely think.”

“It’s OK to have this conversation,” Prince William replied from his study in Kensington, U.K. “It’s really important to have this conversation. You won’t be judged. It’s so important to break open that fear and that taboo which is only gonna lead to more problems down the line.”

The video, which has been viewed more than 600,000 times in seven hours, follows an interview, Monday, in which Prince Harry revealed he sought counseling four years ago for grief related to his mother, Princess Diana’s, passing.

The two ended the conversation with a promise to keep discussing mental health issues, especially mental illness among young adults. The pair will meet in the U.K. to discuss future collaborations in October.

“It’s time that everyone speaks up, and really feels very normal about mental health,” the prince added. “It’s the same as physical health. Everyone has mental health, and we shouldn’t be ashamed of it.”

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Confessions of a PTA Mom With Mental Illnesses

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Grace. Joy. Courage. Kindness.

These words came to me as I was thinking of what I want to do with a set of canvas squares I have sitting around in my home. A list of words to remind me what I need to offer myself and strive for daily… hourly… minute by minute.

These are things I so often forget. And yet, they are the very things I need to live the life I want to have.

I am a stay-at-home mother of four. I am the “quintessential” PTA mom: educated, overachieving, super creative, class volunteer, scout leader. I also live with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), treatment-resistant depression, anxiety, and an eating disorder. Most people do not know this and would be surprised to learn of my mental health struggles. Although I have had some of these illnesses for most of my adult life, the past six years have been an exercise in learning how to deal with them in their full manifestation. I have had to do that in the context of parenting — and when you are learning to re-parent yourself as well as effectively parent your children, it’s a challenge. The words above help me to focus.

Grace reminds me to cut myself a break. Lots of breaks, in fact. One of the hallmarks of depression for me (and possibly a side effect of some medications) is that I tire really easily. Naps, once, possibly even twice daily, help me handle myself and my children better. My kids know I almost always need a nap when I pick them up from school. I take my nap, and I am much more likely to handle the demands of multiple children, schoolwork, and dinner. After-school and evening activities make this piece of self-care a challenge, but I do my best. Grace also reminds me it’s really OK to leave dishes in the sink, to feed my children quick and easy meals, to forget things I need to do, to have clutter piles, to not do a grocery shopping trip. When my depression and anxiety are high, tackling these things is like climbing Mount Everest. My internal self-critic is set to such a high standard that I have to work hard to accept — and more importantly, celebrate — my small successes.

mom smiling Joy. When I am depressed, this one is elusive. Everything is dull and nothing looks, feels or sounds appealing. I have to remember to find it. Whatever brings a small comfort helps. For me, being home alone during the day is incredibly difficult. Hence, I get behind on the things which need done, and it starts a vicious cycle. I love candles and have a certain brand I burn on days I need to be home. Stuffed animals, blankets, colorful objects help as well. Allowing myself to take an art or yoga class — things I previously denied myself, thinking I did not do enough to deserve such treats. In reality, those are not treats for me; they are tools of joy that let me be a better person for my family and friends.

Courage. Recovery is hard, hard work. Much of it is invisible. I have learned that at the moment, I need both medication and therapy to be able to function. I think most people who have never had to sit in a therapist’s office have no idea what it takes to show up week after week to tackle ingrained thoughts and beliefs. Or to begin to untangle the effects of traumas, be they large or small, recent or from years back… or in my case, all of the above wrapped in a tangled yarn ball. I do take my medication, and I do show up, week after week. Just the act of doing that proves to myself that I am worth so much more than I believe on some days. I struggle frequently with suicidal thinking, and the fact that I continually show up for therapy helps me deal with those thoughts by reminding myself that yes, I have a purpose and worth and a story and gifts to share.

Kindness. To me. To each person reading this. To our world right now. Reframing my illness with kindness and courage: mental illness is not who I am, it’s what I have. On my hard days I forget this and need to remember to be gentle and kind with myself, as the harsh voices inside my head will only serve to take me down rather than help me up.

Grace. Joy. Courage. Kindness. Words to live by.

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

If you need support right now, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255, the Trevor Project at 1-866-488-7386 or text “START” to 741-741.

We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here.

Thinkstock photo by Aleutie

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