3 Self-Care Tips for People Living With an Undiagnosed Mental Illness

Living with a mental illness can be difficult and can make a major difference in your daily life. Life can be especially hard to navigate when you haven’t received a diagnosis yet. When I started experiencing the symptoms of mental illness I put off seeking help for years because I didn’t know what was causing the feelings and I didn’t know if there was an underlying issue there to validate what I was experiencing enough for me to seek help. I didn’t realize at the time that any feeling you have that affects your day-to-day life is enough to talk to someone about, and that I didn’t need someone else to acknowledge it for my experiences to be real.

If you’re in a place where you haven’t been able to talk to anyone or feel you can’t yet, for whatever reason, it’s OK. There are things you can do in the meantime to start your path to recovery.

1. Take life one day at a time.

Schedule out the things you want to achieve today — whether that includes starting a project you’ve been putting off or just making sure you drink enough water is up to you. You don’t have to take on more than you can handle.

2. Start a journal.

Write down what you’re feeling. Record the time and date and what was happening around the time when you started feeling that way. Highlight similar situations and reactions, try to find patterns that may provide more clarity as to what you’re feeling overall.

Write out how you would explain what you’re feeling. This can be the hardest part of seeking help, so take your time. Write it, rewrite it, scribble things out, add and erase expletives — whatever you want to do. The point of this is to make yourself more comfortable with the idea of talking about what you’re experiencing to someone else.

3. Look into your options.

Try and figure out who you might talk to when you’re ready. No matter what you think right now, there is a way to seek help.You can talk to loved ones, parents, teachers, doctors, school counselors, academic advisors, etc. — there are people stationed around you who care about you and who want to help you who will be able to help you figure out your next step. Nearby colleges are often a great resource for finding someone who you can talk to for a drastically reduced price than you would find at your regular doctor’s office, especially if you’re a student and have access to the university health or counseling services on campus. And, as always, there are hotlines to contact if you need immediate help.

The most important thing to remember throughout all of this is that what you’re feeling is valid. If you’re struggling today, that hardship is real even if you don’t yet have a diagnosis. Your obstacles are no more or less existent after a doctor’s appointment. Your experiences are real.

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