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The Questions That Empowered My Mental Health Journey

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If you’re living with mental illness or are neurodivergent, you’re likely familiar with feelings of overwhelm and frustration due to the challenges associated with your condition. Combined with misconceptions about mental health and its treatments, it can often feel like the odds are against us.

However, even on the toughest days, it’s crucial to remember that there’s still hope. Through helpful coping skills that come along with understanding our sphere or locus of control as defined by the APA: the extent to which we believe we can influence our lives and the factors that impact our lives, circumstances, and situations.

Understanding our sphere of control is a great tool and first step for learning how to define and process our challenges, diagnoses, and other mental health-related obstacles in a way that fosters empathy, accountability, resilience, and compassion for ourselves.

It’s also a great tool for helping us realize in a world full of stigma, we still have a choice in how we relate to all aspects of our well-being. Here are a few other ways understanding one’s sphere of control and influence can come in handy in our mental health journey.

If you’re ever feeling overwhelmed, defensive, or frustrated by unsolicited advice, societal stigma, social media pressures, or negative portrayals of mental health, you’re not alone.

In my journey as someone with ADHD and anxiety, I’ve learned the importance of prioritizing my mental health and well-being. It often meant I had to distance myself from individuals who perpetuated stigma or dismissed the validity of seeking treatment. It’s draining to constantly feel the need to justify one’s diagnosis. While it was difficult to confront these attitudes, doing so allowed me to create a supportive network of understanding individuals who uplifted rather than undermined my recovery.

I recall the first few years of my mental health journey when I assumed that one day, my ADHD and anxiety, along with the intense thoughts and feelings accompanying those diagnoses, would disappear. Then one day, another mental health professional reminded me that having challenging thoughts, emotions, situations, or memories doesn’t mean we’re not making progress.

So, how does our sphere of control how we relate to these challenges? It does so by empowering us to shift where we focus our attention. For example, shifting our attention from rumination to action also empowers us to validate those aspects of our journeys through solutions and healthy self-talk, helping us build self-acceptance, self-awareness, and self-compassion to hold space for ourselves.

A person’s sphere of control is one of the many tools in their mental health journey. It’s perfectly normal if you’re still figuring out your sphere of control — that’s part of the journey!

As a former peer support specialist and outreach worker diagnosed with ADHD and anxiety, here are a few questions I’ve found helpful in my journey and in supporting others:

• What information and resources do I need to better understand my obstacles, diagnosis, and treatment?
• How can I base my progress on what I consider progress instead of comparing myself to others?
• How can I play a more active role in my treatment so my support workers better understand what is going on with my well-being?
• How can I learn to be more compassionate with myself on my journey?
• What barriers are stopping me from seeking help?

If these questions don’t work for you, remember that everyone’s journey is unique. Here’s an alternative list of self-reflection questions (from Positive Psychology) to inspire and empower you on your path.

Originally published: April 12, 2024
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