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What If the Key to 'Getting Better' Was Learning to Love Yourself?

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It’s quite eye opening to read my journals from 2000 onwards and witness the limited vision I had back then when I was first diagnosed with bipolar. Everything was about needing to feel better and medication was the only answer I understood at the time. I understandably just had to get “better.” I could not accept myself in the alternate, very dark reality I was living in. 

• What is Bipolar disorder?

I’m extremely grateful for being “better” today. I’m saying this while recently going through some serious downs, but the way I journal and the knowledge I have about this topic is another story completely. I’ve explored, learned and experienced a ton over the last 16 years and have a lot to offer. A very key thought that has arisen over the past few days is how important it is to love yourself.  

Those words are not new. We hear this phrase all the time but I think many of us, myself included, need to truly reflect on this and pretend to hear it for the first time. There are so many messages we ingest in society today geared to make us second guess ourselves: Social media “likes,” societal status, advertising, financial success, fitting in, being popular, body image… the list goes on and on. We are literally trained from a young age to “need more” in order to love ourselves. 

For example, personally, I have been telling myself consciously and subconsciously that I “need” to be clear of depression, to have my projects completely succeed, to thrive and soar, in order to accept and love myself. Even if that’s not entirely the case, the point is that it’s at least somewhat true.  

How true is that for you? This definitely not a problem for everyone.  

It is however, a problem for many people struggling with a diagnosis or emotional hardship. A large challenge surrounding most “mental illness” is that it tricks you into turning against yourself. No matter what the cause: biological, spiritual, internal, external — it eats away at your core and tries every attempt in the book to turn yourself against yourself which can be a steep, slippery slope. You fall into a routine of being your own worst enemy because you’re not yet out of the darkness, which alone can then keep you in that same darkness. It’s a maze. 

For those affected, what if our top priority was to love ourselves unconditionally, with all our flaws, disorders, insanity and chaos?  What if that was its own currency? It’s own industry? Why aren’t we taught this as kids? It seems like this should be automatic, but that maybe that’s part of the maze. It’s as though we need to tell ourselves, “I love you whether you get better or not.” Screw the pressure. 

These days, it seems like a large part of humanity has collectively turned against itself. Look at our world. Look at the chaos that’s out there. I think it’s quite important to take a hard look at our species and say, we’re trying our best. We’re not perfect but hating ourselves for our faults will not accomplish anything.  Love, as many times as we’ve been told, is truly an energy with massive power.  It’s something I need to remind myself of consistently these days. 

Maybe I’ve had it backwards all along? Maybe I should have started with this simple rule:  

Love yourself first and everything else can be built from there

Watch Brooks’ short film “Rebrand Mental Health” below:

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Screenshot via Rebrand Mental Health.

Originally published: December 29, 2016
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