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How to Stop Hating Yourself When You Have a Mental Health Relapse

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As someone who’s attempted suicide twice and been affected by multiple suicide losses within my own family, I understand what it takes to persist.

As an author on the subject of suicide and suicide loss, you might believe I no longer struggle and have it all together. Nope. My quest for mental wellness has been a lifelong journey. (I do, however, have tools that help me through the hard times, which I’ll share with you momentarily.)

In spite of everything I’ve learned along the way, I periodically get down on myself when I crash, forgetting that lows sometimes follow the highs. This pattern has been fairly predictable over the years, so yes, I still grieve, slip into depression, and become discouraged. There are even days I’d like to hang it all up, but since that’s no longer an option, I forge ahead as best I can every single day.

If you’re a trauma survivor and struggle with depression, suicidality, or any other mental health condition, I know life has tested your strength and resilience too. Yet, somehow, even after all you’ve been through, you’ve managed to hang on and keep pushing forward. I know it’s exhausting. I also know there are days you’d rather disengage. You might even want to cash in your free ticket and take a permanent vacation too. I get it, but… part of me stands in awe of my own strength and ability to persevere, very possibly, so I’m also able to stand in the undeniable awe of yours.

Consider this: No matter what today brings, tomorrow will likely be different. If not tomorrow, next week… or next month. Life is cyclical, and we’re walking energy fields in a state of constant flux. Change is inevitable, so hang on and be sure to give yourself credit for being, because this alone is a major accomplishment.

We are survivors, and we need to remember this. We’ve escaped darkness before, and we will again. It’s normal to slip and regress for awhile, but the down times eventually pass and, typically, when we least expect it. This is all part of healing, and we can learn to surf these tides and appreciate ourselves along the way.

So, how do I find comfort and manage to like myself in times of grief, heartache, and struggle?

First, I remind myself to stop believing I should feel better, do better, or be better. I’m exactly where I am for a reason, and I feel more at peace when I can face my current reality. Resisting my feelings always guarantees further suffering. Accepting myself as I am and honoring even the most difficult emotions gives me almost instant relief. (This seems strange in the beginning but, trust me, it works.) When I remember to engage in this practice, my constricted muscles soften and my nervous system settles. Self-validation is, undoubtedly, the first and most important step towards personal empowerment.

Second, I determine what my bothersome feelings are and exactly how and where I feel them (keeping in mind anger can mask deeper feelings which are harder to face, such as sadness, grief, and vulnerability). When I realize what’s happening within, I feel less victimized and more in control. I can then recognize my patterns faster and put out fires before the entire house burns to the ground. It’s helpful when I can stand back and see myself objectively (minus the judgment). Everyone struggles sometimes, so I’m never really alone.

Third, I express my feelings in ways which feel natural to me. This relieves stress and allows stagnant energy to move through my body faster. When I feel a need to share verbally and no one is available to listen, I record a private video (then re-watch and delete it), talk to my cat (fish, or hamster), or simply say whatever I need to out loud. Sometimes I write poetry, and other times I sing. (Don’t critique yourself. Action is key.) So, dance if that works. Be creative and use what you’ve got, but allow space for the feelings to move through you as naturally as possible (especially the intense ones).

Lastly, I celebrate my courage. I’m facing my demons head-on, and this is reason enough to celebrate! Many will choose to resist, hide, or project their pain onto others, but not me. I’m a warrior and a speaker of truth. My truth. And the truth, inevitably and always, sets me free.

Please know, especially when your world becomes and dark, scary, or dull, you’re still winning because you’re here. Depression is usually temporary state, and often the result of dismissing feelings and/or locking them inside, so remind yourself to hold tight because things will, and always do, get better.

Know your truth, feel it, and speak it. Acknowledge your innate power, and understand your absence would only shatter more lives, especially the ones you love most.

Remember you are strong, committed, and resilient. So am I… and these, my fine friends, are the indistinguishable attributes of superheroes.

Getty photo by fcscafeine

Originally published: July 21, 2019
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