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6 Important Reminders I Keep in My Mental Health Toolkit for Hard Days

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It’s hard to think rationally when you are not you. People who struggle with depression can often benefit from a mental health survivor toolkit that can help them through a difficult period and make implementing self-care easier. Everyone has a toolkit, even if they don’t realize it — it’s composed of things that can help during a relapse, breakdown or bad day. One thing I believe everyone should have as part of their mental health survival toolkit is a list of important reminders, almost like a letter from your rational, calmer self to the person you become when you’re feeling unwell. Here is what my list looks like:

1. Everything gets done eventually.

When I am depressed, my surroundings often add to my horrendous mood and instead of thinking about my list of jobs step by step, I feel overwhelmed and end up drowning in everyday life. But when I am well, I take my time and am able to prioritize a lot better. When unwell, I need to remember my mental health comes first and I need to rest, despite the state of the house. Just do a couple of the important things, the rest can wait. Things like housework get done eventually.

2. You love your fiancé and he loves you.

I find relationships hard when I am unwell. I become snappy and I have great difficulty communicating how I am feeling and what type of support I need from my partner. I have horrible thoughts in my head about leaving him because he’d be better off without me, and I end up consumed with guilt. I forget I am only human and I am really hard on myself. I need to remember my fiancé loves me and I love him, he is trying to help me but doesn’t know how sometimes. I need to talk to him calmly and rationally instead of bottling it all up and exploding by the end of the week as all the overwhelming emotions get too much to hold a lid onto.

And remember: your partner is human, too. They are tired. They also struggle. If you’re both struggling, you need to come together and work together, not be at loggerheads.

3. You’re feeling so guilty and frightened because you are not well.

Often, when I am depressed, I am anxious and plagued by thousands of worries. It weighs me down and I often feel heavy and like I can’t go on. I’m so full of fear. I’m frightened something bad will happen whilst I am feeling this way and I won’t be able to cope. I’m frightened my son is going to have a bad day at school. I’m frightened someone will hurt us if we go out. I’m frightened I’m getting on my fiancé’s nerves. I’m frightened things will never get better. What I need to remember when I am unwell is to take a deep breath and push myself to do the things that make me anxious, even if it’s just a baby step. Focus on getting out of the house. Go for a little walk. Do what you can manage. Take your son out. You’ll feel better when you do, even if it’s only for 10 minutes.

4. Your son is OK, he loves you — playing with him will do you a world of good.

I feel like the worst mother when I have depression and anxiety. The things that affect me when it comes to parenting don’t affect me as much when I am well, but during a bad episode, they are amplified. I need to remember my son loves me. I’m his mom. I may not be mum of the year, but I try my hardest and I always put my boy first and that makes me a good mum. Kids love their parents, whatever they do. My son loves me, even if I’m not perfect. Even if I’m so tired I’ve stayed in my dressing gown all day and given him cereal for dinner instead of a healthy cooked meal. I don’t know why I worry so much — he hates vegetables. Playing with him always brings me joy. He is the loveliest boy. He’s compassionate, clever and funny. We always end up laughing a lot when we play together, even if it’s just watching a film or reading a book. I need to remember no matter how tired I am, I should do something with him. It will make me feel better because he is my favorite person ever, and it will mean a lot to my son. I must try, for him.

5. You must write.

Writing always helps me. Whether it’s a poem, an article or working on my novel, it helps. If I can’t manage that, then I should write in my journal about my day, or at least write down one positive thought or moment from a bad day. I am so tired when I am feeling unwell, so it’s hard for me to make myself write. But I really must remember how therapeutic it is for me once I start something, especially working on my novel.

6. It will pass.

This is the most important thing I often forget. Everything passes. The horrible feelings. The exhaustion. The tears. The suffocating feeling of never finding balance in my life. The feeling of drowning as I try to live a “normal” life despite the horrible emotions swirling inside of me. I must remember: it passes. Nothing lasts forever. Things do get better. It is hard to remember what to do when you are unwell. It is hard to cope, to carry on or be rational. But I should at least have one goal that’s easy to achieve and that can help me through a difficult low period in my mental health. I must carry on doing the things I love and the things that make me happy. I must be around the people I love who make me happy and tell them how I am feeling. I must remember to carry on because everything passes. Even when you’re convinced it won’t.

A version of this post was originally published on Medium.

Unsplash image by Cathryn Lavery

Originally published: April 30, 2020
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