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After Seeking Help, Here Are 10 Things I've Learned About Mental Health

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It’s been 10 months since the start of everything — my journey with anxiety and depression — and three months since I made the return to myself. Now that I can reflect on that period, it was such a tough, confusing and upsetting time. The lessons, however, have been many, and as a result I find I’m now a much better version of myself. For this reason, this will be remembered as one of the best years of my life.

Here are ten lessons I’ve learned about mental health after dealing with my own:

1. People are so kind and there is support everywhere. Make use of it. If you don’t let the people you trust know what you’re going through, you can’t expect their patience and understanding when you’re not yourself.

2. Mental health can be confusing because little is defined in narrow terms. There’s a lot of misinformation and misunderstanding out there about what makes an anxious person or a depressed person. In addition, physical things like hormone imbalances can cause similar symptoms. Just know this – if you are not feeling quite right, it’s well worth exploring why.

3. It’s OK to get help. It doesn’t make you weak. You are not overreacting. We all have stuff we could deal with, anyway. I was so embarrassed at first, but now I’m pretty proud of myself for swallowing my pride and taking that first step into my therapist’s office.

4. Therapy is not a quick fix. Sometimes you don’t feel “better” before you feel a lot worse. Not every therapist or type of therapy is right for everyone, so find the solution you think will give you the best possible chance. Give it time before you give up. It took me eight months and I was totally on board.

5. You can’t force others to acknowledge their issues or seek help. Just be there for them. If they want your help, they will let you know.

6. Everyone is responsible for themselves. I’m responsible for myself only, and the effect of my choices and behaviors on others. The world is not going to fall apart if I don’t try to fix everything and every situation.

7. Anxiety sometimes makes you think you’re responsible for another person’s negative mood and behaviors. That’s not your fault. One of the best tools I have learned is to always counter “what if” with “what if not.” Or just ask and put your mind at rest!

8. Sleep holds everything together. Even now if I don’t sleep well for a few nights consecutively, my memory, words and concentration desert me. I suspect this will continue to challenge me for the rest of my life. If I’m philosophical about it, my sleeping patterns are a barometer of my stress and anxiety levels, always providing me with an indication of how well I’m doing.

9. There is nothing wrong with taking medicine. As my therapist suggested, see the medicine as an “antibiotic” for your unwell mind. But I also learned therapy, diet, supplements and exercise are important too – perhaps just as important as natural or prescribed medication. You just have to find the right approach for you, for that time.

10. Anxiety and depression are not unique, but the stigma and shame are alive and welloften self-imposed. We are everywhere. If you dip your toe into the scary sea and start talking about it others will probably talk back, and you will realize you’re anything but alone.

Follow this journey on Not The Kind of Person.

Originally published: July 22, 2015
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