Mental Health and Recognizing Limitations
Limitations. Limitations. Limitations...? Yes, like any other chronic disease, physical or mental, when you live with a mental illness you have limitations. Limitations you can work to control.
Defining Limitations and Mental Illness
First, let's define the word limitations in a general sense. Wikipedia narrows the term down to...
>A limiting rule or circumstance; a restriction
>A condition of limited ability; a failing (more on this awful word later)
>The action of limiting something
The list goes on, but these three come up first.
How are limitations connected to mental illness?
The Connection Between Circumstance and Mental Illness
Limitations are, in part, defined by circumstance. When we are talking about mental illness, analyzing our personal circumstances is important.
You are probably wondering, "Why is she throwing around so many words and not arriving at a point?" Fair enough.
An example: You have a job you like. You have worked there for a few years. You like your co-workers (well, most of them) and they like you in return (most of them). But you're not satisfied with your position anymore. You approach your supervisor for a raise.
He or she promotes you to a new position, a position which requires more hours and a lot more responsibility. It all looks good on paper. But what about your mental health?
You start to wonder...What if the extra stress will impact my recovery? This is an example of circumstance, and defining whether or not the choices you make in your life reflect stability.
You could take the new job, try it on for size, and see if it works. If we don't take risks we won't advance in life, but when you live with a mental illness you need to make sure sustaining your recovery comes first.
Using this example, I would hope you have an open dialogue with your supervision and could tell him or her that, yes, you are interested, but you need to make sure it's a good fit first.
Does Living With a Mental Illness Make Us "Failures"?
Wikipedia connected the word "limited" to "failing" This is, pardon my Australian influenced French, complete bollocks!
Setting limits in our lives--understanding when we need to take care of ourselves--does not make us failures. Quite the opposite.
But sometimes it feels like it.
When my world becomes black and I cannot function, when I cannot do as much as the months before, I feel like a failure. I feel pathetic. I'm not going to lie. I ask myself, over and over and over again, "What the hell is wrong with me?"
But there is nothing wrong with me per se. I live with a mental illness. I have limitations. This does not make me, nor you, a failure in any sense of the word. It means we need to learn how to take care of ourselves when it matters most: All the time.
I saw my psychiatrist recently. I told her I felt I was pushing really hard with work and having a tough time keeping up. I was depressed; I was getting sicker because I refused to slow down. I grew up with two workaholic parents. The apple did not fall far from the tree.
She said something to me that made me as angry as it did pleased:
"Natalie, if you don't slow down you will not be able to function at all."
I was angry. I don't like anyone telling me what to do. I give the evil eye like the best of them. But she was right. I slowed down a little. I recognized that I have limitations and I am not a failure because I need to take care of myself.
And either are you.
Jeanne, N. (2012, June 28). Mental Health and Recognizing Limitations, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2023, June 9 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/recoveringfrommentalillness/2012/06/mental-health-and-recognizing-limitations
Author: Natalie Jeanne Champagne
What is Depression?
Depression brings you to a whole new level of low surrounded by feelings of insecurities and unworthiness. It is surrounded by darkness and a bottomless pit which sucks the energy and life out of you.
Depression robs you of everything you have to offer and the once positive you. It leaves you a sense of loss and hopelessness. It destroys everything good that comes your way.
This feeling is something people around you doesn't understand. They gradually develops the impression that you are difficult to deal with and it is impossible to try to get through to you. Overtime, you convinced yourself that it is also impossible for you to get through to them.
You feel something is wrong deep within you but can't seem to put your finger on. All day long you are surrounded with unanswered questions, with endless self doubts. At the end of each night, you have exhausted yourself as you try to focus internally to derive an answer during the day. You try to go to sleep, sometimes forcing yourself to sleep hoping that tomorrow will be better.
Tomorrow comes, you can't seem to find the motivation and energy to get out of bed. The feeling of what you felt yesterday is back to haunt you again the moment you wake and you feel hopeless once again.
Today you tell yourself I'm going to try to get out of this pit cause you don't wanna feel anymore worse than you already did. You know you want to get out but you just can't seemed to find a way to. You try to climb whatever step, stone or rock you can find in this pit but you just can't seem to climb out. You slipped almost every step you take.
Most times while you are stuck, you find means and ways to get yourself out. Most times you try to find a cause or a conclusion. You try to search within yourself, question yourself, doubt yourself, for some they may even hurt themselves just to try to derive an answer.
These people just want to know themselves, they just want to find themselves again. Just like everyone who loves them and cares enough to find out what's wrong with them, they themselves are desperately tryin to find out what's wrong with them. They have a lot of questions on their mind each day as they try to tackle and eliminate the possibility of each factor that might result in them feeling the way they feel. It's not science that they are desperately trying to make themselves happy. More often than not, to the point of exhausting themselves in finding the avenue to.
These people are once positive and confident people and when they find themselves lost, it was hard for them to accept. Lost souls that's what they eventually become. They lost all sense of self awareness. They lost the confidence they once empower and more often than not, they question and blame themselves for becoming weak.
Their world is surrounded by darkness, negativity and doubts. Whilst they are trying so hard to find out what's going on with them, they try to put up a facade that they are ok. They are not ok. They are not. They did not know that they are not ok. They really try to be strong for themselves and for everyone around them. They try to push themselves to do normal activities where they themselves did not have the energy to. They try not to make everyone around them suffer. They try to make everyone around them happy instead. They didn't realise that they need to be happy themselves in order for the rest to be happy. They try too hard to please. They try hard to conceal their pain. They try not to let everyone else worry about them. They try to do everything just only so everyone around them does not feel the pain and misery they are going through.
They are those who did not know that they have become a victim of depression. They are those who suffered some form of trauma when they were young and thought they have healed in the process of growing up. They are those who may have suffered some form of anxiety. They are those who may have suffered heart palpitations, sweaty palms, body aches but didn't know what these symptoms are associated with. They are those who hide in a corner in a room and cry. They are those who cry into pillows afraid that others will hear. They are those who blast their music up high so that no one can hear them cry. They are those who get lost in music cause music comforts and soothes them. They are those who are afraid to tell someone that they think they have a problem. They are also those who didn't think they have to tell someone cause they did not know they actually have a problem. They are those who have a problem with communicating their feelings. They are those who did not know that somewhere in their process of growing up, they were hindered to reveal their feelings. They are those who look up into the sky a lot to find an answer regardless day or night. They are those who gave up their daily activities, the hobbies that they love cause they can't find the energy to. They are those who feel that life is not worth living. They are those who think they do not have much to offer to the world. They are those who try to protect everyone they love except themselves. They are those who can't seem to smile even though they try. They are those who lost the desire to smile as they are try desperately to cure themselves.
They are weak souls who can't help themselves no matter how hard they try. They lost their focus, goals and desires in life. They did not know that they have the capacity to affect those around them who cares deeply. Why you may ask, simply because they have lost their self awareness and everything that's going on around them while they turn their focus internally.
If only they knew that they are in depression so that they can find an avenue to diagnose and heal themselves. If only they knew that they need to accept help to help themselves. Unfortunately, they are under the impression that the sorrow, misery and pain they feel are just part and parcels of life and they just have to learn to cope and move on with life. They waste all their mental and physical energy in an area that they have no idea what it is. They dug and dug deep trying to uncover the core. Don't ever think they are not helping themselves they are. They are those who really try the hardest. They are heroes themselves and they never realise that. That the day they come out from their shells, they are heroes themselves. That the day they come to the realization to seek help they are survivors themselves.
No one will ever know and understand how much effort and pain they inflict on themselves just to find themselves back. They pray for a guiding light each passing day. They pray they know what's going on in themselves. They pray that others will not see that they are in pain. They pray for some kind of support secretly. They pray that their silent pleas will reach someone who understand what they are going through. They pray for someone who can just reach into their heart and know exactly how they feel. They pray that all the misery and pain will go away. They pray that their questions and doubts can be answered. Most importantly they pray they find themselves again.
My doctors told me not to move to Fairbanks, Alaska because there was not sufficient healthcare for mental illness.
I went anyway.
Working in the Arctic was heaven for me. I have BiPolar with psychosis and working in a pristine environment without all of the mental stressors was perfect. After three and a half years, however, the extreme 3 months of darkness and 3 months of light threw off my brain patterns. I had a terrible psychotic episode that put me in the hospital for two months.
For me that was my ideal work, but the seasonal limitations were too much.
I moved to Hawaii where the days are 12 hours of sun and dark everyday to reboot my brain.
Mental illness brings its limitations for sure but what i struggle with is the limitations in my life even when i am outside my times of depression. The isolation and loneliness that people often feel during times of depression and mental ilness is still there even at the times i am 'well'. Give me a new face, body, personality and then i feel i can live a bit more between the troughs of depression.
Of course i can't have that any more than anyone else. Turning my back on the search for relationships and love has been my biggest self imposed limitation and it kept me safe for years but it came at cost. Survival over happiness is not a good deal to make with yourself even though i feel without it i wouldn't be here to post this now.
Ultimately that deal failed though and letting myself become emotionally closed off didn't help the only people really close in my life - my family. So now i begin again but i am still struggling with what deals and compromises i should make. The choice between the risks of emotional openess and the repeated depressions of repeated failures or the relative calm of emotioally shutting myself down at the cost of turning into the kind of person i don't want to be.
I need to find a third way, a path between the two but i am only just beginning to figure out what that path may be and if it even exists.
I've been a doer the majority of my life. For my early twenties I wouldn't stop, ever moment was filled with something, something to do, someone to see, doing, doing, doing. Then I got pregnant. I kept pushing until eventually I crashed.
Now for the last 3 years I have been slowly trying to take on more, ever so careful I don't over do it. But I have felt like a total loser for not being able to do anything, even pick out clothes for the day. I had to re-learn how to live.
Natalie is right, we really need to realize and accept we have limitations. Sometimes we can take on and accomplish a lot. Other times we cannot, and that's okay. It really sucks but i'd rather push away accomplishments then lose my kind again, its too hard to pull yourself back to your feet.
I have been on a leave of absence since April after a suicide attempt/hospitalization. I tried to go back in mid-May and it was a disaster. I am working up to going back some time this month and I am absolutely petrified. This article reminds me that it is ok to take it slowly and cautiously. Thanks!