Mental Illness: Let's Stop Feeling Bad For Ourselves!
I was sitting on my patio about an hour ago. I live across the road from an elementary school. Children were doing what they do best: Screaming and throwing things. Ruining my first coffee.
I had my day-timer in my lap outlining my day--Writing this blog is at the top of the list. I ask myself: "What can I write?" I need some motivation! Recovering from mental illness is such an expansive topic but I feel I have been being rather redundant. And that isn't like me. I write until my hands hurt. I write until I wonder why I wrote what I just wrote. Then I keep writing--a writer's life is not so glamorous (here I go feeling bad for myself again!)
It hits me: "Well, I've been feeling pretty low...My stress level is high...Give me a break!"
Instantly followed with: "I should get over it! Why am I feeling so bad for myself?" Now we have this post. I imagine it might make a few people mad. Fine. Leave some comments. But give me the benefit of the doubt and read it with an open mind...
Mental Illness is Not a Death Sentence
OK. Don't shoot the messenger, err, the jaded writer. I understand that when mental illness is dominating your life sometimes death seems like an reasonable option (Let me stress: It is not!) Maybe I should not say this. But this is true. I am making a new concerted effort to censor myself less (at least a little) in this blog. There is something to be said for stepping outside of the norm and really talking. Really talking about what matters.
So, what matters? Why am I on a tangent that does not seem to have a direction yet? Here is my point: It must be really hard to be physically disabled. To be the parent to a sick child. Mental illness is usually hidden. We can leave our homes without evidence. We don't walk with pill bottles in our hands. People are not all so lucky.
People live with the diagnosis of cancer: they struggle with their physicality; inabilities to move as most of us do without thinking. My grandmother lives with osteoarthritis. I see her struggle physically. But she smiles and bakes and hugs me when I feel bad.
I was in the post office yesterday; a man is in a wheelchair. He is smiling and I am thinking about how crappy I feel. And how awful is that? It's time to get over it; to take care of myself, get help when I need it, and stop feeling bad for myself. To be grateful!
"Yes, But Living With a Mental Illness is Debilitating!"
Yes, sometimes it is. I get it. I live it. That's the reality. That is the nature of the beast. Like needing to eat and make your damn bed (well, I have this thing for properly tucked in sheets). Living with a mental illness often makes us more empathetic. We understand pain. We understand that life isn't always peaches and cream.
Mental illness hurts. But life itself hurts from time to time. Here is my advice and let me stress that I am not pushing it on you: Let's wake up and realize that the world does not revolve around our pain. It does not revolve around our self-proclaimed tragedy. No, the world is waiting for us to wake up and become involved in it.
I understand that sometimes we cannot just "wake up" but when we can? Let's just get on with life! Let's remember that we are not just an illness. We belong in this world and this world is not completely black. We can paint it in different colors. And I, for one, am sick of focusing on my illness when I can be sitting in the sun without thinking about medication and appointments.
It's time to take my own advice. It's sunny out and the kids are back in their classrooms. I have trails to hike and other things to think about. So do you. We are all busy, busy recovering or busy with work and with family, but we can find just a few minutes to wallow less in ourselves and try to have some fun.
To live life on life's terms.
Jeanne, N. (2012, June 14). Mental Illness: Let's Stop Feeling Bad For Ourselves!, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2020, June 3 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/recoveringfrommentalillness/2012/06/mental-illness-lets-stop-feeling-bad-for-ourselves
Author: Natalie Jeanne Champagne
Great posting, Natalie! Everyone could use a wake up call now and then! Perspective, positivity and gratitude are very helpful. Thanks for putting this out there.
At the top of my list is WORKOUT. I take care of myself now before I worry about housework or anything else. I wonder how many people have depression because we were taught that everything else and everyone else is more important than us? And yes, some people wear their mental illness like a dress they put on everyday. It becomes their identity it becomes too comfortable and it defines them. I think they were taught to think that way and it takes a lot of effort to keep that dress off. Take care of yourself FIRST. It can't hurt to try.
Hi Natalie - I think a lot of 'mental illness' is actually caused by the belief we're meant to feel 'good' all the time. We're not.
We also interpret feeling bad as though it's a sign of something being wrong with us. It isn't. Feeling pain is a sign we care about something that doesn't appear to be happening the way we feel it should.
I schedule my negative feeling time and go fully into the negative feelings and just watch the thoughts as they pass - this releases the trapped feelings and puts a stop to the 'thoughts'; we focus too much on thought.
We're designed to feel sorry for ourselves for a period and self-criticising ourselves for doing this actually keeps us stuck in it.
A lot of 'mental illness' is caused by trapped emotional energy not yet released from the body and allowing ourselves to feel fully negative for a while and watching it pass is the secret to altering what goes on in our brain.
Having said that, you're right - it is important to come out of yourself and connect with the outer world. I enjoyed your article!
Thank you, I needed this actually it is impeccable timming! Why? Because, I am starting to forget more often I have an illness. I have been in the era of trying to figure myself out why am I like this, why did I do that, oh I have this appointment and I will try this med, talking, analyzing, writing. Damn does it get oh so tiring.
A thought popped up earlier today (this is were reality gets confusing to me) if I forget about having an illness will it go away? No, of course not, that was my tactic for years. But is it okay to forget about it at times? Or do I constantly need to be watching for the monster to jiggle the door handle? Will I notice anything is wrong before things really get out of hand if I'm not constantly worrying about my illness?
What if I fall away in peaceful bliss then wake up with my leg being chewed up by this nasty monster? That's happened, lol. Is anyone on my page or am I rambling in my own little world.
I agree with a lot of your statements. I have someone call me and they talk non-stop negative issues about their life for sometimes 30 minutes before I can politely let them go. I struggle to keep my mind in a good place, thinking positively. When others in your life drag you down, it is time to distance yourself from the negativity, don't you think? I have been suffering for months with deep depression, I have finally started a drug that has brought life back to me. I think it is important to keep your mind in the right place, to decide what to think.....and stay away from the negative thoughts or people, what do you think? Personally I think that our "thoughts" are the key to success.
I really appreciated you giving me a different perspective on the post. Like I said, it really made me think about my own beliefs.
I am sorry to hear of your depression. I have really struggled this year with it. It hurts to say the very least.
Thanks for communicating! It's so important.
Thanks for the positive reply. I do think I understand the point of the post. For me, I'm overly sensitive to words and phrases. Any hint of negativity (i.e. stop feeling bad/sorry for yourself, others have it worse off than you) and I read into what's written a lot of shame and condemnation (quit complaining, you have no reason/right to complain, you're a bad person). That's something I need to work on.
Looking back on what you wrote, I think what you're saying is we need to shift our focus. Sometimes I am too sick to do anything but fight to stay alive, which may just mean sleep. But whenever I am ABLE to I do NEED TO COMMIT to trying to SHIFT MY FOCUS away from depression and mental illness and toward recovery and relief with the understanding that it's a slow process. And setbacks are okay. Starting over is okay. (I'm just now emerging from a 2-month, extremely severe depressive episode... and starting over!)
I think I understand the point you are trying to make. Unfortunately, you've mixed in lots of the negative self-talk we perpetrate on ourselves and that others tend to assume about us.
To stop feeling badly for ourselves is an admirable goal. To remind ourselves that we are alive and part of the larger world is a good thing. To remind ourselves of what we CAN do is great, and to remind ourselves not to waste the days, hours or minutes we do feel okay or stable, I'm all for that.
However, the fact that my illness is invisible or that I am not in a wheelchair or battling cancer does NOT mean I am not suffering! I know you mention this in your post, but it also seems like you minimize the suffering of people with mental illness by suggesting that we stop feeling bad for ourselves and quit with the pity parties and by comparing our illness to other illnesses.
I AM lucky not to have cancer or be confined to a wheelchair. But the person with cancer or the one confined to a wheelchair is DAMN LUCKY not to suffer from a mental illness!!
You write: "Let’s wake up and realize that the world does not revolve around our pain. It does not revolve around our self-proclaimed tragedy."
You only bolster stereotypes by stating our mental illness is "self-proclaimed." Maybe your illness is, but I've been diagnosed by countless doctors, psychiatrists, psychologists and therapists during the past 25 years.
Furthermore, I am not in complete agreement with your statement that mental illness is not a death sentence. Mental illness, such as clinical depression, can be terminal. A suicide attempt is an actual symptom of depression according to the DSM. An attempt can result in death.
Before anyone argues that suicide is a choice, know that mental illness, including depression, at times, alters and distorts thinking. It isn't fair to suggest that a mind in the throes of depression resulting in a person's suicide is a choice. (I realize many people do choose to commit suicide who do not suffer from mental illness.) All I know is I fight everyday to stay alive.
I don't know. I'm tired of thinking. My train of thought has swerved off its tracks.
"I think I understand the point you are trying to make. Unfortunately, you’ve mixed in lots of the negative self-talk we perpetrate on ourselves and that others tend to assume about us."
I agree with you. It's a topic, a thought, that is very new to me and so I was very much hoping I receive comments that challenge my blog.
Also, you state:
"I AM lucky not to have cancer or be confined to a wheelchair. But the person with cancer or the one confined to a wheelchair is DAMN LUCKY not to suffer from a mental illness!!"
Yes, I agree. But we all suffer and our suffering is unique to us. We cannot feel the pain associated with physical disability if we do not live with it nor can they understand our pain.
Further to this you write...
"You only bolster stereotypes by stating our mental illness is “self-proclaimed.” Maybe your illness is, but I’ve been diagnosed by countless doctors, psychiatrists, psychologists and therapists during the past 25 years. "
I was diagnosed at the age of twelve. I am twenty-seven now. I understand your statement on a personal level but my point, which I state is mine, is that it's important to move away from just feeling like a disease.
I understand mental illness can be a death sentence, rather, result in death. I have lost friends in this fashion and been there myself. In the context of this post I am focusing on those who have achieved a state of recovery.
I sincerely appreciate your comments, they make me think and I hope others feel the same way.
I agree that we must care for ourselves and see the better side of life while still coping with our illness. I like my son's tattoo: Live your own life. I think that pretty much sums it up.
Thanks for the positive feedback. Regarding your sons tattoo...sometimes it is the little things, the small phrases, that help us through the tough times!
I think a ware-up call is needed for some of us some of the time and I think that's what you're trying to give. Sure, having a pity party for oneself nonstop, 24-hours a day is not very productive or helpful.
Nevertheless, I am a big believer that pain is pain and that the person with cancer, or in a wheelchair may have no more or less pain than me (or you, or anyone). Moreover, I find that having a broken brain affects many things that _they_ take for granted. So I guess what I'm saying is, they are not worse off.
And of course, many people are actually so sick they cannot possibly simply live life on life's terms. Take the psychotic, for example. Many people are simply too sick for this message.
However, I do agree that there are moments that it's absolutely appropriate to remind ourselves to get up and live life. Just live life - as you said, on life's terms. Sometimes we can do it for a moment, sometimes a day, sometimes more, but it's a good thing to be reminded to do, when we can.