Taking My Mental Health Into My Own Hands

CONTENT WARNING. This article refers to experiences of mental illnesses.


Anyone who has experienced a mental illness knows just how difficult it can be to feel supported throughout that distressing experience. Reaching out for help can be an extremely confusing and difficult process. Feeling like others can’t understand is a common tendency. Everyone’s experiences are entirely distinct and unique, despite diagnoses of the same mental illnesses.


Deciding to get help is often just the beginning of the process to recovering or coping. Navigating the domain of social services available for those who experience disruptions in life caused by mental health issues is troublesome. It’s typical, after several attempts of trying to reach for some kind of support system, for the individual living with a mental illness to give up hope in finding a treatment that’s suitable for them.


The dominant medical model is primarily focused on assessing and diagnosing individuals. Once a diagnosis has been made, the individual can receive some kind of treatment or search for specific coping strategies to deal with their personal disorder or illness. Common treatments include medication or various forms of therapy. An individual is required to navigate this complex system in order to feel that the experience of having a mental illness is a treatable condition, but the struggle this process entails can actually diminish any motivation to seek out support. Is this the only way to live with a mental illness that causes disruptions to daily living?


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There are various strategies for coping with mental illnesses. When I had first gone to a psychotherapist because I had been having frequent panic attacks, I was taught some skills for calming my mind and my body. I was fortunate that I had found a therapist that I was able to connect with and feel comfortable talking to. Unfortunately, this is uncommon for an individual’s first time reaching out for help. Typically, it will take speaking with a few therapists to find one that makes you feel that you can truly open up. Searching for a therapist that you feel can understand what you’re going through is an added pressure for the task of reaching out for support.  


Often times, those who live with mental illnesses fail to feel understood by the people in their lives that really do care for them. This is a tremendously difficult experience for both the individual dealing with mental illness and the individual that’s trying to support them.

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When it comes to supporting those you love who have mental illnesses, it’s extremely important for that person to feel supported. It can be difficult to determine and offer the appropriate support that an individual who’s suffering with mental illness requires. Often times, just being there with them as they go through the experience, as difficult as it may be to watch someone you care about suffer, is the best way that we can help.


Loneliness is a significant problem for many people. Although loneliness involves more than simply feeling alone, having someone in the vicinity can simply be enough for an individual to feel supported. When an individual is experiencing  mental distress, it helps for them to have someone nearby who can soothe, distract, or even help them deal with the anguish.

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During my experiences with mental illnesses, there is one important factor that I find is often overlooked when one enters the dominating domain of social services. Experiencing a sense of autonomy is an exceptional healing modality for coping with distress due to mental illness. Whether that be as simple as finding an outlet for creativity such as painting or writing, or deciding a plan for the day and following through with it, feeling like you have control over your life is crucial for relieving mental suffering.


Taking responsibility for where you are in your life right now can almost seem impossible if you feel you’ve been deeply influenced by your surroundings to the point where the outcome of your life seems beyond your control. But taking little steps towards regaining that sense of power over what you do, how you feel and how you think can be the most rewarding experience.

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The best part in my opinion, is that because we are adaptive creatures, we can train ourselves to become more independent and autonomous if we have felt a lack of autonomy in the past.


I hope by no means to diminish or dismiss the experiences of anyone that has or is currently living with mental illnesses. These considerations are solely based on my limited perspective of living with my own personal mental health issues and witnessing loved ones experience struggles with mental health.


I have struggled with anxiety and panic attacks. I have seen those who I deeply care for experience anxiety and depression. There are many coping strategies out there, so it can be troubling to find what works for each unique person. But I hope that the extensive information that is currently circulating does not prevent anyone from finding a path that helps them to grow in life, remain hopeful, and cope with mental distress caused by mental illnesses.


Photo by Ben White


It does get better, but you must be willing to provide yourself with the support that you may be seeking from others. We are each uniquely powerful human beings whose life journey is to find our own inner power, foster that energy, and share our beautiful gifts with others.