After living with depression, anxiety, and bipolar for most of my life I decided that I needed to start making as many changes as I could to alleviate my suffering and symptoms. Yes, medications helped with the immediate problems such as insomnia, mania, anxiety attacks, and suicidal thoughts. However, they were not fixing anything. Medications were giving me much needed space from the worst parts of my disease but they were not providing me with any healing or renewal. A few years ago I set out on a personal journey to try and reset my mind and body. My journey was physical and mental. I know that the two are always going to work together, and I did not feel like my early psychiatrists approached mental illness as a physical disease. There had to be natural things I could be doing that would give my body and brain the commands it needed to start some healing, and even some growth. I decided to make it my job and my mission to learn about anything and everything I could change about my lifestyle that would help me to feel good again.
The first thing I recommend to everyone that lives with a mental illness is to start getting used to writing things down. In fact, start loving writing things down right now. Make lists about things that you enjoy and things that get you upset. Take notes when you read something or watch something that you think may help you. Keep a calendar of events. Write yourself reminders. Set alarms. Use paper or use your smartphone and start to become aware of everything that goes on in your life. Awareness is going to set you free and give you back the reins in your life. Keeping track of yourself will keep your mind from wandering so much. It will take your attention off of everything that is bothering or confusing you. It will force you to keep your attention on the events and people that are significant to you. It may seem like a chore at first but after a couple weeks you will be wondering how you ever lived without writing things down. Writing is the best, cheapest, and easiest way to reinforce the important things in life.
So go out and get a pen and composition book for under $1. Now that you have all of your supplies handy you may as well get your money worth. Start slow and be patient. If you are like me you have been riddled with so many terrible physical and mental symptoms that any improvement will alleviate some of the weights, pains, stresses, and burdens. On day one make a small list of things that you used to enjoy before you woke up with your depression. Was it music, sports, art, traveling, dancing, an inspiring conversation? Most of the time when we live with a mental illness we spend so much time thinking about our meds, next doctor’s appointment, what our friends and family think, or how will we even get out of bed today, that we do not spend any time thinking about the things we enjoy. All of the things that we once loved get buried underneath our troubles. One of my inspirations, Bernadette Logue (Pinch Me Living) always says “, Where energy flows, energy goes.” When we make a list of things that we enjoy we are:
- Giving more power to the things that we love
- Taking power away from the negatives that ruminate in our minds, and then eventually show up everywhere in our lives
We must start to mix some positive thoughts and ideas in with all the negatives in our life, and those positives will grow over time, the same way the negatives once grew and took over our lives.
The third thing that we can do with writing is to affirm or reset our mindset. There are so many things that we know we should be doing, but because we fear change, lack positive and supportive role models, or just do not have the know-how or energy, we do not make these changes. For example, for over 3 years I knew I was overweight but I still ate fast food every day. I still sat around and watched TV all day. I knew I had to make changes because every second of my life was physical and mental torture, but I could not make the changes. I avoided any conversation about my weight. I avoided places like the gym or the beach because for me it was easier to avoid the problem than face the fact that I probably have about 4-5 years of hard work left to get healthy again. Finally one day I sat down with my notebook and wrote down what I needed to do. I wrote down:
- I need to eat healthy
- I need to start walking and I will participate in physical activities more
- I will be healthy again
- I will feel better physically and mentally when I am in better shape.
This list sat on my nightstand for about a week. I did not immediately make any changes. Then after about a week of having to pass by the note, and the words constantly replaying in my head I thought to myself this is something I just need to start doing. A week after making the list I started walking a couple miles a day a few times a week, and I completely stopped eating fast food. As time went on, my habits of eating fast food and sitting around progressively turned into walking, running, and cooking healthy meals every day. Now 3 years later I have consistently been losing weight, I am always finding new ways to eat healthy and natural. I feel physically and mentally better than I have felt since my early teens.
Losing weight was not the only thing that I credit writing with. Like I said we have the power to reset our minds. If you are always sad, try writing down how you want to feel. There is no harm in writing down a list of how you currently feel, then cross out those feelings and replace them with how you want to feel. Scribble out “sad” and replace it with “loved.” Are you always tired? Cross out “tired” and replace it with “ready to face the day” or “energized and refreshed.” Affirm and reaffirm the positives in your life instead of the negatives. Once you are conscious of the things that hold you back, you have the power to change them into feelings that can help you move forward.
Everything that we do right now will end up in our memory. Stay away from gossip and news if they bring you down. Listen to some upbeat music or read an inspiring book. Go outside and just look at nature, architecture, or the sky. Fill your mind and life with all of the words, sights, and feelings that make you happy. Hate, judgment, and worry are a thing of the past. Start writing down the future that you desire today and you will slowly start to take steps in a happier, healthier, freer, and lighter direction. Thank you for reading today’s letter. I hope it is the positive piece that leads you towards a more fulfilling life. I send all of my love and ease to you if you are suffering in any way. I believe in you and remember; Peace is easier.