Just a quick update to let everyone know how “The Plan” is going. I said I’d start, and I’m proud to say I actually did. I tend to procrastinate and come up with excuses, especially when it comes to postponing recovery, because I’ve said before, the illnesses are hungry, and they ache to be fed. They’re persuasive. They’re angry. But I punched them in the face today.
Many mental illnesses, like many other chronic illnesses, are often cyclical. For those of you unfamiliar with the term, this means that at times the illness softens or even goes into a state of “remission,” in which the illness is not as prominent, invasive, difficult, and/or et cetera. This is especially true with mood disorders, such as depression or bipolar disorder. I think a full “remission” is rare, but I’ve known people who have reportedly (or rather, self-reportedly) gone for years without symptoms who end up hospitalized after an episode returns. Still, many illnesses are cyclical, like fibromyalgia for example.
The uni-cycle from hell
I’m sorry I haven’t posted in so many months. I need to come back to this blog, because it really helps me to write in it. I’ve been trying to figure out what to write for a few days now and thought this is a good a topic as any. I’ve been seeing some things related to these anyway that brought this to mind, so I thought I’d share. Feel free to leave your thoughts as well.
5 mental health myths frequently popularized by mental wellness culture
1. Nobody will love you until you love yourself.
This is a common phrase we hear in hospitals, self-esteem workshops, therapy, etc. It is both demeaning and inaccurate, perpetuating a cycle of self-hatred and loneliness that stems from feeling unloved and unwanted. While confidence does win relationship successes, romantic, platonic, and otherwise, never let anyone make you feel you are unlovable just because you feel unloveable. At my lowest dips in my self-esteem, I’ve had the best relationships I’ve ever had with people who have helped me pull through those tough times, and I have met them during periods of low confidence as well. While confidence certainly does make a person more attractive, more magnetic, that is not a lone trait that people look for. People also look for many other qualities, and it varies by person to person. I have not had a lot of successful relationships, but the strong bridges I have built are made of iron.
2. You can’t love anybody until you love yourself.
This is another, albeit less common, phrase that circulates around mental wellness culture. While I do think it is unwise and ultimately impossible to try to take care of other people when you cannot take care of yourself, I firmly believe you can love other people and still have poor self-esteem. Our self-worth affects our view of the world, sure, and it does color our relationships and our opinions of others’ motives, etc. But I know people — myself included — who feel great love for others while not feeling great love for themselves.
3. You’ll feel better if you talk about it.
This one I have to be careful with, because yes, it works for a lot of people. It’s why talk therapy is a thing. It’s why many people journal, why support groups exist, etc. But like all coping skills, every one of them works differently for everybody, and not all of them actually work effectively for anybody. There are endless ways to cope with something, both positively or negatively. Taking long showers, painting, exercising, making lists and plans are some of the ways I cope with my stress. I also talk about it. I talk about it a lot. Talking about it, however, does not help me, and that is why I have had therapy for 15 years and it has, thus far, been fairly useless to me.
Don’t get me wrong. I’ve learned a lot. As you can see from this blog, I use a lot of knowledge gained “in the system” and make references and terms often used “in the system.” But much of what I’ve gained has been gained on my own, in practice, or through hospitalizations. But in therapy, I talk. I “open up.” I open up to my therapist, to my friends, to my family. And I only feel better once we get sidetracked in the conversation. Talking about my problems is not helpful to me. If there are solutions, talking about those can be, but let’s face it, life doesn’t always have solutions for the kinds of problems we face. Everyday life is hard. Stressors come up that aren’t always “fixable” and are ongoing; permanent. You can’t really talk about those things without going half-mad and just falling down the rabbit hole with your own negativity. Sometimes, it’s better to focus on other things. Sometimes, it’s better to focus on better conversations.
4. The Law of Attraction
Some people might really want to fight me on this one, because self-help books like The Secret et cetera have really “changed” people’s lives, I guess. Many people claim the Law of Attraction is nothing short of “miraculous,” and once they began to “adhere” to it, their lives just “fell into place.” I see the value in it; I do. And I think that, largely, it does make a lot of sense. Like #1, in which confidence or a healthy attitude would attract healthy relationships, the Law of Attraction states that positive energy attracts positive things or more positive energy and conversely, negative energy attracts negative things or more negative energy. Yes, it makes sense. Many people who are pessimistic and expect the worst of people will get the worst in people. This is for a few reasons. The first is that they already see the worst in people, and the second reason, one could argue, is something like the Law of Attraction. But the Law of Attraction isn’t a law. It is a guideline. It is a loose philosophy, an idea which improves your life but does not necessarily rule your life.
Like I explained with #1, I’ve been in bad situations and have been met with overwhelming positive energy and people before. The world doesn’t work on rules and statutes. It really doesn’t. It’s a bit of a free-for-all; kind of chaotic. A lot of it is about luck. It’s unfortunate, but it’s true. A lot of it, too, is what you have in you, but a lot of it is about luck. I’ve encountered some very beautiful people and some very ugly people at different stages of my life. It hasn’t really mattered. You want to be positive; you should be positive, of course. But just because you aren’t doesn’t mean you earn negative things. Just because you feel overwhelmingly depressed doesn’t mean you deserve to be mistreated or that you will be. You are likelier to be in an unstable relationship than someone who is healthy and confident, because someone who is healthy and confident is less likely to take someone else’s crap, but that’s because they’re healthy and confident, not because their energy is repelling the wrong person. Please remember that.
At 17, I was told in a partial hospitalization program, after watching The Secret for something like fourteen days in a row that every trauma beyond my prepubescence was my fault because I was so depressed. I believed it for a long time, because I had been indoctrinated with this inane idea that because I had bad thoughts and bad feelings, I was bad, and I deserved bad things. Don’t do that to yourself, and don’t let anybody do that to you.
5. The only love you should need is your own.
Again, this is one I want to be careful on, because there’s a good reason this one is circulated. Ideally, this is true. It’s important to love yourself, regardless of whether or not you are loved by anyone else. You want to get there someday. But I believe some people are just not this independent, or that they are more people-oriented than others. Some people need extra support, whether they love themselves or not. Another person’s love cannot fix you. But I’ve learned over the years that sometimes external love is necessary to help heal someone, because sometimes you just don’t have enough on your own. I’m not talking about romantic love necessarily. Support from a friend or a family member can be counted, too. I’ve been helped a lot from friends and family in the past. But I know I would have never made it this far on my own. I need love from other people. Ultimately, I know I need love from myself. That is what will make me happy. But love from other people is what has kept me alive. I don’t think everybody needs it. I think many people are strong enough on their own. But some people aren’t. I’m not. And that is okay. I think it’s okay to forgive oneself for that. It’s important to forgive oneself for that. And I think it’s important to forgive someone else for that, and that is something the mental wellness culture does not really do. It is so concerned with self-reliance that it makes needing support and needing love seem too much like dependence when there is definitely a line between them.
So what are your thoughts? Do you agree or disagree? What are some things you’ve faced that you feel are myths? Please share in the comments below.
A. 3 things I need to let go of:
- the resentful, regretful, and shameful cocktail I feel over not having lived a normal childhood, adolescence, and/or early adulthood
- the damage of interpersonal debris
- that no matter what I do, this body will never be “enough” for my disorders
B. 3 ways to let go:
- learn to value the lessons and experiences I’ve gained through my unique journeys. Journal what I’ve gained from my life and note what is important to me and what is of great importance to me and what has made me better as a person. Evaluate the strengths and traits integral to my identity and virtues because of my experiences and learn to see them for what they are.
- perhaps give support groups a second chance and find others who have struggled with similar experiences in which they also have not undergone normal lives. Commiserate and provide comfort to one another in ways we could not get comfort from people who do not understand.
- recreate some childhood, adolescent, and early adulthood experiences. When I get my GED, maybe have a graduation party of some sort. Plan a party for one of my birthdays, etc. Try to have a “normal” experience, even if it is a couple of years “too” late. Maybe it is never too late.
- stop holding onto irreparable relationships. Let go of relationships that are draining, toxic, or whose problems outweigh the benefits. This is something I am getting better at but still need to work on.
- like with point A, try to value the lessons I’ve learned, the wisdom I’ve gained; try to seek the light that the darkness may shed. Write down positive things I’ve learned and positive things I’ve gained from my experiences, positive or negative, with people from my past, and how they have shaped me to become a better and more multifaceted person.
- surround myself with positive people. Seek positive interpersonal relationships that help uplift and motivate me. Join Meetup groups. Start clubs, go out. Do things. Meet likeminded people who are kind and supportive.
- Focus on my health and take the numbers out of the equation: Try to weigh myself less, count calories less, and stop doing “skinny mathematics.” Instead, focus on getting the appropriate amount of fuel, motion, and love this body needs.
- Try very hard to integrate this body into “my” body; try to feel united with it and make peace with it. Stop fighting a war against myself. Think positive thoughts. Post sticky notes as reminders in the mirror if I have to.
- Be mindful. Drink water when I’m thirsty. Pay attention to hunger cues. Eat until I’m comfortably full. Eat healthy meals. Put good fuel in, not “junk” fuel. Do good things for myself.
Throughout the course of this entry, I already cut off my hOMETOWN. I’ve started on this. I’m doing this. I have to.
Embrace today and a) set some small goals you know you can accomplish. b) Accomplish them.
For anyone interested in what my resolution binder looks like, here‘s the bulk of it.
Examining Real Evidence
Ask yourself what your five most intense strengths and five most intense weaknesses are. With examples. Bonus points if you’re specific. I’m not in this instance of this exercise. Write them down. I’ll do this too so you can better understand the process. It’s some brainwork, but it’s worth it.