Are you taking control of your health?
“You can’t change your situation, the only thing you can change is how you choose to deal with it.” (Unknown)
Truth bomb time. You cannot choose to have depression or anxiety or any other mental health condition. If you have them, you cannot change the fact that you have them. They are inextricably a part of you, and always will be. That is something I firmly believe.
What else do I firmly believe? You can absolutely choose how you deal with it.
If that’s not your jam, stop reading now. This is an important message, but you have to be ready to hear it. You have to be at your wit’s end. You have to be tired of being surrounded by chaos and sadness and racing hearts and sleepless nights.
If you are there, then this post is for you. I’m going to offer the best piece of advice I’ve ever gotten for entering a period of stability, and feeling more like yourself again.
Only you can make you better.
Why taking control of your health is important
There are limitless reasons why you should take care of your health. I don’t want this blog post to be a million words long, so I will only focus on the super duper important ones. Just keep in mind: If you are reading this because you are ready to heal, you are the only person that can do that for you.
Yes, we have access to doctors and therapists and pharmacists and online retailers where we can purchase things to help.
But who has to make the doctor or therapy appointments?
Who has to decide they want to go get their prescription refilled?
Who has to decide maybe their meds aren’t doing the whole job, and they want to try to complement their treatment with something else?
Hey there. That’s you. Only you.
As good as your support system might be, it is not their responsibility to make you better. Moreover, it’s not even fair to them. (More on that in a bit.) They are there to love you and listen and maybe help you through the healing process, but they’re just flight attendants. You’re the pilot.
So, why should you focus on taking control of your health?
You only get one life
This isn’t a religious discussion, FYI. I know that’s not everyone’s cup of tea. That’s why I don’t talk about my religious beliefs on my blog, because I haven’t found it relevant yet. But we can empirically say the following:
You only get one physical life on this planet.
Maybe you believe that after you pass on, you will be spending eternity in paradise. If that is the case, that is a sincerely lovely thing to believe. I hope that when I die, there is a place for me somewhere. Somewhere with constant sunshine, and free Wifi, and all my loved ones that have gone before.
But that doesn’t mean you should neglect yourself in the present. We each have a certain amount of years on Earth. Some live to 100 years or more. Most get 70-80 years. For some, it is woefully short.
The point is, we do not know what that number is for us. I love to think I’m gonna go full Betty White and live to be 100, still kicking ass, but I do not know that for certain. There is no way to know.
That’s why it is important to take that first step. Call the doctor. Reach out to a trusted friend. Say NO to that toxic relationship. You don’t want to spend the next several decades in misery. (Assuming everyone who reads this is in their 30s like me… I mean, 20s… )
You are affecting others
This is really hard to type so I imagine it is a little hard to hear. But it needs to be said. When you are mentally unwell, it affects others. Of course, you should only get well for you. Still, it’s important to remember that your loved ones suffer in your illness too.
Mental illness is selfish. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. When I am in the throes of a bipolar episode, I think:
- No one else has it worse than me.
- I am alone in my suffering.
- No one understands.
None of these things are true. One of the best conversations I’ve ever had with my husband was painful, but was instrumental in helping me become stable. He told me (paraphrasing): Things have to get better because it’s affecting me and the kids.
So, yes, do it for you. But remember, when you get better, your loved ones benefit too.
You deserve more
This is all our fault.
We did this to ourselves.
And now, we deserve to live in agony.
If you think this, I’m not casting blame on you. You can’t control being sick. It’s a cruel game your brain is playing with you, and it’s not your fault.
So, in case you needed to hear this, YOU DESERVE MORE.
You deserve rainbows, and unicorns, and sparkles, and Henry Cavill, and comfort, and happiness. Every last bit of it.
The world would not be the same without you.
What you can do
Now that, hopefully, you’ve decided it’s time to make a change, here are some action steps you can take. You don’t have to do all of these things at once. And I don’t recommend that. Start with the first one and take it from there.
Set a goal
Decide what you want your ultimate goal to be with your health. Does your depression have you bedridden, and you would love to go for daily walks? Does your anxiety keep you from spending time with loved ones for fear of leaving the house?
Pick one thing you want to focus on. I’ll use the first one as an example. (“Does your depression have you bedridden, and you would love to go for daily walks?”)
What would you need to change to be able to meet your goal of going for daily walks?
If you are in bed all day because your motivation is so low, start with small easy to achieve steps.
- First, each time you get up to hit the bathroom, pace around your house for 5 minutes. You don’t have to do anything productive. Just move.
- Once that feels easier, spend an hour or two a day sitting in a chair instead of lying in bed. Also, continue with Step 1.
- After a few days of that, try to nix the bed all together. Force yourself to sit up on some other piece of furniture all day, even if you don’t do anything active, apart from the advice in step 1.
- Once you’ve ditched the bed for a few days, step outside. Don’t walk. Just inhale the fresh air. Sit on your patio with your favorite beverage.
- You can probably guess what comes next, right? Try walking for 5 minutes outside.
There you go! In just a couple of weeks, you are taking 5 minute walks outside. I knew you could do it.
Call the doctor
This one can be super hard. Speaking for myself, I get a lot of phone anxiety. There is just something about making any kind of phone call to anyone who’s not like my mom or dad or sister that sets me on edge.
That is really common. It’s also common to not like the finality of calling the doctor. Picking up the phone means admitting there is something “wrong with you.” Maybe you place a lot of blame on yourself, and calling makes it official that you need help.
That can be a scary realization for a lot of people, but really, the hardest step can be making that admission. Just acknowledging that things need to change. It takes a huge amount of bravery, so if you have taken that step, you have more courage than you know.
I promise if you call, things can start to get better. But only if you call.
Keep track of your symptoms
Now that you called the doctor, or even before, it might be a good idea to start keeping a diary of your symptoms. They are likely going to ask a War and Peace amount of questions about your symptoms and behaviors in recent months. So, record everything you can think of in the days and weeks leading up to your appointment.
- How is your sadness on a scale of 1-10?
- How about your fatigue?
- What’s work been like?
- How are your interpersonal relationships?
- Awkward, but what’s your libido like?
They need to know as much as possible to be able to make a comprehensive assessment. Depression and anxiety can have a lot of physical symptoms you might not even be aware of.
Spend some time taking a hard inventory of the way you’ve been feeling. There are a lot of benefits of journaling anyway, so this can be a good way to get started with that.
Drink lots of water and get moving
It can take a while for any medication your doctor prescribes to take effect. In the meantime, make sure you are taking care of your physical health, until your emotional health stabilizes.
Most sources say you should drink at least 64 ounces of water a day. Not only will it help you feel better physically, but it can help restore some brain function that was lost in your period of instability.
“Many people claim that if you don’t stay hydrated throughout the day, your energy levels and brain function start to suffer. And there are plenty of studies to support this. One study in women showed that a fluid loss of 1.36% after exercise impaired mood and concentration and increased the frequency of headaches. Other studies show that mild dehydration (1–3% of body weight) caused by exercise or heat can harm many other aspects of brain function. (Study 2, Study 3, Study 4)”“How Much Water Should You Drink Per Day” Healthline
So, drink some water, and try to get in some activity every day. You can follow the tapering advice I offered in a previous section. Start slow, but make it a priority!
Don’t try to hide.
There is no need for you to hide behind a mask. The best thing you can ever do for your mental health is live out in the open. Not only does it help you restore some confidence, but the impact it has on others cannot be measured.
Do you remember when you first began this journey? You were likely scared, and didn’t know what to do. Then, you saw a quote from a public figure who was speaking up about their illness, and it brought you comfort. For me, that was Carrie Fisher. In the last years of her life, she boldly told her story whenever she could, and likely saved the lives of thousands.
Now, it’s not your responsibility to save people’s lives. You are only responsible for your own. But your life matters, and if you live it out loud, you would be surprised at the number of people who benefit.
Need a quick and easy way to get your life sorted?
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You matter. Your life matters.
Remember that. I know it doesn’t seem that way. I have been through more stages than I can count where I thought life was meaningless, and it would be easier for everyone if I could just fade into oblivion.
But you have no idea what you’re capable of. You don’t know what you might be able to accomplish if you could become stable again. What if you’re a medical professional, and you’re the one who finds a cure to a horrible illness? What if you’re a writer, and you end up writing a book that changes the way people understand the human condition?
You will never know unless you take the first step, and start taking control of your health.
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