The Hopelessness of Mental Illness: Kat’s 5 Steps Toward Wellness

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*Image by the lovely Kat

As my pencil scrawls this page for the 8th time to try and get this exactly right, I’m reminded of why I’m writing this.

You see, when I write this blog post I start by hand, over and over, page by page, scrapping the ones that just don’t feel right. The feeling I can’t describe to you, besides the fact that when it feels wrong it makes me want to pull my hair out, quite literally. It makes me want to crawl out of my skin, to pick at it, it makes me so physically uncomfortable that I begin tapping my knuckles onto things nearby to the point that it causes pain. But when it feels right? I’m completely at ease, my breathing is slow and steady, I feel like I’m whole and safe. I feel like I’m not a failure.

Imagine this level of anxiety for writing a blog post, and think about what it took for me to accomplish my degree? To accomplish essay writing courses, history, sociology, psychology courses? Heavy in writing, heavy in critical thinking. My OCD fell into overdrive during my university years, it was during these years when I finally got the help I needed and actually received an official diagnosis. I was at a loss, working so hard against myself, against my mental illness. Falling into the trap of “self care” by spoiling my pleasure senses but not actually engaging in activities that took care of me in as a whole person! 

Today I want to help you all understand the difference and show you the 5 steps toward become mentally well, and not just sticking a metaphorical band-aid on the problem that is stealing away your happiness, soul, and heart.

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1. Force yourself to make a list of tasks that NEED to get done. 

The Pseudo Self Care Culture we’re living in where people only think a bath bomb will cut it doesn’t work here, friends. This is something that only targets our pleasure senses, this only deals with the surface of the problem. We need to tick boxes that are crucial first. Did you eat today? Did you shower? Have you seen the sun? Is there a stack of dirty dishes of the wazoo? Do you have clean clothes? These sound like basic items, but when you are deeply struggling with mental illness, things can pile up in your life. All of a sudden you may realize that you are trapped in bed with feelings of self doubt, fear, and if it runs that deep, suicidal ideation. Give yourself the care you would a friend. You are worthy of this time, and you are worthy of a clean space to feel at peace and heal.

2. Ask for help. 

This is so hard, especially when we are in the pit of it. This is why I encourage you to share your mental illness with those who are close to you when you are in a good mental place. This might sound counter productive, but I let my friends know what I struggle with and how I could use help. For me, going out for coffee to vent is always so helpful. Personally, it is hard for me to open up, especially when I am in the darkness of my mental illness or behaviors, so what I have done is picked an emoji that represents “Kat needs help”, and my friends know that if I send this emoji that I need a coffee date or to be checked on. Sometimes it can be this easy friends!

3. Try to seek professional help. 

This is hard friends, but so, so, so, crucial. We live in a classist society that doesn’t value mental health and right now it’s a struggle to get the care that we need. But if you’re a student, please seek help at your campus doctor and counseling office. See what your work benefits may supply you with. Look into your local low income mental health facilities. There are a lot of therapists offering help on a sliding scale to work with folks on a low income budget! One example is even the online service Better Help, giving you the ability to get help right from your bedroom! I can tell you services like these got me through crucial years of my diagnosis!

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4. Don’t be afraid of medication. 

I understand that medication as a daily addition to our lives sounds frightening for some. However, if you were a diabetic, you wouldn’t refuse your insulin that gave you life would you? Finding a medication that works for you can be hard. It’s one of the hardest parts of having a mental illness, and yes, finding holistic methods to help you in life is also wonderful - but if it’s not as helpful as medication, don’t risk hurting your mental wellness over it. I love my essential oils, but they don’t remedy my OCD or eating disorder. I need to maintain my health in ALL areas of my life. 

5. Last but not least, find something to live for. 

Every day is a battle. Some days you may not feel like you have anything to live for. But I promise you that you are wanted, you are worthy of your existence, and you are a precious life that is so valued. The burden of holding on for the whole world can feel so heavy: holding on for our work, our school, our whole families, while all good things can make the pressure of the pain we sometimes feel mount even higher on our shoulders. What has made dealing with the deepest, darkest days easier for me wasn’t holding on for those things, it was holding on for the sun, the dog that lived down the hallways for me who got excited when I went to school every morning, the free coffee we got at school from student services. Holding on doesn’t have to be for some great, white hope. If you’re holding on for a small hero in your life, that is powerful, and I am so proud of you.

Before I started practicing these habits for wellness, I allowed myself to sink into my mental illness, but with these practices I take charge of my own identity and decide that while I am still mentally ill, I will live a life that is filled with practices of wellness and healing. These 5 tips give me a foundation to keep going and add more where I am able, be that yoga or meditating with my bible or just enjoying a good episode of Grey’s Anatomy! As long as I maintain these 5 habits, I have a flow in life that allows for a healthy relationship with my obsessive compulsive disorder and relationship with food that I hope you can incorporate into your life.

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Author Bio:

Kat is a writer, photographer, and creative director from Ontario, Canada. With a heart for people and a passion to engage with community and build authentic relationships, Kat shares her experiences with mental health, faith, and living life with abundant grace.

Bio image by Laura Chute.