I’ve had an 18 year journey with mental illness and recovery so far. I’ve learned a lot, especially with my writing and work as a peer support worker at the same mental hospital where I was five times a patient. So I thought I’d share some tips from the hundreds I have gathered and applied to my own recovery. Every tip here has either helped me or someone I know personally. I hope you can find one that works for you.
“Do a mental health journal” It will help you to find the words to talk about your mental health with any supportive acquaintances. When you remember your journal, the words will come more easily and you may find this a big help.
“Perseverance” Not hugely complicated, but sometimes difficult. I owe so much to it though, when I was a serious panicker about socialising, my family really had to drag me out of the house to social events, but honestly, it eventually worked. Every time I attended a small gathering even though I didn’t want to, I felt a bit better in a tiny but growing amount when I got home.
“Employment” There is good evidence to suggest that work is good for mental health. It offers social contacts and support, something to occupy our time, mental and physical stimulation and more. My supportive team were always trying to get me into a job when I was unwell and when I began working at a few charity shops we all noticed an improvement in my mental health. I took it in steps and now I work about 30 hours a week.
“If people you trust are offering to help, let them” It took about five years before I let even my parents help. I’d always thought that they just didn’t get me and my psychosis/anxieties and taking their advice seemed pointless. But when I saw that in fact my supportive team had many years of experience and gave them a chance to give me some of their wisdom, whether it was specific or a matter of them casting a wide net with their advice, my mental health, and importantly – my happiness improved.
“Meditation” A popular tip. I don’t really do it much now, but I found it helpful and enjoyable from 2010 – 2016. Try lighting a candle and focusing on the flame. Soon you will probably feel the meditation start to happen. There are many different techniques. I worked at the local sports centre part time and lots of people I know meditate when they are working out. I can often be found deep in thought while I’m on the cross trainer machine.
“Control” If you ever find yourself thinking that you are superior to other people in magical ways, try to control it. My life got better when I decided to stop constantly acting on what I thought were superior aspects of myself. However, tell your psychiatrists, doctors, therapists etc. all about it!
“Separate your work and personal life” I’m sure you’ve heard this one before. Most employers will understand if you want to do this. It will help you to be more concentrated at your work during work hours, and more concentrated on your personal life during your free time. This is a tip for those with lighter mental health issues.
“Remember – it’s OK to not be OK” A funny little one, but it has helped me many times. I’d be feeling shit about something and I’d think to myself – “It’s ok…it’s ok…(natural deep breath) it’s ok.” Like giving yourself a mental hug. I’d remember that other people don’t mind if you are feeling weird. lots of people are having similar problems. Don’t worry about sticking out like a sore thumb. When you remember this tip it can really help calm you down.
“Don’t stop taking your medication unless advised to by your doctor” My dad is a qualified psychiatric nurse with about 40 years experience and a clever, caring chap. He has always told me to take my meds exactly as instructed by my doctors. It was nice for me that I never had to worry about whether taking my meds really was a good thing for me. I’ve been on many different meds, in 2005 I started taking Clozapine, which worked very well for me.