I wrote a blog post back in December 2018 Highly Functional and Mentally Ill: What You Don’t Understand, besides any post about sex (go figure), this was one of my most popular blogs. In that post I wrote about hiding your condition, trying to keep it altogether with work and within relationships, how to spot high functioning conditions in your friends or family and a bunch of other useful info! Check that post out before you read on.
One of the most difficult things about being highly functional is that there is a pressure to always seem fine. For example, I know I have depression but it almost never comes up as an actual issue because I am well medicated. So when it does presents itself as a few “off days” strung out in a row, I feel a pressure to hide it. Or, with panic disorder, I can start having a panic attack for no reason at all. This is something that other people have a hard time grasping. No, there isn’t anything wrong but my body thinks there is and I need my medication. Just because YOU don’t understand it doesn’t make it less real and debilitating for me. I feel like I can’t share what is going on with me and I need to just make it seem like I took an Advil.
Staying on top of your mental health is like taking your car in for a tune up. If you’re like me, you drag your car in about every 3 years or when it starts finally smoking on the side of the road.. (Don’t hate me). I honestly just horrible at car maintenance. I can’t stand sitting in a mechanic shop waiting to spend hundreds of dollars on things that seem so silly to me. That being said, my car runs so much better after a tune up and so much better when I stay on top of getting the oil changed and my tires rotated.
So what does my preventative maintenance look like for my mental health?
- Therapy appointments. Therapy is so important to my mental health and it is ultimately what catapulted my life into a different direction.
- Medication compliance. I am a huge advocate for obtaining the right medication for your condition. Without stabilizing your brain, it is much harder to work in therapy.
- Alone time. This is how I recharge. This is how I gain peace. This is how I feel balanced, stable and able to do more. I thrive on alone time and gaining inner peace. I usually spend alone time reading on my couch or wandering around a bookshop.
- Laughing. Humor is a big part of my life. When I was in elementary school I wanted to be a comedian, I somewhat fulfill that dream by being funny on Instagram and through writing. Laughing makes me feel good and fills my spirit.
- Self Care. Enough said 🙂 For ideas on self care, click here.
- Nature. Spending time outside can change my mood almost instantly. I love chilly air against my cheek. I love walking and hiking. I love the way I can breathe deeper when I am submersed in nature.
- Hobbies. Find something you are naturally good at. Don’t start something that you know you won’t finish. Do something that you know you can do and that you do well. Trust me, it will lift your spirits. My hobbies are reading, writing and creating content.
If you haven’t dealt with the past, it makes it near impossible to move forward. I have found that trauma therapy and working through what events have contributed to who I am has been hugely helpful to my personal growth. It makes it easier to recognize patterns of behavior in myself and other people. Trauma therapy is not the fun type of therapy. It is the type of therapy where I usually cry and dig up my soul from the cave of my chest. It is gut wrenching sometimes and it is so so so worth it.
Practice and Homework
The hardest part of therapy is taking the things that you learned and applying it to your life. It is changing your thoughts from a negative thought into a neutral thought..in the moment. It is choosing to talk about what is bothering you vs. avoiding conflict. It is choosing a coping skill like cleaning your house or going for a walk rather than hitting up an ex from a year ago. It is the un-learning of everything you did before and reapplying new strategies. It works. It’s hard. It’s worth it. Check out this cognitive distortions sheet!
The Next Best Step
Coping ahead is having choices in place for you to choose from when you’re struggling. When you’re depressed, having a short list of things that you know will brighten your day just a bit can be helpful. For example: taking a shower, brushing your hair, sitting outside for ten minutes. If you’re anxious it could be talking with a friend about what is bothering you, writing down the anxiety, ripping up paper, exercising or cleaning your house. It is amazing how much one different choice can impact the rest of your day.
Coping ahead is all about staying on top of your mental health. It is knowing your triggers, having choices in place for when you are struggling and a support system around you to help you with therapy and medication compliance. Being highly functional and mentally ill is a lot of pressure and it is also something that can be managed.