How I Cope with Mental Illness

Living with depression and anxiety isn’t easy but there are ways to cope. Both illnesses have a basis in negative thoughts. First, I tell myself that it’s not bad to have these thoughts, but it is good to recognize them. When I was struggling as a single mom while my kid was very ill, I reached out for help. Via public social media, my sibling told me that “you have more in life than you deserve”. I played this statement in my mind repeatedly. This type of repetition creates what I imagine to be tracks in my mind, like a bicycle digging in soft earth every day until the rut is deep enough to hold water on a rainy day. The deeper the rut, the easier it is to fall in to. The more the thought is repeated, the easier it is to repeat and believe. The more I thought “I have more than I deserve”, the more I fell into the downward spiral of thinking that “I deserve less, I don’t deserve good things, I deserve nothing, I don’t deserve help” which can lead to “I don’t deserve to live”.

How to get out of that cycle?

There are some great scriptures to think on instead of the negative thought:

“Take captive every thought and make it obedient to Christ.” -2 Corinthians 10:5

“Think on whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable- if anything is excellent or praiseworthy- think about those things”. – Philippians 4:8

I will think on these verses and ask God to help me to obey and practice them. It is awesome that God knew humans would have these battles with our thoughts. He knew about depression when He had the Bible written! Sometimes I can’t help thinking negatively and that’s when I must forgive and be patient with myself. “Just think positive. Just look on the bright side. Don’t dwell.” Those types of thoughts can compound the negative ones with more feelings of inadequacy. “Why can’t I just think positive like I’m supposed to. Something is wrong with me.” It can add more stress and pressure to “just think positive”. So, there’s a balance to find with thinking positive and respecting one’s own journey. A colleague often tells people to “ride the wave”. Sometimes we must ride the wave of feelings and thoughts, allow them in, feel them, acknowledge them, and know the wave will come down and the thought will go for a while, even if it comes back with the tide.

Remember how I said a thought can cause of rut that is easy to fall in and repeat? It goes the same way with all thoughts whether negative or positive. So, the more I practice Bible verses or repeating “I deserve good things”, the more easily I will be able to prevent the downward spiral of “I don’t deserve good things”.

Counseling

Recognizing that I’m going down the spiral is important too for knowing when to reach out for help. I go to counseling when I need to. I really like my counselor too which is important. I want to encourage anyone that ever had a “bad counselor” to rethink “bad counselor” to “bad fit”.  It’s ok to try different counselors but, please don’t give up if one doesn’t fit your needs or personality. Also, if one counselor isn’t the best fit, there is still benefit to the time you spend with them even just to vent. The counselor to patient relationship is different than any other relationship. You pay them to tell them your problems and fix your problems. It’s not that easy though. Counselors can guide but not fix and they are human too. They are there to help the best they can. You are the one that really does the hard work.

Medications -If you need them, take them.

 I wish I would have figured this out a long time ago. Even up to a couple years ago, I still hoped to get off my antidepressants. Psychiatric medications have a stigma attached to them that make people that need them want to get off them. People judge others that take them, and people judge themselves. There is a biological need some people have for these medications. If a higher quality of life can be achieved with the use of a daily pill, we should provide encouragement, not judgement, to each other and to ourselves.

Friends

I have a prayer group over text. We text each other prayer requests almost daily. It’s extremely convenient and encouraging. I can immediately send a prayer request when I need, and I can read and reply as my schedule allows.  My friends have problems too. It’s nice to know that I am not alone in having issues. None of us is perfect and none of us live in a perfect world. My friends need my prayers, and they care enough to want to pray for me. Wow! What a good feeling it is to have someone care enough to say, “what can I pray for you today?”. And what a better feeling to know that even amidst my troubles, I can be there for someone else too! This is the good thing that I deserve! I deserve good things like this! Even if it’s not a prayer group, I hope those reading this will be encouraged to reach out and find friends that can reciprocate being there for each other. Everyone needs and deserves that. We weren’t made to be alone and being alone can be dangerous when those negative thoughts spiral downwards. Friends can help us spiral back up.

Wrap-Up

I cope with my mental illness by recognizing and managing negative thoughts, going to counseling, taking my medications, and communicating with friends. My message to others is that there are ways to cope. Your ways may look different; that’s ok. Just know that you can too.

2 thoughts on “How I Cope with Mental Illness

  1. I love your post! I, too, cope with my mental illness with counseling and talking to friends/others. It’s a lot easier to have help than to go through everything alone. Unfortunately, I learned that the hard way. I hope that others will find this post and take your words of advice. God bless 💜

    • Thank you for your comment. Yes, I learned the hard way too. I think the negative cycle contributes to self-isolation but We Are Not Alone and that’s soooo important and valuable. God bless you too!

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