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Mental illness can strike anyone at any age. Whether you are rich, poor, straight, LGBTQ+, married with kids or from a third world country, mental illness does not discriminate whatsoever. One month you could be living life to the fullest, achieving all of your set out goals and then the next month you are crippled under the weight of a condition such like depression.
I first noticed I was becoming unwell around about three years ago whilst I was still in high school. From what I can tell, nothing in particular triggered it, there just came a time when all hope, energy, happiness and creativity were sucked out of me and spat out into a far corner of my former self.
During my ongoing recovery I have learnt some valuable lessons which I feel compelled to share with you in the hope that it can help at least one person.
1. Being positive doesn't mean that you have to be happy with your illness or happy that you've survived another dreary day.
It means holding onto the hope that tomorrow can be a better day, that blips aren't the end of the world and that you are allowed to let yourself be honest with how you are feeling.
2. Not everyone you care about/are close with will understand.
Having a good support system is crucial to surviving mental illness and one of the most disheartening parts of being unwell is that inevitably someone is going to take a less prominent role in your everyday life. It's not because they don't like you, some people just genuinely don't know how to respond.
3. Sometimes you will get worse before you get better.
Recovery is not linear and there are many bumps in the road. The idea is to always remember what you are working towards and that the bad days are temporary.
4. You will probably need time off from work/education.
There is no shame whatsoever in taking a break if you need to. Too much stress is super unhelpful when you are unwell.
5. It may take a while to get a therapy based treatment.
Waiting lists are unfortunately miles long. However, until you can access therapy there are a lot of online help sites where you can access support (e.g. Samaritans or The Mix).
6. Taking medication for your mental health is nothing to be ashamed about.
It can save lives and if there's a chance it will work for you, then you've got to at least give it a shot.
7. Not having a formal diagnosis doesn't make your struggles any less valid.
The idea is to treat your symptoms at the end of the day and get well.
8. You won't necessarily like your doctors/nurses and it's okay to request to see a different one.
9. It is okay to share how you are feeling with others.
You aren't a burden or an attention seeker. You deserve to be heard!
10. Go at your own pace.
Some people recover fast and some take years, but in the end we all have the shared destination of happiness.