I know everyone is super focused on 2019 and #goals and so am I but I think it is also important to reflect on 2018 and have a hard look at what made it successful or a disaster. For me, it was a bit of a strange year as I spent about six months of it looking for a job so I was in a bit of a limbo space. That being said, my mental illness didn’t just disappear, if anything it needed extra attention due to the instability.
Here are a few key factors that helped me with my mental health in 2018:
I started to set boundaries at work. I have made a huge evolution in the last four years by really assessing what exactly made me vulnerable in the past, how that led to emotional upsets and how I can make corrections. This has been a particular issue for me when it comes to work relationships. Admittedly, I’ve been making this mistake since I started full time work eight years ago and it’s taken me a long time to learn my lesson. I let everyone into my life (and heart really) as soon as I started a new job. Again, much like dating, I’m like a puppy who wants to play with everyone! As you can imagine this often led to disaster. You have to draw a line between your work life and your personal life and you cannot be best friends with everyone. Period. Correcting this has enhanced my confidence and security at work tenfold and I’ve avoided my old pitfalls.
I finally found the right medication. This has been a ten year journey, full of (moderate to terrible) side-affects, money spent and well, wasted time more or less. I will elaborate on this point in a future post but I experienced a game-changer this year and it changed my life.
My coping skills finally developed (i.e. less freak outs). I no longer have emotional freak outs. I can react to things much calmer and quieter (in and outside of my head). I mean, I get emotional of course – I am only human – but that level of emotional response is much more appropriate for the situation and passes much faster. In the past my reactions would be very heavy and could cause an emotional downward spiral. I attribute this change to my new medication and honestly, 18 years of therapy and self-development. It’s finally happened! I’ve grown! I know now that I can handle most life challenges, having had so many in the past. I know 18 years is a long ass time, but I still hope it shows others that there is light at the end of the tunnel (you might even get there quicker!). Please consider, I also grew out of my teens and 20s as well as attained stability in my life.
I realized, I don’t need to be the 2.0 version of myself right now. It takes time to become the person you want to be/can be. This was a huge, as Oprah calls it, aha moment for me. Why on earth did I think that I was going to be a complete and utter success right after undergrad? I mean yes, some of my friends were legit shooting stars right out of post-secondary, but that is rare. And I finally see that. I’ve taken great comfort in the knowledge that I have time, I have time to develop my skills to achieve my goals. I don’t need to be Doogie Howser. Honestly, that might even had been a bit boring if everything had worked out for me right away (haha you know I’ve progressed when I can say things like that).
Pre-emptive self-care is critical, particularly for those with mental illness. Leaving parties early. Not drinking that fifth glass of wine. Saying no because you know you won’t be able to juggle things. Giving your family set visits. These are all about knowing how things will affect you in the future and doing a bit of time-travel in your mind. A great very recent example of this for me was how I scheduled my time-off during this past holiday break. I chose to go into work two half days in the middle of my time off because I knew that many days off in a row would not be conducive to my mental health. Going into the office is key for me, it gives me purpose, structure and forces me to get out of bed early. I knew this schedule would benefit me the greatest.
Saving my negative talk or rants for therapy. This, I did not get to practice but I intend to for 2019. I think pouring your negative expression into certain friendships (or romantic relationships) is detrimental. a) It’s not fun for your friends. b) It creates these depressing spaces. It turns certain friendships into your doom and gloom spaces which isn’t healthy. Save this type of talk for your therapist, that’s what you’re paying them for! I truly believe this will lead to healthier and happier friendships and decrease your tendency to dwell on the negative. Sidenote: I’ve also realized that when something challenging occurs in your life you do not need to tell ten people. This is something I’ve always done and it really stretches out the negativity and literally brings in ten different opinions. Keep an issue to yourself for a period, take the time to assess it and discuss it only with those who may give you great advice or help you talk things through. Many of my friends often do this and tell people things only when they are ready.
Surround yourself with great mentors. You need people to catch you when you fall, personally and professionally. For me it was professionally this year. I know this may seem far removed from mental health but it is all related. No job equals no income equals a whole lot of things depending on your savings account. My point is you really have to take care of yourself in all realms to manage your mental health. I know that sounds overwhelming but it’s the truth. And also don’t forget it’s all about building on your groundwork of stability. It all interacts. Make sure you have a mentor who knows your worth and what you need (not necessarily want) professionally and personally. Ideally and in a magical world, you have someone who has successfully dealt with mental health issues as well and can provide you with advice. I cannot emphasize enough the benefits of building a solid support network (more on that later!)
Many of the above lessons have helped me to really believe things will work out no matter what, they sure as hell won’t be perfect but I am now wise enough to handle life and living with a mental illness. I know this all might seem a bit general, if you have questions or want to discuss the topics above feel free to comment below and we can chat. Last lessons from 2018 I leave you with are, always go with your gut and what you are naturally drawn to and realize that time goes by fast! If you don’t make a plan to address your mental health in the first month of the year, start as soon as possible, it will go by in the blink of an eye. The older we get and more busy, the faster time seems to pass us by. Start now!
What mental health lessons did you learn in 2018? How have they changed your life?