Sunflower Skins

May 11, 2012

Mental Health Matters, Part Three: What Have We Learned?

Filed under: editorials — Tags: , , , , , — Sunflower Skins @ 12:00 am

Presenting part three of our series, this time an honest list of things I’ve learned about mental health and wish to share with my readers. Please note that I am not a psychologist, but I have spent well over 10 years dealing with serious depression and its side-effects; I feel confident in the following wisdom because most of it was introduced to me by doctors, therapists, and family who had undergone treatment themselves.

  1. Recovery from a serious depression works best when you use the triad-process to heal both body and mind:
    1. Therapy with a mental health professional for the mental and the emotional.
    2. An inquiry into medication for the physical (and the mental too), as well as renewed attention to diet, sleep, and exercise.
    3. Extra attention to TLC—tender loving care, by which you heed your most basic needs and reward yourself often. At this point you must respect the little things. Furthermore:
  1. The Little Things. When I let go of my inhibitions and gain perspective, I know that life, in its most intimate, personal sense, creates its own meaning only through our daily moments of pleasure and insight. As Timothy Findley wrote, Pay Attention.
  2. Thanks to my first therapist, Cathy, for this little rhyme; as cheeky as it may sound, it holds true and brings much peaceful understanding: Friends are for a Reason, a Season, or a Lifetime.
  3. You have no control over other people’s thoughts and actions; you can only control yourself. When someone does something outrageous or offensive, realize that you cannot stop their character but instead must gauge an effective and appropriate response on your behalf.
  4. A panic attack will always end. Regardless of the attack’s intensity, remind yourself that it will not last forever and that you still have control. Some steps to calming your amygdala:
    1. Learn how to deep-breathe properly. Breathe in through your nose and with your diaphragm, filling up to your belly button with tension; breathe out with your mouth and release all those worries straight through the top of your head, leaving your body refreshed and cleansed. Practise deep-breathing before sleep and when you feel anxious; beginning your morning with a meditation routine can limit anxiety throughout the day.
    2. There are various ways to cope with panic attacks that seem to snowball out of control, where everything seems dangerous and no light appears. One of my favourite mental exercises is to count backward from 20 and with each number fully recall, verbally if necessary, a positive, safe memory. Chances are you won’t get beyond 16 without having spent so much energy focused on your new task that your body responds to control rather than panic.
    3. Use your senses to stabilize yourself; focus on five specific things you can hear, five things that you can feel, etc.
    4. Use the power of imagination to overcome current circumstances; by mentally placing yourself somewhere comfortable and safe, and re-envisioning your behaviour in that environment, your body will naturally begin to relax.
  5. It is important to have a safe zone, a place where you can truly feel vulnerable enough explore difficult feelings and intense memories. Create a place where you are comfortable and can have leisure time too, nurturing your most basic needs to feel safe and taken care of; take good care of yourself and your need for personal space.
  6. Family is what you make it; blood ties shouldn’t take precedence over good personal and relational care. Too often a sense of guilt or obligation to protect family members hinders your own progress, so surround yourself with a family of your own choosing, relatives and friends who support the decision to seek mental healing.
  7. Knowing what you don’t want is a good place to start. For some people life has become so dark that it’s difficult to envision anything desirable or attainable; happiness is not even an imaginable option. It’s at this point, however, that you can take the brave first step toward change: acknowledging that you don’t want to be depressed anymore.
  8. If your first or even your second experience with a mental health worker is unpleasant, don’t be so discouraged that you lose hope in the system. There is somebody out there who wants to help you, and the effort to find him or her will be worth the reward.
  9. What matters, matters; what is, is. Peace comes with finally accepting whatever it is that you truly desire—that which you do not want to live without—and the time & space circumstances which created your early being. From that point you can move forward & grow.
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1 Comment »

  1. #7 saved my life. Letting go of trying to protect someone and finally being yourself is an incredible thing. My life became mine in my 30s:). Thanks for posting that, it’s nice to know someone else gets you :)

    Comment by Jen — November 3, 2012 @ 9:56 pm


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