Anxiety and depression are often used interchangeably. Like an unwanted package, they can show up on your doorstep unannounced. They don’t knock, they don’t wait for an invitation, they creep in and make themselves at home as if they have a right to be there. It’s easy to forget what it was like before they were here. No matter how many times you ask them to leave, they linger. Maybe they’ll pretend to disappear every now and then, but there’s no telling when they’ll decide to come back. Anxiety and depression will never truly leave.
But, that doesn’t mean you’re helpless. You can fight back. Recovery is a road that stretched as far as the eye can see. There will be bumps and diversions; roadblocks and complete standstills; but always remember you’re farther from where you started. The most important part of recovery is you don’t do it alone. I wanted to share the things that have helped me reach a much happier place than I was in this time last year. When you’re at your lowest, it can feel like things will never get better. But, I promise you they will.
Seek out support
If there’s one certainty about mental illness, it’ll reveal who you can and can’t rely on. You may even find that the ones you can’t rely on had a part to play in deteriorating your mental health in the first place. I’ve learned to keep my cards close to my chest and only let those I can count on into my life. My circle of friends has depleted, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. Rid yourself of toxic, one-sided friendships and your heart will feel much lighter. Don’t ever be afraid to say enough is enough – putting your needs ahead of others is the first step on the road to recovery.
Shield yourself from triggers
This may seem obvious, but it is so important. If you know something is likely to upset you, avoid it. Social media is a massive culprit here – we can all be guilty of checking up on people we would be better off forgetting about. My biggest advice would be to make yourself forget. If that means blocking someone, deactivating your account for a while or deleting their number – do it. If you find it painful to go to certain places because they remind you of someone, don’t go. Be kind to yourself and let your heart heal.
Work on being comfortable alone
As RuPaul would say, “If you can’t love yourself, how the hell are you going to love somebody else?” I’ve learned that you cannot rely on others to be the source of your happiness. While it is important to have support from those around you, happiness truly comes from within. You may find the prospect of being alone daunting. But, take a moment to remember that just because you don’t have any plans doesn’t mean you are truly alone. There are people out there who care about you. My best friend lives in another city to me and my family are miles away, but I know they’re just a message away.
This relates to embracing your own company by taking time out for yourself when you need it most. I classify self-care as anything that helps me feel better within myself. This can be something as simple as going for a walk or silencing your phone in favour of a good book. If I’m having a particularly bad day, I find that just having a shower and getting dressed can have a huge impact on how I’m feeling. Just like your body will tell you when it’s had enough with aches and pain, your mind will let you know when it needs a rest too.
Let it out
It’s so important not to bottle up your feelings. Whether you choose to confide in a friend, a family member or doctor, just talking about how you feel can make the world of difference. But, physically talking to someone is not the only way to get everything off your chest. I’ve found blogging to be so cathartic when it comes to my wellbeing. There’s a wonderful blogging community out there that will welcome you with open arms. If you’re nervous to share your work, don’t hit publish. Just getting your thoughts out and into something tangible will work wonders. If you do publish your work, there will always be someone out there who appreciates your words.
Seek professional help
Medication is not for everyone. I was hesitant to start taking a long-term prescription – I’ve heard stories about how difficult it can be to come off them once you’ve started. But, I wholeheartedly believe I wouldn’t be where I am today without the help of medication. Of course, that is only one option. If you would prefer not to go down the route of medication, I would still encourage you to talk to your GP about how you’re feeling. They can refer you for alternative treatments, from counselling to self-help. Just like a physical illness, mental illness can be treated.
Everyone’s journey is different and no two people will heal the same way. But, I hope these six steps will help you find your footing on the road to recovery. No matter how hopeless you may feel right now, know that you can – and will – get better.