I definitely haven’t mastered my illness but I have had a lot of times in my life where I have been incredibly mentally unwell and have had to figure out how to somehow hold it together with no support. I wish there was more help out there, so if there is anything I find that works I want to share it with people.
I have had psychosis, major depression and crippling anxiety; sometimes simultaneously and you have to work out ways to stay alive or you could so easily give up. This might not apply to everyone and it doesn’t apply to every type of mental problem you might be experiencing. For example, one tip might help when you are depressed, but not when you are feeling paranoid, or when your mind is racing, but each of them has slightly helped me at some point.
- Write it all down. Write down every single thought you’re having, everything that you’re imagining is happening, everything that you are tormenting yourself with. The process of feverishly scribbling in itself is cathartic and helps you to release some of what is going on inside your head, to alleviate some of the building pressure.
- Allow a bad habit until you are in a better place. Have a thing that you focus on single-mindedly to distract yourself from your mental state. That might be smoking, or binge-eating or sleeping all the time. Ok, this isn’t healthy and doesn’t sound like good advice, but you have to do what keeps you alive, and if a bad habit gets you through a rough period, so be it.
- Listen to a song on repeat for days, or weeks. There is something soothing about hearing something repetitious when your mind is all over the place. You can’t control your own head so try and control things in your surroundings to the point that it is obsessive.
- This leads me to the next suggestion: fixed routines. Make a routine for yourself, even if you aren’t working, and try to rigidly follow it: go for a walk at the same time every day, get dressed at the same time every day, eat at the same time, etc. Or if this fails and you aren’t able to, sleep all the time until it passes.
- Art. Even if you aren’t artistic, draw or paint what is going on in your head. Even painting giant blobs like a small child is helpful. It makes you focus on something else so you can’t focus (as much) on your own head. I find the busier my hands are, the quieter my head is.
- Do whatever you have to. If this means not stepping out of your front door for a month, do that. However, if you’re going to do that, maintain some form of connection with the outside world, even if it is just online.
- Talk to people who get it. Talk to people you don’t have to pretend with. Don’t force yourself to be around people you have to put a face on with. The pressure of having to do this will drive you further downwards.
- Walk beside the sea. I don’t know why, but the sea helps my head. I don’t mean in an “I’m suddenly miraculously cured” type of way. But it feels like it airs out your mind, plus watching the waves helps because it is rhythmic and calming to watch.
- Don’t look up if you are walking in the street. If you are feeling overwhelmed or paranoid, don’t look at the people you are passing, look at the ground.
- Sit on the floor, close your eyes and cover them. This sounds stupid but it has helped me countless times.
- Relieve yourself of all responsibilities that you can afford to let go without it bringing additional stress.
- Don’t listen to unhelpful advice from people who haven’t had it. Would you listen to someone advising you on to change a nappy when they’ve never seen one before? No, so why would you take anything that isn’t useful on board from people who think mental illness is the same as having a bit of a rough day? If “chin up” snaps people out of a regular bad mood, I’d pay to experience a regular bad mood.