Everyone knows there is no cure for mental illness, right? But the sad thing is that some of us act like there is no possible way we will ever feel better, and we will always feel miserable no matter what we do.
That is just not true.
A lot of us have been beaten up by our illnesses for so long, we have become defeatists. We feel no matter what we try; our mental health will always be a train wreck.
Some have even gotten to the point where, if someone offers advice for our situation, we get angry and resentful. I know. I’ve rolled my eyes and heard myself say more times than I want to remember, “How can they know how I feel?”
But, think about it — isn’t it possible we are just defensive and petty, and there is some truth to the well-meaning advice we get from concerned friends and family?
I’m going to take the awkward position of saying yes.
How Do I Know If It’s Possible to Feel Better?
Over the past few months, I changed my lifestyle. Granted, before I was doing a pretty good job with self-care, and I have been able to keep the worst symptoms of my illness at bay, but there is always room for improvement.
But, lately, I’ve gone into overdrive with my health.
I’ve started walking up to three kilometers in the morning, and not a leisurely walk around the block; this is an arm-pumping, heavy-breathing dash around my subdivision. By the time I get home drenched in sweat, I am spent, but no matter how tired I am, I get up from behind my laptop and do it again in the afternoon.
I’ve been working on my posture, so my slouch is not so pronounced.
I’ve also changed my diet, even though I ate nourishing food before. Now I fast intermittently. From 8 pm all the way to 5 pm the next day, I don’t eat anything. For 21 hours at a time, I don’t eat. In my three-hour eating window, I’ve cut back on the starchy carbs, cutting back on my rice intake. I try to make sure I get protein, minerals, vitamins, and good fats.
I’m not saying I am perfect. I do indulge in a soda every so often, and I power-down a few of the warm, fresh bakery rolls they deliver in the mornings.
I’ve stuck to a strict medication regimen, taking my pills at the same time each day, and I never skip a dose.
I have been working more, not allowing the voices in my head to dictate my mood or motivation. I work as much as I can and take breaks and naps when my body and mind feel fatigued.
I’ve been keeping my mind busy with projects, books, blogs, educational videos, relaxing music, and periods of intense thought that doesn’t devolve into worry.
I am managing my stress and anxiety, even though sometimes it’s like a wild animal in a cage that wants to break free and maul me.
I’ve changed how I live my life, and am starting to see the benefits, one after the other.
I Took the Advice, But Am I Feeling Better?
On my walk this morning, I took a long, honest look at how I’ve been feeling, my mood, and the state of my mental health. I didn’t let unrealistic hopes get in the way but looked at myself with a sober eye.
Compared to most of my life, I feel fantastic. Even comparing how I feel now to the past couple of years, where I have been working hard on improving my attitude, physical health, and moods, I can say that all the good things I’ve been doing have made a huge difference.
- I have not been depressed for weeks
- My anxiety has improved enough that sometimes I forget about it for hours at a time
- The voices and noise have retreated somewhere deep inside, and as long as I keep my mind busy doing something, they stay where they are
- I have lost a ton of weight and inches on my chest, waist, and face
- My digestive processes feel better when I am not eating greasy, starchy food
- My posture has improved, and I notice a change in how I carry my body
- I don’t sleep as much but feel more rested
- I am more productive and motivated
There is still room for improvement; there always is. I have brought myself back from a bottomless, dark hole, and I really can’t expect I can fix all the damage overnight.
- When my anxiety does bother me, it is intense
- The voices in my head still bother me when my mind is not active
- I still have a lot of weight to lose
- I have a lot of dense, internal fat, and my stomach is hard and tender. I know it will take longer to get rid of my bulging belly
- My exercise is sometimes still hampered by gout in my ankles and the neuropathy in my legs
- My back is painful from the damage I have done over the years and the strain of changing my posture so much
- I still overthink everything and often get unmotivated
I know I shouldn’t expect so much, but when I start to see improvement after so long feeling like crap, I want to feel completely better as soon as possible.
I have seen a vast improvement, and if I had stayed defensive and resentful whenever anyone gave me advice about my mental health, I would have kept on doing the same stupid things over and over. I would have been miserable until the day I died.
It Worked For Me — It Can Work For You
So the next time someone asks if you can exercise more, don’t bite their head off. Or if someone dares to suggest that you try changing your diet or losing weight, don’t dismiss them or their advice.
Don’t spend so much time being angry at people who are trying to help and start considering maybe the things you have done all along to get you where you are now are not working, so what would it hurt to change?
Start making changes slowly; don’t try to do so much at once.
- Change your diet to healthier, unprocessed food
- Eat less sugar and starchy foods
- Increase your movement and exercise. Even walking is excellent for you
- Improving your posture will help your mental health
- Staying busy can help take your mind off of your issues, but do not push them down and forget about them. Try dealing with your problems healthily
- Change your attitude and think positive yet realistically
There is always more that we can do, and even though there may never be a cure for mental illness, there is a lot we can do about our symptoms and attitude.
All that advice we dismissed out of hand because we thought no one knew what they were talking about — a lot of that helps, so start making functional changes to your habits.
I did it and so can you!
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