Helpful hints for anyone suffering from mental illness
Get as much support for yourself as you can.
Ask for help when you need it – recognising when you are not coping and need support is a sign of strength – not weakness.
Keep a list of helplines and other useful numbers so you have these ready should your feelings become overwhelming and you are unable to cope.
Deal with one thing at a time – don’t overload your head with too many things to deal with at once. It may help to write a list of the things you need to think about or things you need to do and work through the list at your own pace.
Try to keep your home as tidy and uncluttered as you can as this will help your mind to feel less cluttered.
Do your housework at your own pace, if you are not up to tidying up one room, then tidy part of the room one day and the rest of it the next day.
Try and get some fresh air and exercise each day and build this into your routine. It can be therapeutic to try and spend time in the park, countryside, where you can be at one with nature.
Try and interact socially with someone each day and get used to being around people for some part of the day – this could be going to the shop to get groceries, going to the library, a day centre, – somewhere you can be around people so you are not on your own all the time. However, if there are days you are not up to going out or talking to anyone that is fine – do things at your own pace.
Keep yourself as physically well as you can and eat a healthy diet.
Try not to get frustrated if you have setbacks. This is natural and don’t give yourself a hard time if you have days when you simply can’t cope with anything. Spend that day relaxing, pamper yourself and do whatever you need to care for yourself. Don’t put any added pressure onto yourself and if not answering the phone or the door helps then don’t answer it – just give yourself peace and quiet. You should find in recovery that the bad days get less and you are able to recover more quickly from a bad day.
Try not to get frustrated if you feel you are not making progress as quickly as you would like. Focus on what you are able to do today as compared with what you were able to do six months ago, a year ago.
When you have a good day it may help to keep a journal where you can list the things you have been able to do and look back at this if you feel depressed or frustrated as it will help to focus your mind on the improvements you are making, the things you are able to do on your well days.
If something doesn’t work out how you would like don’t blame yourself and feel you are a failure. Nobody is perfect and everyone makes mistakes. Tell yourself you will deal with things differently the next time.
Talk to yourself in the same way you would talk to a friend – if a friend made a mistake you would not call your friend a loser and a failure – you would say something like don’t worry about it – you did your best. Say that to yourself instead of negative comments.
Don’t assume that other people are looking at you or talking about you – most people are too busy and worried about their own lives and what they are doing to focus on other people. If someone is talking about you they may be saying something good and positive about you.
Think always in a positive way – when you have a negative thought try and give yourself a positive thought.
If you feel you don’t know how to trust it may mean you are not at a stage in your recovery yet when you can trust but in time you should know when you feel ready to take the risk of trying to trust again. By ringing a helpline you are taking a step to trusting someone with your feelings and emotions.
Try to focus on the solution to a problem – not the problem itself.
Look for healthy ways of getting out your feelings.
Try not to over-react to other people and what they say. Some people find difficulty in expressing themselves clearly and you may feel that someone is ‘getting at you’ when in fact they are not.
Try to learn to be assertive – not aggressive. You have rights the same as anyone else and should not allow other people to use you, abuse you in any way, take advantage of you. If this is a problem for you maybe look into getting some emotional support to help you with this from a helpline or think about whether face to face counselling may help you to build up your confidence and learn ways in which you can be assertive. Some local colleges also run assertiveness classes. If you are having real problems in getting the help and services you need try and find an advocate who will help you with this.
Try to see the positive things about yourself and not focus on what you feel are the negative things about yourself. It is not uncommon for someone with mental illness to say they hate themselves, are bad and there is nothing good about them so they cannot possibly see why anyone would like them or want to know them. If you ask them the question what would they do if a friend rang up in a distressed state they would invariably say they would comfort the friend, listen to them, give them time and try and be there for them. That shows qualities of being a good listener, being caring, showing empathy, showing sensitivity and being a good friend – these are all qualities which not everyone possesses.
If you have habits or things about you which you think are ‘bad’ remember it is the habits which you think are bad – not you as a person. It doesn’t mean you are a bad person – just a person who may have bad habits.
Try to remember that if someone is unkind or unhelpful about your mental illness it is because they lack understanding. Anyone who suffers with mental illness deserves as much respect and compassion as someone who suffers from physical illness.
Remember that recovery and healing can be a slow process, be patient with yourself and give yourself time – take one step at a time.
If you are unhappy or confused about your treatment in any way discuss this with your mental health community team. You can also seek advice from one of the helplines below.
Please believe that there are people who will support you and try and help you with your recovery but to get help you have to ask for it. If the first person you ask for help is unable to give you the help you need, don’t be disheartened but keep trying all the resources you can until you do get the help you need.