Tickle My Mind: Prioritizing Self Helps Remove Stigma
I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder in 2008. My first symptoms reared up in my teens. I spent a lot of time in my teens and early 20’s living the party life and living life on an emotional roller coaster. Along with bipolar disorder and depression, I also deal with generalised anxiety disorder.
I still experience episodes, but these full-blown episodes are now very rare. I have created myself a mental wellness plan that helps keeps me stable and well. I’m constantly learning more about myself and my illness, and any new research – my plan is a living document that can be improved and refined when needed.
My wellness plan did not get created overnight. It was a process of trial and error over a period of time. To be honest it’s still a work in progress. Some of the things my plan includes is taking my medication as prescribed every day, visits to the GP, healthy eating, exercise, meditation, tracking and monitoring my triggers and mood, no alcohol or illegal drugs, a strict sleep routine, practicing self-care, gratitude and journaling.
Positive psychology has also played a big part in my wellness strategy. It may seem like a lot of hard work, and it is – but it does get easier.
I have been diagnosed with a chronic illness and like any chronic illness, there are a number of lifestyle changes that need to be incorporated into your daily life.
From my experience, my medication is the foundation upon which my recovery is built. For me, the medication I take is key to keeping my bipolar symptoms at bay so that living my life is not interrupted by episodes of extreme mood swings. The truth is that working with my medication and doing my part in staying healthy has brought me to a period of sustained wellness. I live with very few symptoms of bipolar disorder, and let me repeat, it is NOT easy. Medication alone doesn’t bring wellness to those who live with Bipolar Disorder. It’s just one part of the puzzle. My diet, exercise and sleep are important factors and the constant support from my family and friends is also crucial.
Socially my life has change since my diagnosis – I stay away from alcohol and I maintain a good sleep cycle, so sometime social gathering can be a challenge. This is especially true if maybe you were the “life” of the party, but my health and wellbeing takes priority.
Another important thing that I need to mention – You can’t do this on your own. You need to reach out for help. Your friends, family, GP, mental health organisations – they are all there to support you. With the right combination of lifestyle changes, medication, and therapy, I have been able to manage my illness successfully. Preventing a relapse requires motivation, a commitment to your own health, discipline, structure, courage, and more importantly a belief that you can get better. Make yourself a priority. Every battle with a mental illness is different, my message is, be patient. There will be setbacks, sometimes big ones, and possible relapses, but there will also be moments that take your breath away for all the right reasons. My message is to hold on. It took me a while to learn this and that’s okay. Everyone is on their own journey moving at their own pace. Everyone will have their own ways of coping and their own ways of dealing with their illness – But please don’t be afraid to seek help, or to talk about how you feel.
I created Tickle My Mind, a little over two years ago, in 2015, which as a place for me to write about my journey with mental illness and a place to empower as many people who have been touched by mental illness to live a healthy, happy, rewarding and balanced life.
My hope is to help anyone who has been diagnosed with a mental illness and to provide some ideas on how to feel better and hopefully give someone a little comfort that they aren’t the only ones. For those who don’t have a mental illness, I hope it provides a small insight into what it’s like to live a with a chronic mental illness.
I also find happiness in writing, a pastime I never thought I would be doing. I am currently writing my first book, part memoir, part mental wellness guide and I’m studying a Diploma in Positive Psychology. I love spending time writing, promoting mental health awareness and suicide prevention. I want to show that people with a mental illness are just like everyone else. Tickle My Mind is a place I share stories, lessons and tools that helped me to succeed and become well and to continue to stay well. Now I advocate mental health wellness and I hope the things that I have to share, will help someone else, along their journey. One thing I know for sure – it truly is possible to live a happy meaningful productive life despite living with a mental illness.
One of the reasons I created Tickle My Mind was there really wasn’t a lot out there at the time that offered a lived experienced insight into mental health. I believe that this is now improving with more and more mental illness social media accounts popping up every day.
It’s rare to find someone who has a mental illness that hasn’t come up against mental illness stigma. It may come from ignorance, or it may come from believing the myths surrounding the illness.
Before I started Tickle My Mind I could count on my one hand the number of people who knew about my bipolar diagnosis. The stigma that surrounded me was suffocating.
If you have a mental illness one thing you learn is how to deal with the people who don’t understand the condition you have been diagnosed with. From strangers, friends, television shows and media to co-workers, it is hard to avoid those who make hurtful remarks. There are many misconceptions surrounding mental illness and until they are stopped and understood, stigma will continue to cause people to suffer. I have an illness, but it does not define me. One of the biggest concerns surrounding the fear of stigma is that it stops some people seeking help. The extent to which a person encounters stigma in their lives can directly affect a person’s quality of life and recovery.
The stigma surrounding mental illness continues to decrease as understanding increases and people feel comfortable talking about their condition. We still need to continue to break through the silence. Remember Bipolar Disorder is a medical condition – It is not something you choose, but it is a condition you can manage. We need to talk openly about mental illness and encourage people to discuss it in the open. We don’t choose to have bipolar disorder or any type of mental illness, any more than someone chooses to have diabetes or a heart condition.
What are your account names/site name? www.ticklemymind.com
Instagram @ticklemymind and Facebook at Tickle My Mind.