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Don’t let your illness define you

Don’t let your Illness define you.

Before you reading, Don’t Let Your Illness Define You, I would like to take a moment to thank everyone who has supported The Road To Mental Wellness, your contributions keep me going….. Thank you! Any donations are greatly appreciated. To donate, please click the donate button below

I remember the early days of the aftermath that altered the course of my life. When PTSD ravaged my mental well-being, leaving me in shambles in its aftermath. Becoming void of purpose and lacking direction, I realized that it was time to stop think and plan.

Because I decided to make a plan, I essentially created a direction to head in. So, where did this direction take me? Well, it took me here; to The Road To Mental Wellness. “Helping people by telling my story” became my compass, my therapy and ultimately, my saviour.

Finally, I was able to fill the void with purpose once more. I have been helping people for as long as I can remember so, this seemed a perfect fit; I would dedicate my limited energy to being a mental health advocate. But even this new-found purpose, as exciting as it was, came with its downsides.

Chief among them was my propensity to go full tilt with things I am passionate about. While putting energy into mental heath issues isn’t a bad thing, it can however, deplete this store of said limited energy in a hurry and that’s where things get problematic.

Are you a service member with PTSD living in Nova Scotia, retired or active? Need a break? Contact Rally Point Retreat

As it turns out, if you delve into something wholeheartedly, you can inadvertently get too close to it. As my psychologist rightly pointed out, “your illness doesn’t define you.” Her words produced a revelation in my brain. I hadn’t thought of it that way. I was simply thinking I was putting my energy in a positive cause; mental health avocation.

Don't let your illness define you
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Although it’s true that where I chose to put my mental resources was and still is a great thing, the algorithm of the internet hits you in the face, all the time. As a consequence, words like mental illness, PTSD, depression and anxiety cross my line of vision more than the beautiful surroundings I’m blessed to be living in.

Although I love helping others, I do have to prioritize my own recovery. Essentially, what I need, what we all need is balance. It’s vital for your mental health to walk away from this trap laid by algorithmic behaviours set by stupid social media. Furthermore, it’s good to have other hobbies and to actively pursue them.

How to achieve balance in your life.

Perhaps most important of all, don’t let your illness define you. You are much more than a diagnosis. You are an instrument of wonder and curiosity just waiting to explore that passion you have always thought you weren’t good enough for. I believe in you.

In those momenets

20 authors from the military and emergency services tell their story of PTSD.

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Are You Friends With Your Enemy?

To nail down when the scourge of mental illness first sought me out as its prey is a near-impossible task.

Nonetheless, I have devoted a good amount of time and mental energy trying to discern an approximate time in my life where I first met this beast.

It seems clear that when I dig into my past that my dance with this devil started in childhood. It is difficult to determine my exact age but I do know that it was in late childhood. I recall it being my later childhood years because that’s when I had my first experience with therapy. When I think back on it, I have nothing but thanks and gratitude for the therapist who helps me work through my troubles.

The challenges I encountered back in those days was centred around anger issues and outbursts. I was a very angry child, was it really anger at the centre of it all? I didn’t know it then, but I would later on in life come to realize it was most likely sadness. I have always, in the deepest part of my being been attached to an inexplicable heavy feeling of despair. Who is this friend who invited themselves to accompany me along my life’s path?

Being young at the time I was not aware of what it was that was plaguing me, but over time and as I got older I came to learn that this “friend” had a name. Its name was Depression and Depression would be my buddy for life. Oddly enough, my depressive disorder was the last of my three illnesses to reveal itself despite the fact that it had a lifelong say in everything I did, and every decision I had ever made.

My anxiety disorder reared its ugly head when I was a teen and has had the biggest influence on my internal script than even my depression. It became my constantly chatty friend; that is my ever negative, scared of everything kind of friend whose toxic negatively is communicated through me like a spirit from the afterlife. Like my friend Depression, I would come to learn the name of my tag-along pal. The name you ask? Generalized Anxiety Disorder.

The day I learned the names of these so-called “friends” was like learning that those “great buddies” who I thought were loyal allies, were, in fact, such a negative force that all they did was convinced me to do what they wanted and made me feel like shit in the process.

Why do I refer to them as my friends? Well, I use this analogy to describe the period when I was oblivious to what my mental illnesses were; their voices and influences on me were just a part of me and my life. I was not able to recognize that their influence on me wasn’t normal, and they actually held power over me. Like great friends, I felt that they were an essential part of me.

When I was diagnosed with my mental illnesses I came to understand that they were not an integral part of me at all. In other words, through professional help, I was able to discover their true colours, their true intentions.

Like losing who I thought we’re good friends, it was difficult to discover this new revelation. But it ended up being for the best, not cool at first but eventually, I accepted that I was ill and now that I am on my way to wellness, I feel liberated and free to rediscover me, the real me.

So, are you friends with your enemy? If you are having continual difficulties in many areas of your life, are always negative, find yourself in conflict with others frequently or find it hard to navigate through the world and everyday life; the voice in your head may actually be your mental illness enemy and not an essential part of what makes you, you. Just like the friends you thought you knew.

You may also enjoy: Are Our Priorities Making Us Sick?

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Am I healed because I am Happy?

Am I healed because I am happy?  Well, let’s examine this question. The principal behavioural pattern for the majority of my life was and still is: get the help I need, get to a happy place, think I no longer need help, and then get overtaken by the irrational voice that speaks so loudly. At times, I get fooled into thinking that I’m still in charge. This is, of course, the voice of mental illness, the one who makes it its mission to ensure that I remain in a state of fear and anxiousness. Then all the tools that I have accumulated from the professionals seem to get misplaced from time to time. And without them, the ills that are held at bay by those same tools, end up having free rein over my headspace, wreaking havoc in every facet of my life.

The reason for losing these tools are many but is mostly due to an accumulation of life’s not so enjoyable happenings tragedies, etc. Some are lost because of my memory while others are rendered ineffective by the mounting everyday troubles life likes to heap upon me. Yet others fade into the background during the better times because they are seldom used. Whatever the reasons, I have slipped into a state of debilitation on more than one occasion.
To say that being overtaken by my mental disorders is defeating is a colossal understatement. It, to the very pit of my core, makes me want to concede to my mental enemies and stay home or worse. Then I look at my loved ones and I get my second wind. Like a superhero in the movies who is all but beaten, and is suddenly inspired to fight on, I get up, brush the dust off my knees and pursue solutions with the ferocity of a lion going after its prey. I had decided some time back that I will not be defeated.

I have worked on trying to figure out where my defences are the weakest, how my mental disposition shifts to the side of illness. The common denominator for my slips into the darkness, as far as I can tell, seems to correlate with backing off from professional supports when I feel better and letting their therapeutic strategies fade – very similar to those who stop taking their medications when they start to feel better. Because, even in the happiest days of my life, the dreaded negative voice looms, so I must continue to seek help to keep the tools that I have been given by mental health professionals sharp and ready to defend my happy. I must always be ready to do battle.

What can act as a deterrent to getting help is the speed at which both the system itself and the therapeutic process can take. I have at times been my own worst enemy by justifying my absence from the system by saying “I am better. I would only be taking up a spot that is needed by someone worse off than I am.” Finally, I think I’ve learned my lesson. This lesson has come to me now, later in life, because I have taken the time to face my demons and have gotten to know myself a lot better. In doing so, I now know that the anxiety and depression, the symptoms of PTSD are ever waiting to cloak me in their symptoms and minimize my happiness, thus making it necessary to seek help continuously, even in the good times.

It’s clear that I have had many battles with my illnesses and as a result, I have won some of them and have lived happily for periods. What’s equally clear is that I should never give up my supports and I definitely shouldn’t fool myself into thinking that I am completely healed because I have definitely lost some of those battles too and still do.  Learning that I need to seek out help even in the good times, is something I must not forget, lose, or let fade into the background. I will keep my weapons at the ready and continue to rely on professional support and remain vigilant in times of mental peace.

If you are seeing a similar scenario playing out with you and have yet to identify its cause, perhaps seeking the help of a mental health professional is what you need to get you back on the road to happiness. You can get back on track and you can live with more good times than bad if you actively seek out solutions. I am rooting for you!

You may also like: After A Good Run: The ups and downs of mental illness

Since you’re here, check out my friend’s blog at Abbeys Chronicles

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