May is Mental Health Awareness Month.
I’m so delighted that 1) this month exists and 2) I have yet another reason to share mental health journey with you.
As someone who’s lived with bipolar for over half a decade (six years, to be exact), I have grown passionate about discussing mental illness, encouraging those who struggle, and educating those who don’t.
Mental health can be a sensitive subject for many people, but it doesn’t have to be. 1 out of 5 Americans struggle with some form of mental illness. The odds are, even if you don’t struggle yourself, you know someone — or several someone’s — who do.
Living with mental illness can be hard.
And I mean – really, really hard.
But I’m hoping this blog post can give you a glimpse into my life and struggles, my habits and hurts, and that you can use this glimpse to relate to someone in your life who struggles, as well.
Personally, my disorder has led me to struggle particularly with depression, anxiety, and mood swings. Thankfully, all three have been less extreme and fairly manageable in the most recent years. I credit this to my supportive community, my work, my therapist, and my psychiatric nurse. Let me break those down a little bit:
- My community – it includes friends, family, baristas, climbers, creatives, and my church group. My community has built me up instead of torn me down, they’ve accepted me as I am, and they’ve embraced who I am since my diagnosis.
- My work – working in the climbing industry has been amazingly rewarding. My specific job aside, having a work schedule, having discipline, having something to show up to every day has given me stability and something to look forward to.
- My therapist – Chelsey has given me helpful tools when I catch myself feeling anxious, to feel out my feelings, and to express myself. Acknowledging my feelings and giving myself room to feel has been a huge part of my wellness journey.
- My psychiatric nurse – Grant has found medication that works for me. It took time and several trials, but it’s worked wonders. Medication isn’t for everyone, but it certainly is for me.
Pre-diagnosis life is starkly different than post-diagnosis.
Pre-diagnosis, I struggled with insomnia and anxiety, but didn’t even realize it. I didn’t think about my needs or wants — physical, mental, or emotional. I struggled with feeling my emotions and allowing myself to feel. I struggled with perfectionism and people pleasing.
Post-diagnosis, over time and therapy and learning the hard way, I’ve learned to acknowledge what I need and how to voice those needs. I’ve learned to “sit in my feelings,” as Chelsey would say, and to not be afraid to feel. I’ve learned to say no, learned to put myself first, learned to even let others down at times.
Post-diagnosis, I’m actively monitoring my sleep, mood, and energy, and noticing how varying levels impact my wellness. I’m pursuing healthy relationships so I can feel healthy and happy, too. I’m learning and re-learning it’s okay to not be okay, that it’s not a bad thing to lean on people, and that being alone doesn’t mean I have to be lonely.
Loving someone with mental illness can be hard.
But it doesn’t have to be.
In the end, we all need love and kindness and acceptance. In the end, we all need someone to show up and show out for us. In the end, we all need a community to build us up and make us feel special.
Friends, I encourage you to reach out someone you love who struggles with mental illness today. Tell them you see them, you know them, and you love them. Tell them you’re here for them. It will mean the world to them.