My tips on how to survive depression, anxiety, borderline personality disorder and PTSD.
1. Find a psychiatrist that treats you with compassion and respect. This is harder that it sounds. I’ve gone through a few because here in Alberta, most psychiatrists I saw were via the emergency room or while in treatment and I struggled to find one that would see me on an ongoing basis. I finally found one that has been my doctor for the last two years and having that consistency has been wonderful. He’s seen me through a 23 day stint at a treatment facility, several med changes and been witness to my successes and my relapses. Having him be there for all the ups and downs of my illness has been the one consistent in this illness. If you need to find a psychiatrist, put the pressure on your family physician for a referral and push hard for it.
2. Taking my medication as prescribed. I have a wide assortment of meds that I take to help manage my condition and there’s some side effects that I don’t like. (Weight gain, fatigue, dry mouth, and even spaciness at times) but I follow what’s given to me until I see my doctor again. There was a time that I thought I could manage my own medication, and I ended up in hospital from being completely messed up. I get that it’s tempting to just stop taking something because you don’t think it’s working, but have those conversations with your doctor first.
3. Trusting my gut. I learned to listen to myself and know when things are going downhill and reached out for help when that was happening. When I would stop showering, or missing work, or crying uncontrollably, I knew that things were going off the rails for me and it was time to pull in my supports. I used to believe that I could pull myself out of it on my own, but have come to understand that it’s not that easy and I don’t have to try to climb out of the hole on my own.
4. Practice self care. This is a tough one. I’m damn good at loving and nurturing others and showing compassion for them when they are struggling, but find it difficult to do the same for myself. It helps when I imagine myself as someone else and that I’m helping them through a difficult time. I tell myself to go easy and get plenty of rest and be gentle. I have to admit that it doesn’t always work, but at least I try.
5. Find a purpose. For me that purpose has been to help others going through the journey of mental illness. I volunteer my time to organizations that help raise awareness for mental health issues and I speak openly about my own struggles to open the dialogue for others who may be finding their own way. Giving back to others helps me feel better about myself and gives me a reason for going on.
6. Be open to accepting love in your life. When you come from a place of not having love and acceptance, it’s very hard to believe that you are ever worthy of having it at all. I’m here to say that you are. We all deserve to have love and kindness and there are people in this world who are good and kind and generous and who will help you heal.
7. Accept yourself for the beautiful and unique person that you are. You are not weak and you are not flawed. You have incredible gifts to offer the world – and you need to stick around to give them. Having strong intense emotions is part of what makes you who you are – you feel joy and happiness with the same intensity that you feel pain and sorrow.
8. Therapy and group counselling over the years saved my life. Finding like-minded individuals in group therapy was like finding my peeps and feeling accepted and wanted for the first time in my life. There’s many group therapies out there, often free of charge and I’d encourage you to take them. If you have access to any sort of insurance coverage, please explore individual therapy, but there are also options for low-cost therapies as well.
9. Learn to advocate for yourself. Mental health services are tricky to navigate. We all usually start with our family doctor, but don’t stop there! Educate yourself and your doctor on what’s available out there. Join discussion groups online to find out what services might be helpful for you on your journey.
10. Never give up on yourself. There’s going to be times when the pain seems unbearable and you won’t know how you can possibly go on. But you can. The pain will pass and the emotions will ease. Rest if you must but soldier on. Remember that you are not alone.
If you live in the Edmonton area and would like more information on resources in your area, visit my Page Mental Health Matters Edmonton