God is better partnered than fought. (141, Monica A Coleman, Making A Way Out Of No Way: A Womanist Theology)
Mental health challenges and disabilities are better partnered than fought too. I must love all parts of myself in order to be well. (Me)
It's World Mental Health Day, so I am going to post some of what I wrote on FaceBook last night about mental health. Every day is a day we should choose to take care of our mind. The mind, body, and soul are all connected and to be well we need to take care of our whole selves. Lately I decided that I no longer will go to bed depressed and irritable, so my new nightly practice is to make sure I do something to put me in a better mood if I am not feeling well before going to sleep.
Reading and completing exercises from The Dialectical Behavioral Therapy Skills Workbook for Anxiety are what I chose last night to make me feel better. You've already seen some of the exercises I've done and I will post later on another one that I did. I have discovered that almost nothing makes me feel better than writing, so that's why there have been so many posts lately. I hope when I return to work that I will still be able to write fairly often.
My BPD & Anxiety (OCD, GAD, PTSD, & Panic - I'm not exaggerating when I say that I'm basically a walking DSM) are back. Amazingly, I'm still grateful for them - they've introduced me to DBT, which dramatically changed my life.
Right now, I'm really trying to work on my people pleasing and my tendency to overcommit to projects. It's really tough because these have been a way of life for so long, but the thing that DBT has taught me is that
our personalities are much more malleable than we previously thought.
I no longer want to get rid of my "disorders" but instead find ways to make them useful. I have so many diagnoses, that to hate or want to be rid of them would be hating and wanting to rid myself of myself.
No, I am not my mental illnesses, but I do see the world through a lens that most people fear. However, I see it as a strength:
through and because of the intensity of my emotions, I am learning how to care for myself and set boundaries at a younger age than many.
I love how DBT was designed for a population usually incredibly stigmatized but now is promoted as a tool helpful even for people with no mental health challenge - it's just good stuff.
From the workbook: "and over time, DBT has come to be the most scientifically supported therapy for people who struggle with BPD. [...] BPD and anxiety disorders often go hand in hand. Therefore, a lot of people with anxiety disorders have been treated with DBT; they just happened to have BPD as well. However, beyond the fact that many people with BPD have anxiety disorders, evidence suggests that many DBT strategies and skills may be very helpful for a lot of the problems that go along with anxiety disorders. For example, studies (see Robins and Chapman 2004, for a review) have found that DBT can be quite useful for: anxiety disorders and symptoms, depression, substance-use problems, eating disorders, and trauma. In fact, the skills taught in DBT are so practical and based in such common sense that almost anyone could potentially benefit by at least knowing something about them."
I am very aware of the language I use and I change how I label myself often to get different points across. I don't usually like identifying as a "mentally ill person," as that just seems so impersonal and objectifying, although I will sometimes say it if I'm trying to make a point about accepting people with mental illness.
However, I do absolutely identify as a disabled person.
My challenges do affect how much I can work and other areas in my life in a way that not everyone else does. But this is not necessarily bad - I think disabled people grasp the evils of Capitalism much better than the general population and it is this understanding that pushes us to seek better ways. (I think about how evil Capitalism is quite a lot these days - if anyone has any books to recommend on how to positively change the current system, please let me know in the comments!)
Tonight's final thought: as my roommate and I were walking in the neighborhood together just a few hours ago, we talked about how even though we are both experiencing some mental hardships right now, we are both in a better place than we ever dreamed. We are both astounded at the quality of friendships we have now. Somehow, we have managed to find people that truly understand and relate to our challenges and who support and encourage us on our paths towards wellness.
On this world mental health day, try not to get so caught up in material things and instead work on your connections. Connect with your body, your creativity, your soul - connect with those who support and encourage too. Pursue positivity while accepting where you are. We all have mental health needs, so let us talk about them openly with all who will listen with an open heart and mind.
(exercise 1.2 from The Dialectical Behavioral Therapy Skills Workbook for Anxiety)
Thank you for sharing. You humble me a little more every time I read your truth. You are courageous and necessary. The value you contribute makes the world a better place, and I think that's what life is all about!