But I think today it’s appropriate to mention that I have bad days, even though I’m treated well. Lack of sleep has a lot to do with it. And to be honest, a lot of the misinformed news reports following the death of Miriam Carey last week (the woman who drove her car into a barricade at the White House) has been bringing up intense triggering feelings that I like to avoid.
It’s been said she suffered from postpartum psychosis, which while very rare, if not properly treated can be devastating. Postpartum psychosis is VERY different from postpartum depression or anxiety. It goes WAY beyond it to a place of paranoia, hallucinations and delusions.
I’ve known a few women who’ve had postpartum psychosis and had proper treatment. Women whose families recognized the signs and got them help. And not one of them completed suicide or tried to harm another human being or their child. If Miriam had gotten the treatment she needed, perhaps last week’s tragedy may have been avoided.
But here’s the thing. Those suffering with mental illness (whether postpartum or chronically) feel judged. In the media, the violent crimes and deaths related to mental illness are all that we see. But these incidents, while unbelievably tragic, are enacted by a TINY percentage of those living with mental illness.
The vast majority of us are very active contributing members of society, who would not hurt a flea. Ok, maybe a flea, but you know what I mean. We are non-violent, loving, empathetic and successful people. We actively seek treatment and find ways to take care of our mental health, even beyond medication (which is an important part of treatment but absolutely not the end-all be-all of what we do to stay healthy.)
We all have bad days. I’m sure you do too. It’s just that our bad days can smack us on our asses. So we must have a stockpile of self care and therapies at the ready. Because good treatment is possible. Very possible.
So what are these therapies? What do we do to maintain our mental health?
I put out the question earlier this week, asking my friends and fellow advocates to share what activities and treatments are most helpful to them. Here’s a list. If you have other thoughts, I’d love for you to leave them in the comments.
Medication (when necessary)
I think for most people its a challenge when you need medication for mental illness. Not only remembering to take them everyday, but also accepting the fact that we need to take them. From someone who has taken meds for a very long time, believe me, it sucks to be dependent on them. But at some point in time, we have to admit to ourselves that they help and commit to taking them.
Emma said, “It has taken me a long time to admit and accept that I do need to take medication and finally take them. They do help and without them I can’t function as good as I should.”
For me, again SLEEP is a huge one. I have to get quality sleep. An absolute must.
Jenn @bipolarmomlife said, “I’m loving essential oils to help me get an incredible night’s sleep – lavender is amazing!!
I also manage my anxiety with my diet. As I’ve talked about before, gluten and actually grains in general exacerbate my anxiety. So I do my best to avoid them. It’s not always easy, but it’s clear to me that it helps.
Brittany @YNFinished stopped drinking and she said, ” I have more energy when I’m eating less junk and not overeating/eating emotionally.”
From vitamins to minerals to herbs, there are a lot of things that can contribute to better mental health. Some may work for one person and not another. So its best to work with your doctor or naturopath to come up with what’s right for you. But things like Vitamin D or Magnesium deficiency can contribute to low energy and depression. St. John’s Wort, for example, has been known to help with reducing anxiety. My friend Rula uses a tincture of herbs prescribed by her naturopath that has practically eliminated her chronic anxiety. So these things are worth a look.
Disclaimer: Please note, I am not a doctor so these are just suggestions to look into with your own help professional.
Many of my friends and fellow advocates mentioned yoga and exercise as being an important therapy for their mental health.
Jennifer @jenrenpody said, “Exercise and yoga help me so much.”
Greta @gfunkified said, “Running helps me so much. I feel like I can handle things better after I’ve run, even on the treadmill.”
Reading and playing Words with Friends are activities that help me. Both distract my mind and calm me. Basically anything that can help calm the mind or body is a big help. For some that means knitting, writing, reading the Bible or even bubble baths for example.
Avoiding Triggers/Negative Experiences
Triggering discussions on social media or negative news events can be big triggers for someone with mental illness. Its really important to increase the positive and decrease the negative, and be kind to ourselves when the news starts to effect us. Its OK not to listen to or read up on the latest violent crimes or tragedies.
Speaking up when I’m feeling down helps immensely. Saying the words “I’m depressed” out loud takes away a lot of its power over me. Being honest with others, but also with yourself is HUGE.
Emma @RealSuperMum said, “What helps me … is support, being honest and open with not only the professionals but with my family and friends and myself.”
Even hynotherapy, which is a blend of relaxation techniques and talk therapy, can work. I actually had hypnotherapy about 10 years ago for PTSD for a rape. That was super effective for me.
Erin @4theloveofEvan mentioned that she and her family participated in EMDR therapy to treat the effects of PTSD after her brother’s suicide. Otherwise known as Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing, Erin said “it basically helps take the sting away from traumatic experiences.”
Here’s more information from WebMD “EMDR uses a patient’s own rapid, rhythmic eye movements. These eye movements dampen the power of emotionally charged memories of past traumatic events.” Also here are two blog posts about EMDR from @KathyAMorelli of BirthTouch here: Parts One and Two.
So what do you do?