7 Things I wish I knew about mental illness before!

Nervousness, anxiety, depression, I have been going through it all. Since childhood, I was extra sensitive and situations would affect me more than they would others.

Battling depression and alcohol abuse was really difficult and there were days when I felt the only place for me was the mental asylum.

While I am in a better place today, I have lost many wonderful things along the way including relationships, career growth and sadly a part of my authentic self.

Here are some of the things I wish I knew about mental illness before…

-Pooja K, Feature Writer

1. You are not alone

It might seem like you are all alone in this wretched situation and are the only person in turmoil. The truth of the matter is that many are suffering from the same pain and anguish.

As reported by World Health Organisation in a 2001 press release, “One in four people in the world will be affected by mental or neurological disorders at some point in their lives. Around 450 million people currently suffer from such conditions, placing mental disorders among the leading causes of ill-health and disability worldwide.”

While this is certainly not something to be happy about, you can take solace in the fact that you are not singled out.

In the past, many A-list celebrities such as Cara Delevingne, Demi Lovato and Deepika Padukone have come out in the open and speak about hush topics such as mental illness and depression.

Also Read: Celebrities about Mental Illness: “In their own words.”

As someone going through mental illness, it is important that you speak up too and spread awareness to those in need.

2. There are moments when suicide seems like a sweet option

Did you know, as per Mental Health Reporting, around 2-15 % of those who suffer from major depression and 3-20% of people with bipolar disorder die by suicide?

Yes, I must admit, that rather than go through the anxiety, terrible feeling at the pit of my stomach, bouts of depression, humiliation and nervousness, the prospects of suicide did look rather tempting.

While I have not gone all the way, I did resort to self-destructive attempts such as slashing my wrists and drinking harmful substances. And each time I did something like this, I felt really ashamed and stupid later.

The important thing is not to act on that gnawing thought. If at any given time, you realise that you are a threat to yourself, it is very important to take closed one into confidence so that they can stop you.

When I felt like there was simply no hope for me, I used to confide in a trusted friend who would immediately talk me out of it and change my perspective.

Online counselling helped too as it provided me with a lot of support. If you feel like you do not have a closed one to lean on (and even if you do), an online helpline or support group is highly recommended.

3. It is important that you find an outlet for your mental issue

There is no denying that those suffering from mental issues need treatment. But having said that, it is very important to find an outlet.

So many people who have been diagnosed with bipolar disorder and depression have had an extremely creative and talented side to them.

Be it those in the show business like Mariah Carey and Vivien Leigh or illustrated writers such as Ezra Pound and Sylvia Plath. While the latter suffered a tragic death, there are some who have managed to bravely battle it out till the very end and lead successful lives.

Finding an outlet is extremely beneficial as it works like a balm. You land up venting your anguish in a productive manner and it offers momentary relief. And trust me, you do not have to be a creative genius. It can be as simple as maintaining a diary like I did.

Even a physical outlet like exercising helps. Studies have time and again proved that regular exercising can help alleviate the symptoms of depression and put you in a better state of mind.

4. You are more likely to get into alcohol and drug abuse

As per The National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER), there is a “definite connection between mental illness and the use of addictive substances.”

Those diagnosed with mental health disorder are reportedly responsible for consuming 38 percent of alcohol, 44 percent of cocaine and 40 percent of cigarette.

While my friends and I went out drinking on a regular basis, I seemed to have a very different relationship with alcohol. There were times when my friends did get drunk, but they went on living their lives perfectly normally. For me, on the other hand, it was an uphill battle as I began to rely on alcohol to deal with the pain caused by my mental illness.

Also Read: Are you worried about your loved one’s Mental Health? 7 ways to help them

It got very ugly as I drank more than my capacity regularly, made a mess of myself and let it hinder my progress in life. I lost many relationships along the way as they couldn’t handle the disgrace that I had become.

My parents and loved ones went through extreme distress and I truly regret the anguish that I caused them.

Alcohol and substance abuse is never a good idea, but those suffering from mental illness, depression and anxiety should all the more steer away from as the chances of getting hooked are very strong.

It will only aggravate our situation and bring havoc into our lives.

5. You will be amazed at how much progress you get with therapy

I cannot stress on how much I wished I had gone to therapy before the early signs of my erratic behaviour showed up. I started seeing a therapist out of sheer desperation when I had lost my job and had a terrible alcoholic episode where I woke up in a stranger’s apartment who took pity on me after I passed out.

I cannot put into words the shame I felt for letting my life go in such a disarray.

Through regular therapy, I discovered that my abuse was getting triggered by my depression of my world belief being shattered. So, when I started getting healed from within, I no longer felt the urge to take to the bottle.

To put into simple terms, my issue was solved from the root cause.

Think of your therapist as your trusted friend who you can confide to and who has in his/her power to set you on a path of recovery. My sessions were scheduled every weak where my therapist used to note down my progress, guide me through my emotions and offer me invaluable advice.

We went all the way back to my childhood to sort out dormant issues that were still creating problems in my adult world. We also recognised the trap of patterns that I was falling into and how to avoid them. I was really amazed at my progress.

6. There is a part of you that is in control no matter what

Yes, our hormones are all over the place and it looks like we are trapped in a vicious magician box where our mind and body plays tricks on us. But you know what I have realised, as much as we are acting out due to our condition, through it all, there is a part of us that is still in control.

Take my example,

I maybe couldn’t help feeling the anguish that I went through but nobody shoved alcohol down my throat, it is me who chose to give into my addiction. Nobody forced me to burst out on my dear ones, I did.

When we are aware of our symptoms and understand to differentiate when we are acting out due to the mental illness and we are not, it gives us great power to navigate and control our actions. It is this part that can make us take that step to seek healing and work towards it.

7. Life does get better

When you are in the situation that you are in, it is really hard to believe that there is any silver lining. But trust me when I say this,

there is a better and beautiful life waiting for you at the other end of the dark tunnel.

When I was a compete shattered mess, who would rather end my life than having to deal with another day, I really never imagined that one day, I would have a blissful life with a stable job, a loving husband and two kids.

I must admit, it was a long winding and bumpy road to get there but when I finally did, I was amazed at how far I have come and what all I am capable of doing. The same applies to all of you. Does it require effort and determination on your part? Yes. Is it worth it? Most certainly it is!

Coming from someone who has gone through her own share of ups and downs, please do not give up on life because of mental illness, depression or anxiety. Think of it as a curable ailment that needs your attention. Once you tend to it and seek proper treatment, you will overcome it.

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