Hopeful Reminders for Someone Beginning a Mental Health Recovery Journey

Mental Health Recovery Journey

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What is mental health recovery and what does it entail? A true-to-life mental health recovery definition will cover not just getting back to the point of being able to function, but will include more of helping you achieve your best, most-satisfying life. You might have already questioned whether or not you can make the journey at all.

The recovery journey back to health has no ideal to strive for. Everyone’s looks different, custom-made for the traveler, if you will. Most people who have traveled the mental health journey will tell you that their path was rarely, if ever, a straight and steady one—more like a roller coaster or traveling over rolling hills, with plenty of hits and misses, plenty of ups and downs, with setbacks, insights, positive changes, and epiphanies along the way. Recovering your mental health in full will be a gradual process that takes time, and positive changes will happen so subtly, you won’t notice them other than in retrospect.

You may have already noticed that your mental health has had significant impact on your life in several ways regarding such aspects as normal and every day activities, once-familiar friendships, intimate relationships, and your ability to maintain employment and financial security, to name a few. To make matters worse, the more losses you incur, the more you will feel overwhelmed, like you are losing your grip on things.

What can you do to help yourself bounce back? Above all, remember that mental illness is manageable, no matter how bad it may seem at times. Here are some ways to manage your expectations.

  • You don’t have to do it ALL. There is no end of advice that you will receive from well-meaning friends and family, and it will likely all sound cliché’ish, like “fortune cookie wisdom.” And it can nudge you toward feeling hopeless and helpless. But you don’t have to do everything you’re told. Do what appeals to you, and what you think you might like, and ignore the rest. It is yourjourney, after all.
  • Adjust and adapt. You may find that some approach or other that you’ve found to you cope well, like a certain medication, is beginning to lose its effectiveness. You may find this frustrating. Don’t worry about it. You are the one supplying your own arsenal of tools, so if one stops working, or you can’t keep up with it, just let it go. You’ll find another to replace it.
  • This is going to drain you a bit. Managing your mental health can be demanding mentally, emotionally, and even physically, especially for the first few months. Changing negative beliefs and self-defeating talk takes quite a bit of effort, so don’t be surprised. Don’t feel guilty about asking a friend or family member to run an errand for you because you’re just feeling overwhelmed, or about taking a nap if you need to, or about going to bed early on a weekend. Moving in the right direction will take a lot out of you, and that’s OK.
  • Your “new normal” is normal.Roll with it. Whether it means regular medication, therapy, rehab, finding a more low-stress job, just roll with it. Your journey isn’t “supposed to look” any particular way. It just looks the way it does. Not better or worse than anyone else’s, because it’s uniquely yours.
  • Don’t ever give up on trying to solve the puzzle. If your mental illness ever felt overwhelming, trying to figure out how to manage it can feel even more so, like a puzzle or an equation that you just don’t get at times. Your medication may not be working like you think it should, your therapy sessions and/or rehab may not seem to be getting you anywhere, but don’t ever quit. You will figure the puzzle out eventually, so just learn to enjoy the process.

No matter how many stumbles and discouragements, it is one of those journeys where you will not see how far you’ve gone, until you stop for a rest and look back. As you go along the path of your mental health recovery journey, you will find slowly find pieces of yourself that you may feel you’ve lost. There will be times when you feel like you’re returning to the “you” you’ve come to know.

You got this. Enjoy the ride, and remember that you’re not alone, and that you are worth it.

How are you doing? How is your journey going so far? We’d love to hear from you, even just to talk! If you or someone you love need to talk to someone about mental illness or feelings of being overwhelmed, we want to help. Consider reaching out to our expert team at Solara Mental Health at 844-600-9747.

Be Aware of the Effects of Social Networking on Mental Health

Negative social media effects on mental health

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Looking back in time, one might say that social media sites as we know them today crept up on modern society unawares. Those of all ages–ranging from the very young and impressionable, up through adolescence, young adulthood, and even mature adulthood–have come to follow social media apps consistently (and even obsessively, one might argue).

Over three-and-one-half billion people worldwide use the internet, and over three billion of them use social media regularly, amounting to about 40 percent of the earth’s population. It is certainly one of life’s more ever-present daily activities for a significant portion of humankind, whether for a few minutes daily, or for hours at a time. Some of social networking’s benefits include the ability to stay informed, self-educate, build and relationships with family and friends, professionally network, interact with another human being at any time of day or night, and share expertise. But have you ever wondered if you can use social media sites too much?

Unfortunately for those who love their social media time, there is enough evidence to argue to some degree or another that the downside of social media effects on mental health well outweigh its touted benefits.

Sources of lowered self-esteem, social anxiety, and moodiness in social networkers have been shown to include cyberbullying, heightened stress levels, unhealthy comparison of self with others, jealousy, depression, feelings of helplessness and/or hopelessness, impaired ability to manage emotions, disrupted sleep, and decreased productivity leading to a decreased sense of achievement.

According to a 2015 research study at the University of Missori, researchers noted that regular Facebook use can lead to depressive symptoms if the interaction creates feelings of envy in the user. In a study conducted by the British disability charity known as Scope, 1500 Facebook and Twitter users were surveyed, and as high as 62 percent of them reported feeling “inadequate” and 60 percent reported feelings of “envy” caused by comparison of self to other users.

Think about it. It stands to reason that if you have a generally negative outlook on life, or are already feeling somewhat down, regularly scrolling through pictures of happy couples and other cheerful characters living what appears to be a “perfect” life, it can easily make you feel worse. Excessive online social networking and mental health are not always a harmonious combination.

What else do social media and mental health statistics have to teach us? Excessive social media use has been directly linked to less happiness overall. Other studies have shown that Facebook use was linked to less life satisfaction overall, as well as less moment-to-moment happiness. Another study suggests that social networking creates a heightened perception of social isolation in the user unlike other solitary activities, and this perceived sense of self-isolation is one of the most emotionally destructive dynamics humans can encounter.

While it still stands that social networking has some benefits, there are plenty of convincing reasons that factual data can show us how social media affects us negatively.

You don’t need to “swear off” social media cold turkey, but you can motivate yourself to use social media in moderation. Here are some ideas to help manage its effects in your life:

  • Choose to seek out the positive, and soak in the gratitude for your own victories as well as for those of others.
  • Remind yourself regularly that social media isn’t an accurate representation of real life.
  • Stop tormenting yourself with comparisons of yourself to others.
  • Don’t be afraid of missing out by unfollowing your most (seemingly) happy and successful friends (even if just for a while).
  • Give social media a rest by deactivating your account(s) (you can reactivate them later at any point).

The effects of social networking continue to be studied, but nothing we’ve learned so far has even remotely indicated that its effects are anything but detrimental to your mental well-being. You’re still on the computer? One final tip: go outside, face the world, and start creating your own realistic and successful, happy moments.

Do you suspect that excessive social networking is having a negative effect on your mental health or on that of a loved one? If you or someone you love need to talk to someone about mental illness or feelings of being overwhelmed, we want to help. Consider reaching out to our expert team at Solara Mental Health at 844-600-9747.

Showing Support for a Friend or Loved One Who Has Attempted Suicide

suicide attempt

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The suicide attempt of any individual creates an unsettling ripple effect on the lives of those close to him or her. Fortunately, he or she failed in the attempt, but in the mind of the suicidal individual, this failure only exacerbates problematic feelings of depression, incompetence, guilt, shame, low self-esteem, and worthlessness. You may feel overwhelmed and want to dissociate from the problem, or you may feel angry, or you may worry about a subsequent attempt by the individual. You may want to panic, criticize, or lecture the individual. None of these reactions will help the situation, however. The best thing you can do is show the suicidal individual understanding and that he or she has your moral support by being thoughtful, caring, kind toward your friend or loved one, and by handling the situation very delicately.

 

If you’re like most people close to someone who has attempted suicide, you may not know how to be supportive because you probably don’t know exactly what to say. When a friend or loved one attempts suicide your own emotional state may also be impeding you from knowing how to help.

Don’t be afraid, and don’t press the individual to answer questions. Making yourself available, gently asking open-ended questions, and actively listening to the responses can help keep communication lines open. Be enthusiastic and offer hope. You can create a “safe space” for the individual so that he or she feels understood, listened to, supported, and comfortable talking about any emotions being experienced.

The tone you use to help facilitate a dialogue should be reassuring to your friend or loved one should be reinforced by statements that help validate his or her inherent worth, the validity of his or her emotions and experiences, and the fact that you are available to listen. Some suggestions for what to say to help break the ice include:

  • You’re not alone in this. I hope you’ll talk to me whenever you feel the need to. Tell me what I can do to help. We can get through this. I believe in you.
  • Your feelings are valid and they are OK. You don’t have to feel guilty about anything you have felt or are feeling.
  • You’re important to me. You matter.
  • Don’t forget to take care of yourself and your feelings.
  • I’m sorry to hear you’ve been feeling so powerless and overwhelmed. I’m so grateful that you’re still with us.

Another show of support for your friend or loved one who has attempted suicide is to do everything you can to help keep him or her safe. Know ahead of time whom you can contact (trusted counselor, clergy member, or family member) for help if a situation with the suicidal individual begins to go south and you fear for his or her safety. Another way to show support is by gathering resources for him or her. There are several support hotlines available for someone who is feeling suicidal, such as the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (1-800-273-TALK (8255)) and the National Hopeline Network (1-800-SUICIDE (784-2433)).

The most important thing you can remember is not to feel selfish about setting healthy boundaries and taking care of yourself. You can’t “save” or protect anyone all alone. Help create a support network of friends and/or family members that are willing to make themselves available for your friend or loved one to talk to and confide in.

The thought process and emotional turmoil that lead to a suicide attempt is long and complicated one, and you should give your friend or loved one the needed time to heal. Be patient with the process. There are no quick fixes or shortcuts for helping the individual after the attempted suicide. Take things slowly and in small steps. The individual needs time to work through and process any emotions, and this is perfectly normal. Just don’t downplay, minimize, or oversimplify what your friend or loved one is going through.

Your loved one can bounce back given time and space. Slowly and surely.

Having trouble starting a hard conversation after a friend or loved one attempts suicide? If you or someone you love need to talk to someone about support for someone who may be suicidal or feelings of being overwhelmed, we’d like to help. Consider reaching out to our expert team at Solara Mental Health at 844-600-9747.

3 Major Ways Mental Illness Affects Relationships

Mental illness effect on relationships

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Mental illness in relationships is often a dynamic that gets marginalized and considered peripherally, at best. Every individual, and hence, every relationship is unique, so how mental illness affects relationships depends on many singular factors.

For the affected partner (or both partners), many questions loom: “What kinds of issues will arise because of my mental illness?” “When and how should I talk about it with my significant other?”  “Should I even be in a relationship?”  “Will she/he get tired and give up on me?”

As far as healthy relationship tips go, you should ever keep in mind that everyone deserves to be in a supportive, committed relationship. For the long haul.

A healthy relationship can provide much-needed emotional and social support, while an unhealthy relationship can only contribute to exacerbate the already daunting symptoms of a mental illness. But it’s important for both partners to develop reasonable expectations as well as an awareness of appropriate ways to manage issues that arise due to mental illness.

Following are three common ways that mental illness affects relationships.

Co-dependency

One common dynamic seen in couple relationships where at least one partner has a mental illness is that the “healthier” partner will spend a lot of time taking care of the ill partner, especially early in the relationship, and sometimes for several years. Problems arise when the caregiving partner neglects his or her own needs and begins to feel the effects of burnout (not unlike those that affect nursing staff in psychiatric hospitals). Burnout can result in resentment, irritability, angry outbursts, and infidelity.

Another problem occurs when the affected partner develops a perceived sense of helplessness without the caregiver partner. A counterproductive codependency can fester and undermine the relationship.

It’s important for you and your partner to develop some reasonable, healthy boundaries in order to avoid someone getting resentful and burnt out.

Disrupted communication

Someone with a mental illness not only has the illness to cope with, but also overwhelming waves of emotions to address. Often, it is difficult for the affected partner to articulate how he or she is feeling, or may downplay what is really going on out of fear of being abandoned and feelings of guilt.

For the partner of an individual affected by mental illness, communication can become strained and superficial, and as he or she realizes that the effects of the mental illness are not the affected significant other’s fault, feelings of guilt can develop and fester.

It’s important for you and your significant other to communicate openly and to keep everything as transparent as possible. There’s nothing worse for a relationship than one or both partners not having a sense of “what is really going on.”  

Disrupted Intimacy

There are several ways in which mental illness can negatively impact a couple’s sex life.

Side effects from medication can inhibit libido, disrupt arousal, and prevent orgasm.

Such symptoms should be discussed with your partner, as well as with your physician. Discussing the issue openly and working on an optimal medication and dosage can help mitigate adverse side effects.

Remember that it is critical you do not stop taking your medication. A psychotic or manic episode can do far more extensive, lasting damage to your relationship than side effects that hamper things in the bedroom.

Approaching a solution

Individual counseling for one or both partners may be what your relationship needs to stay healthy. Medication can be a huge help. Couples therapy is an option for many relationships.

As you and your partner work on the best approach to managing issues caused by a mental illness, you both should be sure to show support, appreciation, and affection for one another. The effects of a mental illness on a relationship don’t have to be permanent.

Having trouble starting a hard conversation about a mental illness condition? If you or someone you love need to talk to someone about mental illness or feelings of being overwhelmed, we’d like to help. Consider reaching out to our expert team at Solara Mental Health at 844-600-9747.