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mental health bannerGood morning darlings, welcome to Mental Health Thursday at Mama’s house. Today I’m going to share some of my tips for living with a mental health diagnosis. Partly this is because today is Thursday and I have arbitrarily decided that on this, the day that Ceiling Cat hath made which is after the Hump Day but before the Beer Day, we shall discuss all things mental. And partly because my very best friend sent out an SOS last night.

This is going to look a lot like a Top 10 Tuesday list because, well, it was going to be. But it’s so utterly fucking perfect for this.

top 10 ways to take better care of your mental health

  1. Do at least one thing that challenges your brain every day. Your brain is a muscle and if you don’t exercise it, it will atrophy.
  2. Reach out to others with the same or similar diagnosis.  Sharing what’s going on with others who are there now or have been there is helpful.
  3. Be completely honest with your care team.  Tell them about all of the good things and the bad things.  They need to have the complete picture in order to best help you. And don’t leave out ANYTHING. The bits that may seem entirely trivial to you could be the key to finding the right med. Or, in my case once, could lead to the discovery of a very troublesome side effect.
  4. Know your medications.  Find out exactly what they’re supposed to do, how they should make you feel, and what side effects you need to watch for.  Most importantly, find out what else you shouldn’t take while on them.  Some drugs have terrible interactions with other drugs. In this vein, keep a list of your current meds (including dosages) with you at all times. Also, keep a list of everything you’re allergic to and what the reaction is. This could well save your life.
  5. Get informed.  Find out what’s going on with research in the field of your disease.  Know if there are new meds you should be asking about or alternative therapies you should be seeking out.
  6. Learn the difference between a normal mood fluctuation and a true mood swing.  It’s ok to feel a little happier or more sad than usual, but know the difference between this and being either manic or depressed.
  7. Taking care of your body is just as important as taking care of your brain.  Make sure that you attend to your physical needs as well as your mental needs.  If you’re physically sick, go see your GP.
  8. If you have trouble sleeping, make sure you get enough physical activity during the day.  If your body isn’t worn out physically at the end of the day it’s that much harder to fall asleep at night.
  9. Do something purely for your own enjoyment every day.  Eat a favorite food, listen to music you enjoy, read part of a book, make something with your hands – anything that brings you joy.
  10. Get it out.  If you’re having a rough time talk to your therapist, a friend, a parent, write in a journal.  Feelings left bottled up inside just fester until they blow up.  Get the thoughts and feelings off your chest so you can examine them for what they really are.

So my bestie sent me a text right after dinner wanting to know if I was busy. That is code for “shit has gone down and I need you.” She has a Dx of bipolar I and has been on the exact same meds the entire time I’ve known her. Over the last few months she’s lost her joy for living. She’s not really interested in leaving the house to have fun, isn’t having as many people over to her house, has been sleeping a lot – you all likely know the drill.

At first she thought she was sick. Then she thought it was probably stress. Today she finally decided that it’s almost got to be related to the bipolar so she called her psych doc and got an appointment. And then she got in touch.

I told her all of the things that I know she’d have told me.

It’s ok to be scared, and it’s not dumb to feel that way.

Sometimes the meds stop working so you call the doc and see what other options there are.

Yes, it’s hard. The best things in life generally are.

You can get in touch any time you need me, I’ll keep the phone handy.

I love you.

The simple act of reaching out is a scary and difficult thing, but it’s so worth it.