This new year is another fresh start, just like this morning was and tomorrow will be. This time of year, at the beginning of the year, we think about what we want to do, perhaps differently, to be successful and happy. Here are 5 things every mentally ill person should aspire to do in 2015:
1. Take your meds
I know, I know, you will be tempted to stop taking your meds for many reasons – side effects, forgetfulness, the fact that you feel better and, thus, MUST be better and don’t need those silly meds anymore. I urge you to stick to the regiment. Talk to your doc if it isn’t working. Be open to trying new meds. But don’t become your own psychiatrist and take a little more of this or a little less of that. It doesn’t work. Take you meds.
2. Be your own advocate
I hate to break it to you, but you are on your own when it comes to advocating for your own healthcare. If your therapist isn’t the right fit – find a new one. If you psychiatrist doesn’t look up from his prescription pad and TALK to you – find one who will. If your insurance is giving you the run-around, get on the horn, talk to a real person and sort things out. I have had to do all these things and more. There was no one else who could do them for me. I knew I was important and I deserved proper care. So do you.
3. Create a support system
I wouldn’t be here today if it wasn’t for my support system. Point. Blank. They have saved me in the most literal sense of the word. Maybe you don’t have a mom like mine who is always there and on her toes to make sure I am doing well, but there are people out there who care about you. There are a multitude of online support groups and forums like the ones here on PsychCentral.com. There are NAMI meetings in your area where you can meet people like yourself and find friendship. Also DBSA has meeting all over the country as well as resources, much like NAMI. Your support system need not be big. Mine includes my parents, my boyfriend, my best friend, my cousin and my psych team. It is enough. Find yours.
4. Work on acceptance of your mental illness
Nothing has been more freeing for me than accepting my illness, knowing it is simply a part of me – not all of me. There is so much stigma (SO MUCH) surrounding mental illness that it is easy to feel ashamed and embarrassed because the wiring in your mind is different than the majority of people. That does not make you less than them, it makes you unique. There are over 5 million Americans with bipolar disorder. You are not alone.
5. Be brave
Last May I has the opportunity to be a part of the theater production, “This is My Brave.” More than a dozen of us – from high schoolers to middle-aged women – stood up and told our stories of mental illness. I was scared to death, but I did it because I knew it could help someone in the crowd. Don’t be afraid to share your story. Storytelling saves lives. Before I was diagnosed as bipolar 1, I didn’t know diddly about the illness. It took months of research and reading to understand it, to know what to expect. Your friends probably don’t understand what you go through. Don’t be afraid to tell them.
At the beginning of each year people vow to eat better and exercise more, to take care of their physical health. It is important. But so too is your mental health. Don’t push it to the side in hopes that your symptoms and episodes will go away on their own. Make it a priority to be mentally healthy. Happy New Year!
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