Mental Health

Everyone discovers different things to make happiness and health happen for them. While there may not be a cure for what ails you, actively managing mental illness and being proactive can greatly improve your quality of life. Sometimes I have a hard time bothering when I know that I can't actually "cure" my illness, but in a way I can beat it by living well and not succumbing to it.

Here are some of the things that have helped me most.

Yoga, tai chi chih, walking, jogging, hiking, exercise classes, swimming. Exercise is more than just physical benefit; getting out of the house, socializing or meeting new people, even the distraction of activity helps me manage and improve my mental health.

Water has always been therapeutic for me, and I'm not just talking about drinking TONS of it. Swimming, being near water, taking warm baths, listening to a fountain, or having a waterfall view are an important part of my happiness. Even rain can be therapeutic and enjoyable (although not usually when I'm trying to walk home from the library or something like that).

For knowledge and enjoyment, books are a wonderful asset. Reading about self-love, emotional intelligence, self-awareness, and other "self-help" type books can be quite helpful to me as I work on mental health related stuff but I have to be careful to avoid books that make me feel like a failure or put too much pressure on me to change or "fix" myself.

As for pleasure-reading, I enjoy fantasy and classic literature, some memoir and historical type stuff and even the occasional web comic :o)

Social Support
I have always struggled to be social and make new friends or even reach out and communicate with those I do have, so this is an ongoing "growth opportunity" for me. Outlets like this blog, crafting dates, volunteer work, or local meet-up groups help keep me social and maintaining self-awareness helps me work on improving my overall social health.

I count therapy under Social Support and this is usually a very helpful tool for me while navigating depressive relapses. It is vital to find a good therapist and I've had just as many poor experiences as I have good, it just takes time and effort to find the perfect fit.

Psychiatric medicine has helped me survive multiple crises. That said, I know how difficult it can be to find the right combination of meds. Vitamins have also been useful to me and getting screened for deficiencies is important. Low Vitamin D, B Vitamins, or a dysfunctional thyroid can contribute to depression problems. I find Vitamin D, B, and fish oil supplements to help most in boosting my mood and emotional resiliency.

In addition to therapy, blogging, talking it out, and exercise I find it helpful for me to keep a journal. I find it difficult to keep writing when my life hits a positive curve but try to maintain this practice through the dark and bright times.

Diet Alteration
There is ton of commentary out there about diet and mood and health and all that yadda-yadda and while I don't have a set diet to swear by, I totally believe in the power of food. Eating better makes me feel better, it's just a question of making new habits happen!

Inpatient Treatment
This is a new addition to the list and proved to be quite a useful tool for me as I navigated postpartum changes. I've made great friends and found wonderful providers during my inpatient stays.

ECT seems to have helped bring me out of the worse suicidal depression of my life to date. It's not all roses, but it's also not as bad as you might think. We do what we've got to do. Memory pitfalls are no joke. Not beating myself up about it makes missing memories sting less, a lot less. I consider my hubby the "bearer of my memories" and he reminds me of my cloudy or missing memories quite often.

DBT is Dialectical Behavioral Therapy and is a specialized type of therapy that is especially recommended for those with borderline personality disorder (like me!). I went to a group session/class once a week and saw an individual therapist as well. The class takes six months and it's common for students to retake the course to better learn and integrate the skills into their lifestyle.

Simply stated it's about learning skills to better cope with daily life and become more effective and healthy in day-to-day life. It's pretty intense and more challenging than I expected! So far, it has been very helpful though.

TMS is transcranial magnetic stimulation and involves using magnetic fields to stimulate certain areas of the brain to hopefully retrain your cells and brain juices to work in a healthier pattern. It's noninvasive and doesn't involves anesthesia like ECT. I even got to watch Netflix during treatments.

You wear a funny cap with marks that shows the technician where to place the coil and then receive multiple pulses that feel like something is thumping your head over and over (at a tolerable level of impact). One side is a pulse every second (I call that the "Paul Bunyan" side) and the other side is a rapid succession of pulses in a burst every several seconds (I call that the "woodpecker" side).

TMS was quite instrumental in helping me taper off ECT and helped manage my depression and anxiety. It was also a lot easier to taper off of than ECT. I discontinued my TMS maintenance treatments when my seizure disorder cropped up as my doctors wanted to play it safe and avoid accidentally triggering any seizures.

I'll keep updating this page as the learning continues.


"The future is no more uncertain than the present." -Walt Whitman

And sometimes, I just feel like.... 

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Be well, HBF