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Being Proactive with your Mental Health


“An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”

After 3 weeks of no anxiety attacks, an insanely high level of self-esteem and a changed mindset… I experienced one of the worst anxiety attacks I have ever had.

And I wasn’t prepared for it.

It hit me so hard, that it left me mentally crippled. For 3 days.

I couldn’t get out of bed. I hardly ate. Didn’t want to sleep. Cried constantly. And of course, I wanted to self-harm because my suicidal thoughts were raging at this point. I wasn’t prepared for something as drastic as this and I hated myself for it.

Could you believe that?

I was beating down on myself for being unprepared for an anxiety attack that I had no idea was coming; I was mentally chastising myself for not being prepared for something that I’ve been experiencing for years now.

“Why weren’t you prepared for this?!” “You should’ve known it was coming!” “You get anxiety attacks all the time!!”

That’s what the voice inside my head kept telling me. And it drained me even more. I had no strength to fight it; I let it win. I gave up.

But for some strange reason, I had the strength to click on a video on my YouTube dashboard that stroked my curiosity. It was 15 mins long, and that in itself made me want to just ignore the urge and keep scrolling. (I can’t even see a 2 minute voicenote without cringing).

But I didn’t.

The video was entitled “How to Do Stuff When You’re Depressed”. It was a TEDTalk conducted by Jessica Gimeno, a writer and speaker that was diagnosed with 5 chronic illnesses and created a website called Fashionably Ill® to break the stigma of physical and mental health by incorporating fashion and humor with it.

So, I watched her TEDtalk. And it changed my perspective in my mental health journey.

Jessica made a lot of points in her video that made me realize that what I lacked in my journey were mindfulness and a sense of proactivity.

Yes, it’s expected for one to be on medication or see a therapist to combat their mental illness. But, as Jessica said in her talk, “With a visible disability, we assume it will take practice to cope. Yet, when it comes to depression (or any other mental illness for that matter), we think that a label and medication are enough to cope.”

She went on to list three major points that can help everyone of us suffering from a mental illness fight back and win the constant battles. These were:

  • Proactiveness: Let me just say that when I heard her mention this, I dismissed it. I find it so freakin’ impossible to get up and do anything when I’m depressed. I fail to meet my obligations most times, I can’t meet any basic daily requirements like showering or eating on time. I’m high key just a complete mess. However, I have to learn. I have to practice. If Jessica can do it, why can’t I? She says, and I’m paraphasing “When I sense myself getting depressed, I spring into action right away. I call up my therapist, schedule an appointment. I start exercising more than usual…” She began to understand her triggers; the things that may start sending her down in a spiral and she found ways to reduce the impact of those triggers on her mental health. In saying this, she also mentioned that we need to figure out our symptoms of depression and the strategies that work for us. What may work for some, may not work for you. Know yourself.

 

  • Urgency: In my experience, it was hard for me to understand the concept of urgency while locked in a depressive episode. I did all the things that I knew were not of utmost importance (because I mean, those things mainly required very little of my energy) and I was left with the bulk of everything when I got out of my depressive episode. That sucks, honestly. Jessica stated that she had a system where she assigned stars (the more stars the task had, the more important it was and so on) to determine what needed to be done asap and what could’ve waited. I guess with that system, it helped separate the important things from the things that were not and gave her a sense of purpose, and that in itself helps even me get out of a bad place, mentally.

 

  • Difficulty: As I expressed before, doing all the important bulky things during a depressive episode is always the hardest thing.  Everything that I’m used to doing in my everyday life suddenly becomes impossible to do. Jessica’s therapist recommended that if she can’t do 30 minutes of exercise, she can try her very best to aim for just 10. Even 5 minutes is enough. What matters is that you got up and did something, in spite of the burden of your mental illness.

So, in short, practice makes perfect. Some days you’re not going to be able to be proactive in your journey. Some days you’re just going to have to make surviving the one thing you do. But keep trying. Eventually, everything will come easy. Eventually, you’re not going to be trying anymore.

You’re just going to be doing it.

If you’d like to check out Jessica Gimeno’s talk, you can click here to be sent directly to the TEDtalk on YouTube!

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