Mental illness is a horrendous and isolating experience. In fact, our inability to understand these conditions makes them harder to deal with than their physical counterparts. Worse, people misinterpret their severity. Your co-workers may begrudge you time off work because there’s nothing visibly wrong. Your family may develop a ‘cheer up’ attitude because they’re unable to grasp the chemical nature of your illness.
In turn, this isolation worsens the problem. Mental illness causes us to retreat anyway. With conditions like depression, a feeling of detachment and an inability to communicate are part and parcel. Add the fact that people misunderstand your illness, and you’ve got a vicious cycle on your hands.
It’s for this reason that those who have suffered mental illness are often the best activists for the cause. No one else can understand the degree of isolation. And, by stepping up and speaking about it, those who feel most lonely have a platform, and a way to reach out. This is why many counsellors and psychologists are past sufferers. They’re the best people for the job.
If you think you want to use your mental health experiences to make a positive change, you deserve a clap on the back. You stand to be one of the forerunners on the face of mental health. People like you could incite the change in attitude which is so long overdue.
But, what are your options? There are a few different ways to make a change, and we’re going to look at them briefly here.
Talking about mental illness is half the battle. The more conversation we have, the better. So, you could opt to organize speeches. If you’re going down this route, it;s best to pair up with a charity. Together, you could contact schools, or community centers, and organize appearances. Here, you’ll get a chance to talk about your experiences. Try to do so in a way which will help others feel less alone. Talk about your isolation and anything you did to overcome it. Sometimes, hearing someone has experienced the same thing can see sufferers through. These talks could also go some way towards dispelling mental health myths for those who don’t know much about the subject.
A career path into mental health is another option. Bear in mind that this isn’t something to enter into lightly. Opting to become a psychologist will involve a lot of work. You would undeniably have to return to studying. If you’re still in recovery, it may be best to opt for an online psychology degree. That way, you’re not putting unnecessary stress on yourself when you least need it. Think, too, about whether you could approach your role with the detachment necessary. Unlike the talks mentioned above, it would be unprofessional to mention your experiences here. You would need to focus on your patients and their recovery. But, that doesn’t mean you can’t use what you’ve learnt. Simply that you’d need to find another way to do it.
You could also petition for change. If you experienced discrimination, you might be incensed to make a difference. Perhaps that’s with regards to mental health in the workplace. Or, maybe you had to wait a long time to receive necessary treatment. Whatever the issue, there’s plenty you can do to make a change. The more people who petition and protest the issues, the more chances they’ll improve. Setting up an online petition is easy enough, and you could email it around asking people to pass it on. Setting up a protest isn’t as easy, but it’s still doable with a little effort.
As you can see, there are a wealth of options available. But, don’t fall into the trap of thinking that this path will be easy, or even right in the long run. We all deal with things differently. You may believe that you want to get out there, and often, a step like this can make a huge difference for recovery. But, in some cases, you may find that things don’t work after all. For some, talking about their experiences could trigger an illness. Plus, the responsibility you’re taking on could cause stress and anxiety.
That’s not to say that you shouldn’t give it a go, simply that you need to be careful how you tread. Remember why you’re stepping up, and keep checking in with your health. If you notice a decline, consider why, and whether you should step back from what you’re doing. As much as it’s admirable to want to help others, your mental well-being should come first.
So, how do you know if you can cope with the pressure? In a lot of ways, the only true test is to give it a go and see what happens. But, there are a few steps you can take to be in with the best chance of success.
1 Talk to your psychologist
Your psychologist knows, better than anyone, what will help or hinder your well-being. So, speak to them about what you’re considering. Be honest about any worries you have. They may say that the strain will be too much at this stage in your recovery. Or, they may encourage you. Much of the time, a project to be passionate about is sure to be a good thing.
2 Don’t do it alone
Support networks are always critical when recovering from mental health issues. And, that same network will be crucial here. Don’t be afraid to lean on others when you need to. You’re undergoing a massive task, and you need to know when to ask for help.
3 Know the warning signs
Most of us know our mental health pretty well. When you’ve been struggling for a while, you should come to know signs that things are about to decline. It’s crucial you keep those warning signs in check during your undertaking. If you notice yourself starting to struggle, tell people. Take a step back if you have to, and come back to things later down the line.
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