The mental health diagnosis boot camp
So you’ve just been diagnosed with a serious mental illness. Or that’s what it was called back in the day when I was diagnosed. You can’t believe it right? There was you, wondering what life was all about and why you feel this way and like.. BAM! Several dudes in tweed jackets are telling you over a table that you have Schizophrenia. Or, bipolar, or depression.. or whatever. It’s scary right? Back in my day I had only heard about this sort of stuff in films. I *actually* thought I was going to get whisked away in a straight jacket and an ambulance. Lucky for me I wasn’t.
Anyway, it’s a scary prospect. And the doctors don’t beat around the bush about this sort of thing. They told me that it’s now going to be my life for the rest of my life. I would be taking medication for the rest of my life. And if I stop I would fall unwell again. Apart from wanting to break down and cry at the time I could feel that all too familiar resistance feeling welling up at the pit of my stomach. I wanted to run. Run away as far as I could and never come back. I knew I was in for a life of stigma, a life of humiliation and a life of people trying to tell me how I should live it. Thankfully it wasn’t like that at all. There was a big drive at the beginning of my journey to champion mental health awareness and end stigma. It’s become progressively better each year.
So. Let’s get to the nitty girtty. I want to give you a few pointers and tips about surviving that diagnosis and the rest of your life. Her’s a few pointers in that way.
- Prepare for your life to be turned upside down. Don’t fight it.
When I was first diagnosed I fought it. I fought it like I was General Custer trying to make my last stand. I wanted to run away, I wanted my old life back. Don’t. The more you fight your diagnosis the worse it will be for you. Do as your doctor tells you and work with them. Tell them how you feel consistently and keep those communication lines open. I’m healthy today because I eventually became open and we worked together.
2. Drugs / Alcohol / Mind inducing stuff need to stop
No offence. But no. This stuff is only going to make you worse. Drugs make me anxious and alcohol has me depressed. I know I bleat on a lot about this but for us people with Mental Health problems it’s really not good. Through my experience I’ve found that in the past I’ve used alcohol and drugs as a self-medicating system. A sort of emotion numbing effect. What if you were to tackle those emotions sober? Wouldn’t it be intoxifyingly awesome if you were to take control of those emotions for yourself? Yeah. Drugs and alcohol bad.
3. Prepare for the awakening
I like to call it the awakening because it’s what I had in a way. When I stopped fighting the diagnosis I eventually sought help. And I sought every help that I could find. My ears were open, I wanted criticism, I criticised myself and I was open to suggestion. I sought counselling, psychotherapy, CBT and a whole other array of help. After I fought my way through all this help I started to realise that the world was my damn oyster and I wanted to grab the world by the bahookie. If you do this you will find yourself in the awakening too.
4. People love to give you advice
It’s nice that your friends and family will get involved but if you’re anything like me chances are some of your friends and family will turn Phd Psychiatric Consultants overnight. Some advice will be really good, but some advice will be really shockingly bad. So just take the good with the bad and remember that they only want to help. Just take what everyone tells you with a massive pinch of salt and remember that only YOU knows what’s good for YOU.
5. If you’re not already, reach out to a voluntary organisation
I love Voluntary organisations. Mostly because all of their staff have been there, done that and worn the t-shirt. They have been through the mill just as much as you and have come out of the other end smiling, or nearly-smiling. If there’s anyone out there that’s going to really, really want to see you succeed it’s them. Offer your help, see if you can use their services. Just get involved. I’ve been in the voluntary sector for over 10 years now and I know through experience that everyone has your best interests at heart.
6. Keep your friends close – except those toxic ones.
We all have great friends but as soon as you’re diagnosed you’ll find they soon drop of like flies. The ones that will be left are the ones that are there because they truly like you, and the friends that are there because they need you for something (i.e. drug use, bad habit circles etc). Think to yourself this: Who would I trust more than anything to be there for me when the absolute poo hits the fan and then roll with your choices.
That’s it for now. I hope I can add to this as I go along and think of more. But, be safe my friend and I hope this handly little guide helps 🙂