Now that another year has passed, you might find yourself thinking about what you’ve accomplished in 2018. But if you have a mental illness, your accomplishments may look differently than others’. Maybe you spent last year the same as I did: surviving. Maybe you spent the last year overcoming and enduring. Because when you have a mental illness, every day feels like a fight. And simply getting through a whole year can feel like an accomplishment. While I can’t say that I finally graduated college, got a great new job or climbed Mt. Everest, I CAN say that I learned these four things about how to better deal with my mental health.
#1: Taking Care Of Myself Doesn’t Always Look Pretty
Sometimes taking care of myself means not getting out of bed or binge-watching TV. Sometimes taking care of myself means indulging in my sweet tooth and eating my feelings. Sometimes I sulk and throw a mini pity party because…that’s okay. Taking care of myself doesn’t always look like I’m just returning from a spa retreat. Sometimes (a lot of times) taking care of myself looks and feels messy. I’m allowing myself to be messy and to do these things for as long as I need to.
#2: If I Only Did One Healthy Thing Today, That’s Enough
If I drank eight glasses of water or made myself a healthy dinner today, that’s enough. If I made it to the gym for 30 minutes or deep-cleaned my house today, that’s enough. If I made a point to sit down with my children and play a game or take them to the park today, that’s enough. I can do something healthy every day. And maybe, eventually over time, I can do more and more healthy things. But today, I can do one. And that’s enough.
#3: I’m A Better Mother When I Take Care Of Myself First
The truth is you can’t pour from an empty cup. My children need me at my best. At the same time, “my best” means that I get plenty of sleep, attend therapy, psychiatry, doctor’s appointments, have alone time, take my medications, track my moods and plenty more. If I’m not staying on top of these things, I can’t be the mother they deserve. Furthermore, it’s okay to take care of myself first. It’s not selfish or indicative of me being a bad mother. It’s just what I need. And I can’t give my children what they need if I don’t get what I need.
#4: Taking Care Of My Mental Health Is A Full-Time Job
Mental health is important. It’s not something you should slack on. And you might even say that my own personal mental health requires much more attention than the next person’s. I’ve accepted this. I’ve accepted the fact that my mental health is a full-time job. That means I’m allowed to get tired, I’m allowed to want a break, I’m allowed to feel overwhelmed at times. That also means I’ll NEVER stop taking care of me.
Even though it may not seem like a big accomplishment, learning these things about myself and accepting them has helped me set healthy expectations. And if you spent 2018 struggling with a mental illness, I hope you can see all the ways you persevered last year. Slow progress is still progress. We are strong. We are fighters. We can do this. Take what you’ve learned about how to take better care of yourself and make 2019 even better.
I’m closer to being a healthier, happier me now than I was a year ago, so I’m calling 2018 a success.