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Things to remember when you are struggling with your mental health

1) It's okay to talk about your feelings. Sometimes talking about your feelings can be hard, but we all have feelings and we all struggle sometimes so there's nothing to be embarrassed about or ashamed of. If you feel uncomfortable talking to family members or talking face to face, then you could talk to a friend or someone online, or you could write a letter to a loved one saying that you need help. Talking about your true feelings does not make you 'attention seeking', it shows that you have the courage to be authentic, honest, deep and raw and that is beautiful and shows your strength. Sometimes you may feel like others have it worse, and some people might, but that doesn't mean that your struggle isn't valid and you are not taking help away from 'someone who needs it more'. It is good for you to talk about your feelings so that you can get help, and when you get help you can feel better and then you will be in the right frame of mind to help others. No matter how you are feeling or how bad it is, you can open up, there are no rules and it would be amazing if we could live in a society where people could talk about their emotions openly without fear, then other people would feel more comfortable talking about their feelings as well.

Some people feel like a burden for talking about their feelings, but I can assure you that you are not a burden at all. The people in your life care about you and would likely rather help you, be there for you and talk to you than know that you are struggling alone. Sometimes we can get defensive, detached or angry when we feel like we have to open up about our feelings, vulnerability can be scary for some people. Take your time and ensure that you are talking to someone that you trust and who you feel safe with. Talking about your feelings can help because it helps you get your feelings out so that you don't keep ruminating over things in your mind which can cause you a lot of distress. It also helps you to develop connections with others and feel heard and allows you to feel validated and to seek advice. It allows you to know that you are not alone and never will be, we are humanity, we are a community and we can be there to help one another. If someone opens up to you about their feelings or if they tell you that they are struggling, please remember to be validating, empathetic, gentle and non-judgemental. Be there to listen when those you care about need it the most, please never shame an individual or be angry at them for opening up, be proud of them for having the courage to do so and speak to them in a way that nurtures their wellbeing.

2) It is okay to rest and take breaks, in fact it is actually vital. If you do not take the time to rest and take breaks, then it can take a toll on your mental and physical health due to stress, if you don't rest then you can also feel as if you are loosing yourself and the joy can go out of life. If you don't listen to your body and rest when you need it, you could feel fatigued and drained and not have the motivation or energy to do things you enjoy, and that can affect your work performance as well. If you don't remember to take care of yourself, then you may struggle to be there for others when they need it, you can't pour from an empty cup; please know that your needs are just as important as the needs of others. Without a break, you can begin to lose your spark and start feeling as if life is dull and if you don't listen to what your body needs then you can begin to become quite hostile towards yourself and forget how to nurture yourself, this can affect your self-esteem and outlook on life.

Resting after a difficult life event is also extremely important as it gives you a chance to process your feelings and experiences and allows your body and mind to heal. Resting and taking breaks can also help you in the long run as it can give you the mental energy to form new ideas for projects and enhance your creative thinking. Taking breaks can also help you with self-introspection so that you can learn more about yourself so that you can see what your needs are and see if they are being met and can give you time to evaluate your life and see if there's anything that needs to change. Resting also helps you to cultivate self-love and self-compassion and nurture yourself and your inner child. Taking breaks from what you usually do can give you the time to try something new so that you may find a new hobby or learn about a new topic. Resting also allows you to recharge so that you feel refreshed and have a 'fresh start' which gives you the motivation to try something new and can help you to feel freer. Resting can also prevent meltdowns as it can ensure that you are not overstimulated, if you are overstimulated or overexerting yourself, then it can exacerbate the symptoms of a pre-existing condition.

Resting can take many forms, such as doing something creative, spending time in nature (which can be very calming and grounding), listening to music, watching a movie, having a sensory break, wrapping yourself in a blanket and getting comfy, having a nap, spending time with loved ones, taking a social media break or a technology break, having a few 'rest days' to get in tune with yourself again and recuperate, colouring, expressing your inner child, using fidget tools, reading, looking at quotes that nurture your mental health etc. Do whatever works for you.

3) Remember to set healthy boundaries. Sometimes, being around too many people or having too many commitments and socialising a lot can be very overwhelming, draining and stressful for some people. Know that it is okay to say 'no', it is good to be able to take time for yourself, it is okay to take time off of social media, it is okay to cut down on socialising if it is distracting you from what you feel is important or if it is draining you. It is okay to be in solitude and focus on things which bring you a sense of calm and joy. It is okay to say to people that you don't want to take a phone call right now or that you need a break.

You can also set boundaries regarding what you feel you do not feel comfortable doing or talking about, such as in a relationship, if you have a loving partner then they should be understanding and respect your boundaries. Sometimes talking about certain topics can harm your mental health, so it is okay sometimes to say that you respect yourself enough not to talk about a certain topic until you feel comfortable, this doesn't mean avoiding triggers, but not discussing things that are going to impede your recovery or harm your mental state when you are struggling. It is also okay to say that you don't feel comfortable doing certain things, you should never be pressured into something that you don't feel comfortable with, so be sure that you can be assertive when it comes to your boundaries. Boundaries help you develop self-love and self-respect and can prevent you from reaching burnout or feeling resentment, so they are very important. If someone is a good friend, partner or family member - they will respect your boundaries.

4) Try not to judge yourself for feeling a certain way. Sometimes we are conditioned to think that certain feelings are inherently 'bad', but this is false. All feelings are valid and sometimes people may say things that contribute to the stigma of mental illness or make you feel bad for struggling, but don't listen to these people as they don't understand what it is like, and it can hurt when you feel misunderstood, but please know that it isn't your fault that you are feeling a certain way, you do not need to feel guilty for struggling. Your mental health struggles could be the result of a chemical imbalance in the brain, neuroinflammation, food sensitivities or vitamin or mineral deficiencies, stress, trauma, isolation or difficult life experiences, but it isn't a choice so know that you don't have to judge yourself for it. Accept and validate your feelings.

Feeling depressed doesn't mean that you are ungrateful and feeling anxious or afraid doesn't mean you are weak. Try to observe the feeling within yourself, feel where it is in your body, and just be with it and try not to judge it, if you do then that is okay as that is just what you have been conditioned to think, but just remember to have as much self-acceptance as you can. It is okay to feel sad, it is okay to feel scared or fearful, it is okay to feel shameful, it is okay to feel angry and frustrated, just be with it, it will pass, and know that you have nothing to feel guilty about or judge yourself for, you don't have to be happy all the time, as pretending to be happy all the time can just lead to emotional repression which is unhealthy. Validating your emotions can help a lot, learning ways of thinking positively can also be incredibly helpful as well, but remember not to superimpose positivity over the pain, but see if you can use therapy techniques to change your thinking patterns where possible if that works for you, whilst still accepting the feelings that arise within you.

5) You don't need to berate yourself for anything, sometimes we can be quite hostile towards ourselves, or we may feel like we 'deserve to be punished', but no matter what mistakes you make or how often you feel like you have 'messed up' or 'let people down', I can assure you that you never need to 'punish yourself' or 'prove your guilt'. Your mind is playing tricks on you, and if your mind is bullying you it can sometimes feel quite real, but just keep reminding yourself that you are loved and that we all make mistakes.

Sometimes we may feel guilty for things we have done in our past, but the fact that you feel guilty for it and things are different now shows that you have grown and learnt from your mistakes and that is something to be proud of.

6) It is okay to cry, you don't need to hold it in. Crying can act as an emotional release and can be quite soothing, so know that it is okay to let it out, there's no shame in it, it is natural.

7) We are not here to be perfect. Nobody is perfect or does the 'right thing' all the time. By holding yourself to those standards you end up self loathing and feeling like you are stuck in a deep pit of shame. It is okay to have flaws, it is completely normal. We all have things that we may not fully accept about ourselves, but that is just you and it is part of your uniqueness.

If there is a certain trait within you that you do not like or that you feel ashamed of, remember that there might be a reason why it is present, and at one point in your life it may have served you. For example, if you don't like how argumentative you are, maybe part you is just desperate to be listened to, or maybe you just need the stimulation, if you have a superiority complex and feel ashamed of that, maybe it is there because it is hiding something - maybe a part of you actually feels small and weak, but it is being hidden behind this false sense of superiority where you feel as if you must act assertive and confident to hide your true feelings, another example could be that you hate how hyperactive and 'immature' you are, but it is actually something that is out of your control and could be the result of a neurological difference, so you cannot just 'slow down' or 'get more self-discipline' - it doesn't work like that. Instead you could see the positive traits, such as the hyperactivity giving you enthusiasm, passion, drive, spontaneity, eccentricity etc. These are just some examples on how your way of thinking could be changed to accept yourself more and not feel ashamed of what you perceive to be your 'imperfections'.

Remember that life is a journey, so there is no need to be 'perfect' all the time as you can just do your best and go with the flow and grow along the way.

8) Remember not to compare yourself to others or hold yourself to neurotypical standards. Sometimes we may see people who seem to 'have it all together' and you may feel as if you are expected to do the same, but trust me when I say that when people appear to 'have it all together', they probably don't.

Sometimes we may actually compare ourselves to others with the same conditions, for example, I remember comparing myself to someone who has Tourette's, OCD and depression and was doing really well at university, and then to someone else with PANDAS who managed to do well at university as well, but that made me feel really bad about myself as my brain fog, constant intrusive thoughts and lack of ability to focus were making it virtually impossible for me to write or do work at the time. It is vital to remember that conditions affect everyone differently. For example, someone with depression may be able to work full time, yet another person with depression may really struggle to get out of bed, these people have the same condition yet it affects them differently, but both of these people are likely trying their best to deal with some really difficult things, so know that you don't need to compare yourself to others, especially not to others with the same condition. Sometimes seeing people with the same condition achieving a lot can be incredibly inspiring, but other times it may make you feel like a failure, it depends what mental state you are in.

You also don't have to hold yourself to neurotypical standards or do what you believe is expected of you by a societal norm. The brains of people with neurological, neurodevelopmental, neuroimmune and psychiatric or psychological conditions can work very differently to a neurotypicals brain, this is why we may sometimes have to do things differently, and that is okay. Someone with a condition may struggle to be in full time employment or full time education, some people may struggle to sleep at a 'reasonable time' due to insomnia or sleep disturbances, some people may struggle to have the motivation to do things such as wash their hair or brush their teeth, some people may have the attention span of a few seconds, therefore may not be able to perform long tasks, some people may have debilitating anxiety to the point where they feel as if they cannot leave the house etc. These are real struggles that people go through, but someone with a neurotypical brain may not fully understand it, so it is important not to judge yourself for it, you have to go slowly and be gentle with yourself as getting better can take time, but know that you don't have to be angry at yourself for struggling to do things that most people take for granted or that is second nature to most people.

9) You are exceptionally strong, that is something to take credit for and I mean it, one of the things that amazes me the most in others is their strength and courage when dealing with difficult situations and circumstances. Most people wouldn't understand the strength it takes you to face the day when nothing seems to bring you joy and when you are facing so much, you should be proud of yourself. It is like some sort of superhuman capability to keep going and living your life when times get tough, you may be enduring more pain and facing more emotional and mental anguish than most people could comprehend, and I am proud of you for being here and for getting through the day. I am proud of you for trying your best and taking the time to rest when you need it. You are a warrior and you have already overcome so much.

10) Be gentle with yourself and nurture yourself back to health. Mental illness is an illness and not a choice, so you have to remember to be patient with yourself and listen to your body. Sometimes it isn't more self-discipline you need, but more self-compassion. Being gentle with yourself can stop you from being so hostile with yourself and allow you to take it as easy as you can, remember to treat yourself with the sort of nurturing and support that you would give to a young child or a good friend, try to be kinder to yourself when you can. Sometimes you have to take it easy and that is okay.

A faded image of the sunset making the clouds in the sky look slightly orange. Text that reads 'Remember'


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