My journey with (diagnosed) mental illness started when I was 12. First came anxiety, and then depression, and, most recently, bipolar disorder. Though these 9 years have been difficult, I have been fortunate enough to be able to receive therapy. I know this is unfortunately not the norm for many struggling with mental illnesses; many go without help (that is another blog post all in itself). That is why I wanted to talk about 3 things I have learned in therapy that have helped me expand my thinking in order to cope with my various mental illnesses.
Just a reminder, I am not a professional. I’m a 21 year old simply speaking from experience. These skills have taken me a long time to work into my coping toolbox, and even still I am not a master of them. Give yourself grace.
Dialectics falls under the umbrella of DBT. Dialectics is the shifting of the mind to see that two things can be true at the same time. I used to be confused when I would feel two emotions at once, because I didn’t really know if that was normal. When I learned about dialectics in group therapy, I realized that two things can in fact be true at the same time. For example, I can be sad *and* excited. I can be lonely *and* content. Instead of saying “I feel X *but* I also feel Y”, I have gotten into the habit of saying *and* instead.
Here are some other examples of dialectical thinking provided to you by Sarah (@sar.thrives on instagram)
2. Feelings are not facts
When I am experiencing a depression cycle, I sometimes *feel* like my negative emotions will last forever. I *feel* like i am not strong enough to rise up and beat off the zombies. Then i learned that just because i *feel* a certain way, that does not mean it is a fact. It is simply a feeling. We must not attach factuality to feelings or thoughts because you can end up believing some nasty stuff about yourself. So, here’s a tip: when you are in your most grounded mind, or your “wise mind”, we must tell ourselves that what we feel is not always the reality. Repeatedly. This will help us when we are in times of distress, because we have already been reminding ourselves of this.
3. Radical acceptance
Ah, radical acceptance, my favourite. Simply put, radical acceptance is the act of accepting your reality, when you cannot change your reality (despite the desire for it to be different). We cannot change what we cannot change. This is a tough pill to swallow! That’s hard! That’s why for me, radical acceptance is the key to letting go of suffering from what I can't change. Once I accepted my reality, I could stop fighting so hard. Resisting my “present'' so much. So, whatever we are experiencing suffering from that we cannot change -- i.e. our weight / our bodies (yup, I said it. We cannot change our bodies long term...), our face shape, our current situation in life, etc etc, we must work to accept it wholeheartedly to reduce suffering.
I want to reiterate that these skills, like acceptance for example, are so much easier said than done. So so so much easier said than done. For me, effective coping comes in waves. Sometimes I am a mess for weeks on end, and sometimes I can pull myself out of it quickly. It all depends on how actively I am working to make myself feel better. Having mental illness(es) is a full time job. So fight like hell. While fighting like hell, though, have some patience with yourself. Be gentle. Be kind.
I'm Maddi and Im a full time student (studying Child and Youth Work), Here I have my blog and my shop, I hope you enjoy!