Vicki M. Taylor
Mental Health is hard to pin down. People with depression, anxiety, Bipolar, Schizophrenia, and such aren't always as open as people with physical illnesses. For one reason, they don't feel as comfortable talking about their illness because of the treatment they receive from those who they open up to. Stigmatism is so prevalent in the Mental Health world. If I had cancer, I'd get more support and the best medical treatments I could ever imagine. But, if I tell the world I have Bipolar Disorder I'm bound to receive comments from "it's all in my head" to "shouldn't you be in an institution?" to shocked silence and eventual breaking up of a friendship or loss of companion.
I found an article that really gets into what Mental Health means to one person. Her name is Kristi Dename and she wrote What Mental Health Means to Me. Kristi opens up about what Mental Health means to her and gets into the nuts and bolts of Mental Health as it exists today.
I am constantly monitoring myself to determine where I am in balancing my Mental Health. I always ask myself the question "What effect will this decision have on my mental health?" when deciding to commit to something or do something that may have an impact on my Mental Health.
I am always wary of long term commitments because Bipolar Disorder is a tricky illness. I can be well balanced and having good days and WHAM! Out of the blue a very bad day can occur and I can sway from manic to depressive or the other way around within hours.
I have to be so careful of triggers that can cause a mood change. I must stay away from drama and conflict, whether it is around me or on television. I have a list of triggers that I must we aware of that may worsen my mental health difficulties:
1. anniversary dates of loss or trauma
2. traumatic news events
3. being over tired
4. family friction
5. spending too much time alone
6. being judged or criticized
7. being teased or put down
8. financial problems
9. physical illness - being in pain
10. hateful outbursts by others
11. aggressive sounding noises (sustained)
12. being the scapegoat
13. being condemned/shunned other other(s)
14. being around an abuser, or someone who reminds me of a past abuser
15. things that remind me of abandonment or deprivation
16. excessive stress
17. someone trying to tell me how to run my life
18. self blame
19. extreme guilt (from having to say "no" to someone, etc.)
21. loud noises
22. unexpected situations
23. closed MRI
24. lack of structure or change in schedule
25. distorted thoughts and feelings
26. rejection - or perceived rejection by friends or family
28. should/could/would statements
29. raised voices
To help me keep track of all my triggers and things I can do to keep my triggers from having a more serious effect, I use what's called a WRAP. Wellness Recovery Action Plan. Mary Ellen Copeland PhD created this wonderful tool to help you manage your Mental Health. I use mine all of the time. Sometimes on a daily basis. I also keep it in a binder so that I can take it with me if I'm ever hospitalized because it also contains a list of all of my current medications, my medical history, my living will, and a power of attorney for health care. All important documents that are needed during a crisis situation like being hospitalized.
When I'm doing well and am Mentally Healthy, I can do the following things:
1. Review WRAP
2. Take a walk
3. Walk my dog
4. Play Boggle
5. Play word search games or Scrabble
6. Take a shower
7. Call a friend or family member
8. Text a friend or family member
10. Watch TV (no drama or conflict)
11. Surf the Internet (no shopping sites)
12. Jigsaw puzzles
13. Container gardening
14. Work on memoir
15. Work on Blogs
16. Color in coloring books
17. Read Bible
It's important that I do the following things every day to stay Mentally Healthy:
1. Eat breakfast
2. Walk my dog
3. Walk myself
4. Brush my teeth and floss
5. Stay on diet (no obsessive eating)
6. Take medications on time
7. Find time to relax and read
8. Find time to catch up on recorded TV programs
9. Find time to blog
10. Read Bible
11. Relax with hubby before bedtime
In my WRAP binder I also have reminders of what things I might need to do on a daily basis. What's really important in that binder is the list of things that I need to watch for in case a trigger does occur and what to do if a trigger takes effect.
There is also a list of early warning signs that my mental health difficulties may be getting worse and what to do if that occurs as well. Nothing is left untouched in my WRAP binder. Crisis planning is addressed including contacts for family, friends, and doctors.
Not all is doom and gloom in my WRAP binder. There is a section on how I am when I'm Mentally Healthy. Signs to watch for when that occurs as well. When I'm feeling well, these occur:
9. Willing to take walks
10. Keeping appointments
11. Going out with others
For the organized person, the WRAP is perfect. If you're disorganized, it's perfect as well, because it will help you arrange your life in an easier way to stay Mentally Healthy.
I hope this was helpful for you. If you have any additions, I'd be happy to read about them in the comments section.
Have a Mentally Healthy day!