I recall being told multiple times by multiple people that I could accomplish anything in life that I set my mind to. I used to live by the saying, “I can do whatever I want” and, implicit in that, “I need to be a raging success at whatever important thing I’m doing”.
But depression, anxiety, and hypomania put a real dent in my life plans. I had to adjust my expectations and my hours. I went from full-time to part-time and then to not working at all.
I had to learn to change the way I thought about success as well as working. I do work a bit now, but its no full time job. I’ve learned to be proud of myself for qualities that I hadn’t considered before. I learned how to take the Next Step.
Next Step is an answer to the question “What’s My Next Step After My Diagnosis? Or an Episode?” Because you are not going to sit in a post-episode funk. You are moving forward, my friend. An episode can really throw you for a loop but we’re going to see about getting out of that funk.
Next Step involves three basic ideas. First, you can still lead a goal-driven life while living with a mental illness. Second, slight changes in your thinking can result in discovering gifts you were totally unaware of and third, little changes lead to bigger changes.
Just because you have a mental illness doesn’t mean you can’t accomplish things. Those are the days when brushing your teeth is the one accomplishment There may be times you can’t get out of bed, but there will also be times that you are energized and goal-driven. Next Step is about using those times to their fullest potential.
To get started, write down six things you would like to accomplish in the next six months. Reducing your debt. Reading more. Writing more. Getting out of the house. Take part in creative endeavors.
But wait…what if you haven’t gotten back up from depression yet? What if you’re still fighting? I know you’re tired. Keep hope in your heart. Write down some things you enjoy…smells, music, tv…and take part in those little slices of happiness. Be gentle with yourself. Monitor your self-talk and do your best to refute the negative. If you feel up to it, take up the challenge to write down six things you would like to do over the next six months.
Next Step, in addition to having goals, also involves seeing your skills in a different light. Like the way you actively control the irritability caused by hypomania. Instead of getting in someone’s face, you smile, say something kind and walk away. Pretty killer skill. Or the way you drag your depressed self off the couch and make a trip to the grocery store. That takes serious willpower. So you’re managing to be kind as well as motivated. Serious skills, my friend, serious skills.
Do you want to practice your newly-found skills? You can get started (finish up) that creative project that either physically exists or lives in your brain. The project that makes you feel excited when you think about it. Writing, computer programming, painting, reading, stamp collecting, online gaming, working on cars, doing stand up comedy…whatever your passion, your art, do some research into what you need to do to start that project.
Why an art project? Because “art” (everything is art), whether you’re doing it or viewing it is good for your brain.
A collection and review of over 100 studies showed that engagement, viewing or participating, in an artistic endeavor showed a variety of positive effects. Specifically, the studies showed:
- a reduction in depressive symptoms
- an increase in positive emotions
- a decrease in the stress response (emphasis added)
Anything that moves you in the direction of having a more positive mindset is golden. So you’re going to start your artistic endeavors by researching whatever you’re interested in. Small steps.
And remember the third component of Next Step…that small changes in behavior and thinking, like researching an art project, lead to bigger changes.
Before you know it you have new goals to work toward and you find yourself taking calculated risks to keep moving forward. You’re experiencing life in a different way. You’re participating in Next Step. You’re living!
Ahem…I got a little excited there. But this is big stuff. Life-changing stuff.
I think it’s important to be clear that Next Step is no better or worse than what you thought you’d be doing had you not been diagnosed with a mental illness. It’s just a different path. When you come upon a tree in your walking path, you either go over, around or move the tree. Mental illness was thrown in your path. It’s time to deal with that tree.
Once you become aware of Next Step you will discover all kinds of new talents. Like appearing calm and keeping it together when your anxiety is running rampant. That takes guts and acting skill. People are always trying to gain the courage that you display on the regular.
So your Next Step skills translate into life skills (motivation, being kind, remaining calm) that most people would like to possess. All of these skills come in very handy when you’re navigating your way through life with a mental illness. Try listing five (5) skills you use to deal with your mental illness.
Next Step is one more thing. It’s you being a warrior in fighting against your illness. Although mental illness has beaten you down, you’ve gotten back up. That is amazing. The guts it takes to do that are seriously tough guts. Be proud of the job you’re doing living with a chronic illness. You didn’t ask for this and you certainly didn’t expect to have to adjust the way you think.
I would love to hear what talents/skills you have discovered as a result of dealing with your mental illness. Leave me a message in the form below 🙂
Action Steps: Write down six things you’d like to accomplish over the next six months
List five skills you use to deal with your mental illness
Research something you’re passionate, or at least interested in doing.
Tell me what goals you’re taking on in the comments below.
I’d love to hear about the skills you use to battle mental illness. What works best for you? Please let me know in the comments below 🙂