Here’s the thing about mental illness. You can try your hardest. You can get up early and exercise and drink lots of water and eat healthy and eat lots. You can do yoga and meditate. You can write and draw and run and sing and knit and paint. You can do your absolute best to have a good day, and still sometimes you don’t. Some days are just bad. And that’s ok.
The constant effort and awareness that’s necessary to maintain positivity and maintain a sense of happiness sometimes gets overwhelming. It’s not possible to be on top of all things, at all times. But it’s how you react to that bad day and lapse in attention that defines how it either resolves itself, or else spirals further. Knowing yourself is more than just knowing how to do your job, or who your friends are, or where the best place to go for cheap cocktails on a Wednesday is. It’s about knowing how your mind and body react to things and the kinds of people around you, and trying your utmost to deal with these reactions accordingly. I know enough about myself by now to recognize that I often get caught up in the heat of the moment and react rashly to statements or people or things happening around me, and immediately regret it. By taking a small mental step backwards and knowing my inclination to do this, I can at the very least rectify what I’ve done or said immediately, if not before it actually happens. Because it’s not going to go away or disappear just like that. It’s something that’s always going to be there in certain people as a natural reaction to the world around them. Those who don’t experience it might find it hard to understand it.
A bad day is a bad day, and however hard it may be to reign in the spiralling thoughts of how pointless continuing on would be, in the end both your body and the world around you are going to keep going, regardless of the reluctance of your mind. If you fall and break a bone, your body’s natural reaction is to grow and fix itself to repair around that break. The only real difference is that your physical cells don’t have that niggling little negative voice saying that there’s no point, it’s too difficult, let’s just leave it broken.
Mental health IS a conscious and constant effort, and it’s easy to back down and be lazy about maintaining a good attitude towards it. Even now as I write this I’m wondering what’s the point of it, but to be honest sometimes it’s nice to just think about it and get your head around what exactly we’re dealing with when we think about mentality and illness of the mind.
Because every day, even for those of us fortunate enough to have a somewhat stable routine, be it work, college, or otherwise – every day is different, and throws up new challenges in our faces that we have to learn how to deal with. For some people dealing with a mental issue for the first time, it may be hard to recognize it for what it is, because as so many people are so quick to point out – we all do have crap days. But it’s when those crap days become the norm, become something that you can’t even distinguish as being bad anymore that you have a problem. As you get older and begin to understand your own mind and body and the way they work, it becomes easier to recognize when things aren’t exactly as they should be, and when some mindful TLC (Tender Loving Care) is required. Once you’ve pulled yourself through a particularly bad episode or day once, there’s a certain knowledge and resigned acceptance to the truth that everything will, in actual fact, be ok. You’ve done it once – there’s no reason why you can’t do it again. But it’s that first time and one seemingly unsurpassable struggle that will test you the most, even if it’s only because you don’t know exactly what you’re dealing with and have never had to think about having an issue with your mental health. Even if it may not seem it, there are plenty of options out there and friends who are willing to talk if you just reach out to them and do it. Let them help you, by helping yourself first.
There’s a lot more that can be said and thought about mental health, and we are by no means making any major breakthroughs as of yet in terms of treatment or prevention. A conscious effort made to be aware of yourself and your mind is truly the only way to ensure you can maintain a kind of mental immune system – to just LIVE it, and be it, and be up front and accepting of it. Just be you.