Five months ago I was released from a psychiatric hospital after admitting myself for suicidal ideations. My mind and my life have revolved around my time there since then. It was a life-changing experience for me. It was a time when I realised that I had to put myself first, that I had to take care of myself, and that I had to do these two things consciously and consistently.
The first lesson I’ve learned has been that the conditions from which I suffer, depression and anxiety, can be managed effectively. For me, that requires a cocktail of five different medications combined with two-years-and-counting’s worth of therapy. I have found that this delicate recipe of Cymbalta, Geodon, Buspar, Trazodone and Ativan works to keep me fairly level and balanced, while the coping skills I’ve learned in therapy help me to recognise and combat the inevitable bumps in the road. I’ve learned what triggers my anxiety and so I can take steps to keep myself from situations that might get me started. I’ve also learned that anxiety always contains something untrue, and I’ve learned to analyse my thoughts to help me find the lie and keep myself from cycling on it.
Secondly, I’ve learned that I can’t deal with these diseases by myself in silence anymore. I’ve started putting together a support network for myself and I try to talk about my struggles openly. My support network used to be my wife and no one else. I’ve added my psychiatrist and therapist. More of my family is now aware of the problems I have. I’ve surrounded myself with supportive friends who understand what I’m going through and I’m trying to slowly expand that circle. Talking about mental illness isn’t always easy, but I’ve made the decision that if someone is going to be a part of my life, they are going to know about what I deal with on a daily basis. If they can’t handle it, I don’t need them. That might seem harsh, but doing things the other way, where I try to shield everyone else from my problems led to me wanting to kill myself and I’m not going back down that road again.
Sticking to the basics when it comes to taking care of myself has been another important lesson for me. That means taking my medications every day without fail. It means taking a shower regularly. It means getting enough sleep every day. I am not Superman. I can’t keep working ten hours a day, five days a week on five hours a night’s sleep, fuelled by a two-lit bottle of caffeine. I did that for years and it nearly destroyed me. I can’t be everything to everyone. I had to accept that. I can’t set unreasonable expectations for myself and continuously push myself trying to meet them. I have had to learn to accept who I am and what I can realistically expect from myself. Irrational and unreasonable expectations of myself have contributed to over two decades of self-abuse from which I’m still recovering.
Lessons learned, so where exactly do I stand five months after being released from the hospital? The most honest answer I can give is this: I’m standing right where I am right now. My feet and my expectations are grounded. My mind isn’t dwelling in the past what-if’s of depression and it’s not racing into the future what-if’s of anxiety. It’s here, right now, and I’m learning to live in the present.
Author Bio – Jason has suffered from depression and anxiety for over twenty years. He can be contacted on his Facebook.