Are You Crazy?
Mental health problems can be perceived as weakness. You can’t see them, and in our materialistic culture, only something we can see is real.
To make matters more complicated, it’s hard to empathize with people about their suffering. I’ve dealt with OCD/ anxiety and depression my entire life. But, when someone tells me they also dealt with something similar, I automatically think they’re not doing enough work for their mental health.
And even though a shaky mood and intense anxiety have been close companion, I’m still hesitant to say I’ve dealt with mental illness.
For one, this label has an air of permanence. Can you really be cured of a mental illness ?
Also, every human being experiences low mood, anxiety, and rumination. So it’s easy to dismiss anxiety and depression as just a phase, or being dramatic, or being too sensitive.
For those who’ve never experienced the trenches of self-loathing, feelings of constant doom, low energy, racing thoughts and pessimistic attitude, it can seem like mental illness is really just an self-indulgence because of the constant and intense self-focus that comes with it.
It’s true that depression, anxiety and rumination are forms of self-obsession, but telling ourselves to snap out of it or get over it isn’t helpful.
After all, if you had a broken bone, would telling it to just heal actually make it happen?
No, it wouldn’t. And even though self-help authors will say, ‘You have complete control over your thoughts and mind!’ It’s not true at all. We have tens of thousands of thoughts each day, are you controlling all of them?
I think mental illness is a good label if your mental distress is having an impact on your life. This way, we can be softer and kinder to ourselves because framing it as an illness means there are other factors, rather than just being neurotic and self-obsessed.
The First Step
Only you know if your just having a bad week, or if you’re dealing with a constant low mood and depression.
The key is awareness.
But becoming aware of your mental landscape isn’t only hard, it’s painful. Especially if you’re dealing with low self-esteem, and self loathing.
The first time I sat down to meditate was during my freshman year of college (about 6 years ago). It was an uncomfortable shock to realize how angry and bitter my constant internal dialogue was.
The same semester, I started going to a free therapy center at my school.
Despite these efforts, my mental distress kept getting worse. My eyes twitched all the time from stress, my thoughts were always racing, and I began to isolate myself more and more.
And I was studying engineering and hated it, which made my mood and attitude plummet even more.
This came to a boil during my senior year, so I withdrew from college.
I’ve spent the last 3 years building up my internet business. And although there were a lot of hard weeks, I’m in a much better place now mentally (mainly due to the things on the list below.)
I even started college again this semester to grind out my engineering degree because of how much better I feel now than just a few years ago.
How Mental Illness Can Improve Your Life
Counterintuitively, mental illness can be a doorway to a better, richer and more meaningful life.
Through meditation and therapy, my internal dialogue is much kinder, and I’m learning to take my judgments about myself and others less seriously.
Also, I’m much more resilient and less stressed in day to day life now. It’s kind of like wearing a weighted vest for a long time, and then taking it off, or lessening the load. You’re going to feel lighter.
Through meditation and therapy, my internal dialogue is much kinder and I’m learning to take my judgments less seriously.
Now, when I deal with something hard like expanding my internet business, building muscle, or becoming more confident with women, I gently remind myself that I managed to claw through each day in the midst of depression and anxiety.
If I survived these years of being my worst enemy, then I effectively can deal with any problem that I experience, even if it seems impossible at the moment.
Even though there are some benefits to being mentally ill, it’s no way to spend years of your life. You can and should find ways to make yourself feel better and more optimistic as soon as possible.
Here are 10 powerful ways that’ve helped me feel better.
10 Ways to Have Happier Days
It’s a cliche to say that exercise helps with depression and anxiety, but it’s the cold hard truth. Not only does exercise have a ton of clinical evidence showing it improves mental health (see the book Spark for more), but getting in better shape also improves your confidence.
But, it’s hard to motivate yourself to go run or workout when you feel horrible and have no energy.
What works for me is to visualize my depressed, anxious brain as really shriveled and dry. Then I think of exercise as a pump that oxygenates and hydrates my brain. I know the pump of exercise always makes me feel better, so the reward of an improved mood helps me get up and out.
Like exercise, meditation for mental health is also a cliche. Everyone and their mother has a different method of meditation.
For this reason, it’s good to read a book or go to a meditation group with a legitimate teacher.
Meditation has helped me see that my thoughts aren’t reality. In fact, most of my self-defeating thoughts having little to nothing to do with the reality of my life. So it’s becoming easier and easier for me to disregard them, and get on with my day to day existence.
3. Be Productive
I live to be productive.
I have big plans, and the only way they’re going to happen is if I go get them.
Lately my main project is selling books on Amazon.
Here is a recent shipment of about 180 books I sent in a couple weeks ago.
I’m a fan of supplements. Even though a lot of doctors dismiss them as unnecessary, I think they’re an important part of staying healthy.
Though, my obsessive brain will latch onto anything that I think will make me feel better, so I’ve definitely gone overboard in the past in the amount of supplements I was taking.
Even now I take a lot of things: a coenzymated b-vitamin, vitamin D, iodine, lithium orotate, chromium, fish oil, digestive enzymes, l-theanine (great with coffee), zinc, magnesium, and melatonin at night. (Not to mention my prozac pescription).
I’ve worked part-time at a failing health food store in my hometown since I left college at the end of 2016. So, I’ve learned a lot about supplements in the past few years, and get a good deal on them.
Although I might overdo it with them, there’s a lot of clinical evidence for the things above, and effective supplements definitely help with depression, anxiety and mental health in general.
I like to mix it up with the supplements I take, and experiment with new ones.
5. Read Good Books
A lot of self-help books suck. But there are some gems that have definitely helped me adopt a healthier mindset.
Nowadays, I try to only read psychology books written by a medical doctor or someone with a PhD. This filters out most of the charlatans that spew nonsense.
When you’re feeling depressed or anxious, it can be really hard to socialize. I was always worried people would see how neurotic I was being and wouldn’t want to be around me. I’m an intense person, so I still worry about being annoying a lot of the time when I’m around other people.
But, I’m learning to enjoy myself when I’m around other people. I can’t control anyone, so all I can do is try and be respectful towards other people.
The popular blogger James Altucher says it best: ‘Sunlight is a Nutrient.’
We’re alive because of the sun, and it’s good to get exposed to it everyday.
It’s now November and the dreary New England winter is coming up hard and fast, so I need to try and get outside early in the day. Ideally, I’ll go for a run outside to get aerobic exercise and sunlight.
I might also invest in a sunlamp this year because having class/ a job can make it hard to get outside in the winter.
8. Imagining a Better Future
Eventually I want to own 10 acres and start a self-sustainable farm. I want to have enough money invested in a Vanguard Index Fund so I can live off the interest and focus on growing my own food, learning new skills, and traveling.
This ideal future currently sounds far away, but it’ll be closer with each productive step I take.
This framed picture I saw in a gas-station bathroom says it best:
9. Psychology Shifts
Developing a healthier, more compassionate mindset is critical to heal from depression and anxiety.
There are a lot of therapies you can learn about to help with this.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is the most practiced therapy technique in the world, and you can teach it to yourself. It really helped me learn how to see my distorted thoughts in a more objective way. Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) is another really good form that fuses CBT with basic mindfulness.
Also, there are a lot of effective mindset shifts you can teach yourself.
10. Therapy/ Medication
I’ve been to 5 different psychoglostis in the past 5 years. This last one I saw for 20 months, from April 2017 to December of 2018.
Most of the therapists were alright. But, one of them sucked and made me feel worse.
The last woman I saw for 20 months practiced psychoanalytic therapy, and helped me out a lot. She was more focused on the dynamics of interactions and family, and that’s what I needed.
If you’re going to start therapy, it’s important to find a therapist you feel comfortable with. If you’re broke, or a student you’ll probably need to compromise and take what you can get. But, I’ve found not having a therapist is better than therapy with someone who makes you feel bad.
I was really hesitant about taking medication at first. And the first few SSRI’s I tried didn’t do anything or made me feel worse.
Some people, mainly alternative health doctors, love to spew the dangers of psychiatric medication. And they have a point. Medication is probably prescribed too quickly in the western world.
But, if someone is that passionate about shaming people who are on psychiatric medication, it’s likely they’ve never been stuck in the pit of despair, self-loathing, and anxiety. And in that case, their opinion is just hot air and should be disregarded.
Currently I’m taking Latromigene and Prozac. I don’t plan on staying on them longer than a couple of years, but there’s no shame in trying something.
To a Better Life
Telling yourself to just get over it is denial of reality. The reality is, there are a lot of factors to mental health and mental illness.
Focusing on lifestyle changes and trying to create a more optimistic future for myself has been one of the most powerful antidotes to my crippling depression and anxiety.
I’m not out of the woods yet. I still spend a lot of time in rumination, berating myself for not having a girlfriend, and feeling inadequate.
But, my mental suffering is 10x less than it used to be, and I’m motivated to keep walking down the path to true peace and mental health.
It’s easy for me to sit in front of my computer, and type these words onto the screen. And if you’re dealing with mental illness, it can seem impossible to exercise, socialize, or read a good psychology book.
But you need to do something.
Say to your mind, ‘I know I’m suffering and unhappy right now, but I’m going to try and be softer to myself.’
Then, get off the internet, step outside your front door and take a walk.
Even if you feel hopeless and self-loathing right now, this phase of your life doesn’t define you.
Despite what the medical establishment may say, I think mental illness can be overcome. And it can even make us a more resilient, happier, more peaceful person. But, it’s not going to happen by itself-You need to do something about it!
P.S: Be sure to subscribe to my blog! I’m going to be dropping 2-3 new posts every week.
Also, I’m going to be starting a Youtube Channel in the next two weeks where I go more in-depth with selling online, mental health and self-development! Stay tuned for big changes.