Real Advice from People Living with Mental Illness

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The world is filled with people giving advice. Many people love to tell those of us living with mental illness how we can live better, but not many of these people have actually experienced mental illness. Advice from peers who know what it’s like to have these unique struggles is essential. These difficulties are unique to us, so we need individualized support and inspiration, too.

This blog is a powerful collection of such advice. 14 bloggers, business owners, and entrepreneurs have all banded together and spoken up about what it’s like to live with mental illness. No one has said that it’s easy, but knowing that there are other people who are going through the same thing could provide you with some much-needed comfort.

This blog will inspire you. It will remind you of all the good you can do.

Every amazing person here answered the question “When it comes to living a life full of love and meaning, what advice would you give someone living with mental illness?”

Here’s what they have to say:

“Living with a mental illness can be hard. Advice that I would give anyone who has a mental illness is to find what you are passionate about and create it. By doing this, you can start to see that your mental illness doesn’t have to take over your life. Follow your heart, go for your dream and believe in yourself. Don’t let your life be dictated by your illness. Your illness does not define you, but your courage to keep going and your strength to find happiness does.” Marvina, living with Anxiety

“Try everything you can. Forget about the stigma that society has attached to it. I avoided [prescription] drugs for myself for a very long time fearing that I might end up fuzzy headed and since I’m the one managing everyone else’s issues in my house, I didn’t want to risk it. But, I started meds to manage depression and anxiety and I feel like a different, happier, calmer person! Meds aren’t the only answer, so keep trying until something works.” Jenn Alex Brockman, living with Anxiety and Depression

“My advice for someone trying to lead a fulfilled life is to just surround yourself with positivity. We are continuously bombarded with negativity either from the media, peers or family. Just breathe, figure out what is truly important to you and focus on that. If it isn’t contributing to your overall wellbeing, you don’t need it. It is completely okay to put yourself first, in the end you are your best friend.” Anna Jewel Marcellino, living with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder

“Celebrate the small victories… cooking a nice meal, playing a game with your children, reaching out to a friend, taking medication and choosing to learn more about your available options… even taking time to shower and get dressed in the morning. Battling your own mind every day is tough but you are succeeding every day in a hundred little ways that all add up.” Sasha, living with Depression and C-PTSD (Complex post-traumatic stress disorder)

“Sometimes it takes a bit longer to get to a mental place where you can actually go after your dreams, but give yourself time and keep trying, because you will get there! When you’re depressed or overly anxious, especially when it seems like a constant battle, it is difficult to find the motivation to do anything. It feels like too much and too hard. You can still accomplish so much though, if you keep trying and working at your dreams! There have been many times where I’ve felt, what is the use of all this? Then the more I worked on it and kept trying, the more I was able to accomplish, and you can too!” Bonnie, living with Depression and Anxiety

You are not your illness. You are your own human being separate from the illness that is in your body. I try to think of myself as Jenna and not as someone who has Anxiety and Depression, rather Jenna who has experienced Anxiety and Depression. I create a life full of love and meaning by doing what I love. I immerse myself in gratitude for myself and others, practicing yoga and breathing techniques on a daily basis, and traveling as often as possible. The slow and intentional movements, steady deep breaths, and intention setting have all become a staple in taking back the control over my life. Please remember that where there are struggles the triumphs are nearby.” Jenna, living with Depression and Anxiety

“I think one of the biggest challenges anyone faces is trying to live a fulfilled life. It can be especially difficult when you live with mental illness. Anxiety and lack of motivation can hinder your progress, but don’t be discouraged if it takes you longer to chase your dreams than others. Work at it little by little and good things will happen. Just don’t give up. The rewards for doing so are immense.” Leslie Bruckman, living with Depression and Anxiety

“Your illness does not define you. You can travel, get married, have kids, and own your own business. It might be harder than it is for someone without mental illness, but it is not outside of your capabilities.” Mercae, living with Anxiety and Depression

“You are not your mental illness, do not let it define you. I am a wife, business owner, dog mom etc. I am NOT depression. Challenge yourself to stop thinking this way, and you’ll be surprised by what comes out of it. Also, always be upfront with people about it. Tell the people you’re dating, don’t wait till they find out later. The right person will not only understand it, but they will help you get through it.” The Traveling Dream, living with Depression, Anxiety, and PTSD

“There will be good times, and there will be bad times. Know that the bad times will pass, and the good times will come again. Surround yourself with people who support you, and know that you’re not alone.” Kate Parsons, living with Depression and Anxiety

“Someone once said to me, “Life is like a table, the more legs you have, the more stable you feel” and its been so true! I keep myself busy! I’m in a much better place mentally when I have lots of different things going on. I believe we have to embrace our flaws. Also I believe that mental illness is a gift, not a burden! It is us that encourage and inspire others, its us that can sympathize with people during tough times, and it’s us that work harder than others to be the best we can be.” Rebecca Wattam, living with Depression and an eating disorder

“Live in the moment and stop stressing about what could be or what might happen. That’s easier said than done I know. One skill that has worked for me is to think about or write down 2 or 3 things that I am happy about or grateful for and focus on them, say them out loud, tell someone about them. Another skill that has been beneficial to me is to focus on a positive thing that I am working towards rather than the negative thing that I am worried about. I have found that even just what seems like a small thing, to change from thinking negative to positive can help reduce my anxiety and reduce the fog in my brain which provides clarity.” Megan, living with Anxiety

It’s tempting to neglect our own needs because we feel like our loved ones need us to “be okay” for them and hold it together, but that doesn’t work long-term. You have the right to be whoever you are, however you are. If your body needs rest, give it rest. If it needs space, movement and fresh air, go for it. If you need space and quiet because you’re feeling overwhelmed, claim it. Don’t apologize. Don’t ignore your needs. While this may inconvenience some people, it’s only those that accept you in your totality that truly love you, anyway. You are not unlovable because you suffer from a mental illness.” Nela Dunato, living with Dysthymia (Persistent Depressive Disorder)

Stigma is something that can knock us down even on the good days. A lot of people mean well, but simply don’t understand what it’s like to live with mental illness. To live a meaningful and joyous life, we need to learn how to advocate for ourselves and love ourselves as best as possible, whether others respect our struggles or not. Every time stigma tears you down, tell yourself ‘I am amazing, I am strong, I am worthy of love.’ This single phrase will remind you of your beauty, power, and resilience. It will remind you of all the things you can achieve, even when the world is against you.” Arien Smith, living with C-PTSD and Dissociative Identity Disorder

Do you have advice you’d like to share too? If so, please don’t hesitate to add a comment and share with the world how you also believe we can live a fantastic life in our own unique and individual way of experiencing the world!

(P.S. You can learn more about each contributor by visiting their website, linked to their name!)

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  • Nela Dunato
    January 18, 2017 at 2:43 pm

    So much beautiful advice here… I need to bookmark this for the next time the low phase hits 🙂

  • Leslie Bruckman
    January 19, 2017 at 1:47 am

    Very well done! Love reading all the other pieces of advice.

  • Rebecca Wattam
    January 26, 2017 at 2:43 pm

    Thank you for a great post and it was a pleasure to be able to share my advice 🙂

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