Your Relationship with your mental illness

Did you know you have a relationship with things besides people?

You have relationships with your jobs, with your home, with your life as a whole.

And with your mental illness.

This concept may seem foreign to you, but I promise as we improve your relationship with your mental illness, you can feel an incredible amount of relief.

Let’s talk about it.

Defining “Relationship”

I first learned this way of thinking about relationships from Jody Moore (shocker, I know, I never listen to her. Only 24/7), and that way of thinking is that a relationship is the way we think about something.

For example, “we just don’t have a good relationship,” could translate to, “I have really negative thoughts about said person.”

If we take this definition and translate it to literally every kind of relationship we have, the results can be really powerful.

If you improve your relationship with your job, and you start thinking about it positively on a daily basis, your relationship with your job improves.

This is crucial because when we feel we have a good relationship with something, we feel inclined to give more to that relationship. To improve it. We give of ourselves much more willingly.

When we feel we have a bad relationship with something or someone, we pull back, shut down, and give all of our power to that thing.

So how does this work with a mental illness? Let’s see.

Our relationship with our mental illness

I know there are a myriad of mental illnesses out there, but I am going to use anxiety as the example. It should apply no matter the specific illness.

Let’s say either a doctor has diagnosed you with anxiety or you have shown enough symptoms that you have taken on that diagnosis, either way is fine with me.

Often times, when we receive that diagnosis, we don’t want to accept it.

We think, “no, I’m fine. This isn’t happening to me.”

I like to think of our relationship with anxiety as our relationship with a new step-parent or step-sibling.

Although I haven’t experienced gaining a new family member in this way, I can imagine the adjustment would be bizarre.

Maybe you don’t want to accept that there is someone new.

Maybe you don’t like this person.

Maybe you feel life was better before they came along.

But, the reality is, they are there. They are now a part of your life.

The same thing with anxiety.

Now, many people hate thinking this way, because they worry if they accept it, they won’t work to improve it or lessen it.

But you can just decide right now that you are going to accept it AND work to improve it. It’s not all or nothing, my friends.

Acceptance

Acceptance is powerful because it’s hard to work on improving something that you are trying to deny exists.

When you accept step-mom, you are saying, “well, I don’t like this, but this is how it is and that’s okay. I don’t have to like it.”

When we lean into anxiety, or settle into the reality of it, we can release so much tension.

We can release thoughts like:

“I can’t believe this is happening to me.”

“I’m crazy.”

“I hate that this still isn’t better.”

And replace them with thoughts like:

“I have anxiety and that’s okay.”

“I’m not crazy, my brain is just wired differently than other people’s.”

“I know that this will improve over time and I don’t have to rush it.”

Changing our thoughts about our mental illness improves our relationship to it, and the first step is acceptance. It is a part of our lives in some form or another.

The Shame-Blame Trap

I want to talk to you about something called the shame-blame trap.

Now this applies in all of our relationships, and our relationship with anxiety isn’t any different.

We generally find ourselves in one of two situations: blaming our mental illness, or shaming ourselves.

This trap is another form of all or nothing thinking and can be overcome by finding middle ground.

What if, next time you are having a hard time, you decide “this is not anxiety’s fault. It’s also my not my fault. It just is.”

It’s so funny how humans love to find something to blame. And when that stops making sense or someone tells us not to blame that thing, we blame ourselves.

One of the kindest things you can do for yourself is to allow things to simply be how they are.

When you struggle with mental illness, you will have many bad days and difficult weeks. Maybe more so than the average human. But that doesn’t mean there is something wrong with you, and that also doesn’t mean your mental illness is ruining your life.

All it means is sometimes you have bad days.

Some days you can work really hard and get everything you need to done.

Other days you can’t get out of bed.

What if that’s okay? What if we didn’t layer on to our pain by saying, “I can’t believe this. I hate how this is ruining my life. I hate how I can’t get anything done.”

Because, hold on. That’s not true.

You can get things done. You proved that a few days before. And you will totally be able to function, do the things you need to, and live happily again.

When we accept pain as it comes, we can bounce back so much more quickly.

We get out of the shame blame trap.

And we realize that it just is.

It’s a bad day, it’s a bad week, but it truly won’t stay that way forever. Grieve, heal, and bounce back when you’re ready.

And let that be okay. Humans are not robots. We need rest, we need bad days, we need recovery days, and that doesn’t make us bad.

So friends, when the anxiety comes, let it. Allow it to take you over for a bit. Let yourself feel it and allow it to be there. Remind yourself that it’s totally okay, that it’s normal.

When the cloud of depression wakes you up in the morning, have compassion for you. Don’t blame depression, don’t use it as a crutch, but allow yourself to slow down, have a bad day, and come back to yourself when you are ready.

I tell you this so you can escape the shame blame trap, because shame feels awful and so does blame. But allowance and contentment, that leads to peace.

By accepting our mental illness as a part of life and allowing it to be there, and releasing yourself from the shame-blame trap, you really can improve your “relationship” with your mental illness.

I love you guys, stay calm. Talk to you soon.

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