The Secret to Surviving Life with Mental Illness

Boundaries.

If you ever went to youth group, summer camp, or a small Christian school, or even just grew up in the church, boundaries are something you are all too familiar with. What I didn’t realize outside of my own previous knowledge was that boundaries apply to more than just dating.

If you suffer from any form of mental illness, you most likely have triggers. I’m not a psychiatrist, psychologist, or anybody certified to diagnose you, but you’re anxious and depressed due to something that has happened, is happening, or (just for my anxiety girls), something that will happen in the future. What would happen if we told our triggers to go sit in timeout for a minute because we needed to set some boundaries? Glad you ask. Keep reading.

I’ve had anxiety for a long time; since I was a little girl. It has taken me years to figure out what makes me anxious. The best part about it is I discover new triggers for my anxiety as soon as I think I’ve figured myself out.  If you’re new to the whole mental health thing, let me explain a trigger to you.

Triggers are things that spark panic attacks, states of depression, manic thoughts, or any scary thing someone with a mental disorder experiences in a day. People with social anxiety are typically triggered by social events like parties. This means they are most likely to have a panic attack when they are at a party.

Once you know your triggers; and they WILL change throughout your life, you can set your boundaries.

Let’s make this even more complicated: there are healthy boundaries and unhealthy boundaries, just like you were taught in youth group. Sex outside of marriage is an unhealthy boundary. You have that one memorized, I’m sure. Let’s do the same thing for **insert your mental illness here.** The easiest way I can explain this is by giving you, the public, worldwide web the boundaries I currently set for myself.

  1. I don’t really have social anxiety, but I have GAD (Generalized Anxiety Disorder). I am not a fan of large crowds, though. But LISTEN UP: my boundary is not to avoid large crowds all together. That is an unhealthy boundary. My boundary is to carry something with me that makes me feel safe IN large crowds. I have a couple irrational fears about large crowds so I always carry my pepper spray, my emergency panic attack medication, and a couple of tums. I know what you’re thinking. Those are all so different and so random, but I’ll explain them. I have the irrational fear of being raped, so I carry pepper spray. It makes me feel safer. I also know I’m more susceptible to panic in large crowds, so if I do have a panic attack, I have a medication just in case. I also get really bad stomach aches when I’m anxious, and ever since I developed anxiety at age 10ish, taking a Tum has seemed to help (probably a Placebo effect, but it works for me). I know myself, and large crowds (the trigger) now has a boundary around it.
  2. I also struggle with depression. Depression is always hard for me to talk about in a relatable sense because for me, it comes and goes with seasons of life, and people experience it at so many different levels. The things that trigger my depression are laziness, loneliness, and boredom. Those triggers have also changed over the years. I know for a fact that if I come home from work and immediately get in my bed as the first thing I do, I will most likely not get anything done for the rest of the night. I also know that while I’m introverted, not spending enough time with girlfriends will eventually get me down. We were created for fellowship and accountability. You need girlfriends no matter how introverted you are. Finally, I know I will be depressed if I think I’m bored. Now, there is always something to do in my life at the moment, but these days, boredom looks like scrolling through social media on my phone; do that too long and of course, depression will kick in eventually. In summary, my boundaries are 1) don’t get into bed first thing after work, 2) schedule time with friends, & 3) get off of the phone.

I hope this makes sense sisters. You don’t have to keep living in fear or sadness. You were not meant to live your life cooped up forever or crippled by the great big world out there. Also make sure one of your boundaries is consulting Jesus daily in your life, especially when your anxious or depressed.

So here’s the Action Plan:

  1. Determine your triggers. Write them down. Make a chart. See which ones relate to each other.
  2. Come up with a boundary for each trigger, knowing yourself and what makes you feel comfortable, safe, and happy.
  3. If you’re still confused about what triggers your mental issues, see a counselor. Schedule an appointment right now. They’re way better at digging through your brain than I am!
  4. Pray that God would transform your mind so that you can live happier, healthier and fearless.

 

 

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