What is it Like to Have a Mental Illness?

A diagnosis can be many different things, because there are so many different mental illnesses. While no two illnesses are identical, several illness share symptoms with each other – which makes a doctor’s job much more difficult.

Since there are many different illnesses out there, I obviously cannot tell you what it is like to have all of them. So this post will focus on what it is like for me to have a mental illness.

Mental illness is usually discussed in hushed tones, if it is discussed at all. I'm tired of living in darkness and confusion where most people have no idea what I'm going through. They think that I'm attention seeking, or making it up. Mental illness is real, though, and someone else's lack of belief in our suffering does not make our problems any less real. This post is to help people without a mental illness have a little more clarity on what having a mental illness is actually like.Living with a Mental Illness:

For me, socializing is absolutely exhausting. I need time alone regularly (usually daily) or I have a breakdown because I can’t cope with the stress of trying to be normal anymore. I can’t go out in public without seeing and hearing people pointing and laughing at me. Voices call my name and talk to me, and I often respond without realizing they aren’t actual people. I fixate on certain people, and try to communicate with them without telling them what I want to say – for instance, playing or singing a certain song around them so they can realize without me telling them that I am sad.

It’s long nights where I sit up in bed for hours to protect my husband and myself from the people I see in the room. Cuddling with my teddy bear because I’m scared to death and don’t want to bother my husband for the fifth time that night. Sleeping all night with the light on, because when we turn it off the people come back and I have to be on guard. Being ill for me, means seeing messages in the time on the clock. Seeing portals appear on the back of the mirror when we turn it around so it can’t communicate with the clock. It’s struggling not to hurt myself because I want to make it stop, struggling not to hurt the people I love when the need to hurt someone or something is overwhelming.

More Symptoms:

Having a mental illness means staying in a public area longer than necessary to make sure the strangers walking to their cars are safe from the man on the sidewalk with a knife. It means being a freak to people who don’t understand. Losing friends because I’m not always in control. Becoming a different person when the psychosis is really bad, and no longer recognizing my own name. Existing in my own world (The Border) and not knowing what is happening in reality. Losing the will to live, and not taking care of myself. Being incoherent and unable to explain what is going on. Sometimes being so happy that I feel like I’m floating and talking so quickly that no one can understand.

There is so much to having a mental illness. No, this is not all of the symptoms I experience, but my aim was not to detail every problem; rather, my aim was to shed a little light on the darkness. There is still so much darkness – but now, maybe a little less.

 

Nicole

Reducing Stress: Talking to Someone without Judging

Living with a mental illness requires coping skills to keep symptoms in check or to control existing symptoms. A great way to help reduce symptoms is to reduce stress! Being stressed out over judging others is completely preventable.

I was sick and tired of hating myself for judging others, but I still couldn't seem to help myself. When I told my husband, he told me this tip that has definitely changed the way I look at other people. We don't have to judge others, we simply haven't taught ourselves not to. You can teach yourself, though, and it's easy.

 

Judging – An Embarrasing Confession:

A while back my husband and I were talking, and I happened to mention how hard it was to look at someone and not be judging them by the way they looked. I know, I know – awful, right? While I didn’t typically say anything to the person about it, the thoughts were in my head – and I hated myself for it.

As a woman, it seems natural to look at other people and critique the way they dress, fix their hair, or do their makeup. Do they wear loud, patterned clothes? Bulky jewelry? Is their hair messy? Is their makeup obnoxious? There are so many ways to look at someone else and decide what we think of him or her – before they even open their mouth.

For me, it was mainly a problem with other women. I would compare myself with them. Am I thinner, or are they? Who dresses better? Is my makeup better or is theirs? Is their skin clearer? There are so many problems with judging another person, though. We all have different tastes, for one. You may like bulky jewelry – but I, for one, do not. I don’t wear makeup often, but many women in our culture wear it every day. Some people wear nice clothes, while I am happiest in a pair of jeans and a tank top. We are all different. It’s really unfair to judge someone by our preferences, when they have their own preferences which influence how they look.

A Simple Trick:

To help with this problem, my husband shared the trick that helps him not judge others with me.

Make and sustain eye contact.

Really, that’s it. Super simple. The reason this works is, if you are looking into someone’s eyes while they talk or you talk to them, you aren’t looking at their clothes or their hair. You can’t easily see their shoes or jewelry. Oh, and by the way – people have really pretty eyes. There are different colors and shades in different people’s eyes, and long and short eyelashes – something we typically miss when critiquing someone else’s appearance.

This may make some people uncomfortable, but it helps build trust between you and that person. We are so accustomed to distractions – phones, computers, televisions – that we are missing out on each other.

If you have any tips for not judging people in other situations, I’d love to hear them. Trying to be more Christ-like is a constant struggle, and help is most definitely welcome.

Being Productive: Water Bottle Fish

Sometimes, having a mental illness keeps people from being productive. Symptoms and doctors visits and life in general is so overwhelming that it seems like nothing gets done. This is a really easy fish craft that doesn’t take much concentration or energy – but can help someone who is struggling feel more accomplished.

How it Started:

My mother-in-law and sister-in-law are super creative. They are usually in charge of the crafts at Vacation Bible School (VBS) at our church. VBS this year was Under the Sea, so of course they needed some animals that live in the sea! Thus, they came up with these water bottle fishes.

My really creative in-laws were decorating for an Under the Sea VBS and came up with these fish. They are simple and easy to make, and really cute! Besides, what sea is complete without fish? VBS, mermaid party, or any other water decorations wouldn't be complete without fish like these.

 

They are really cute, and seem pretty easy to make. My sister-in-law came up with the idea and also made all of the featured fish – I asked for her permission to post them here.

My really creative in-laws were decorating for an Under the Sea VBS and came up with these fish. They are simple and easy to make, and really cute! Besides, what sea is complete without fish? VBS, mermaid party, or any other water decorations wouldn't be complete without fish like these.

The fish above was made from a mini water bottle.

How To:

Paint the water bottle your chosen color, squish the end of the bottle if you want, and glue on fins with hot glue. The fins can be foam with paint or sharpie lines (seen above) or construction paper.

If you have a different idea, go for it! The idea is not to be stuck in a mold, but to use your own creativity.

My really creative in-laws were decorating for an Under the Sea VBS and came up with these fish. They are simple and easy to make, and really cute! Besides, what sea is complete without fish? VBS, mermaid party, or any other water decorations wouldn't be complete without fish like these.

This fish was made from a juice bottle – you don’t have to use only water bottles! Get creative! We had a salad dressing bottle that we thought would make a good puffer fish (it hasn’t been made yet, though).

So if you’re having some kind of party that involves a water theme, or maybe you’re having an Under the Sea VBS too – try these fish! Everyone will love them.

Being Productive: Fast Two Ingredient Dip

While this crazy easy two ingredient dip won’t be eliminating any symptoms, it is great for helping you to feel more productive. Weird, right? Well, not really .. because making something delicious (that nearly everyone will love) in a short amount of time can help anyone feel accomplished. While that may seem like a little thing, feeling accomplished can be very important to someone who is mentally ill. Symptoms and side effects quite easily distract or prevent us from completing even the smallest of tasks. Finishing something can motivate someone who otherwise thought activities were hopeless – now they know that things can get done. Now it’s proven they can be successful. It may turn out to be just the push that was needed.

Even better, this dip will also go a long ways to satisfying those snack cravings (so you can stop feeling hungry and get some work done)! *Note* I do not recommend dip to replace a regular meal – it’s a snack!

Are you ready for this super simple combo?

Fast and easy, this two ingredient dip is so delicious that you'll keep coming back for more. The creamy and kind of salty satisfies your cravings and is definitely satisfying.

Ingredients:
  • 1 block cream cheese, softened
  • salsa (to taste)
Making the dip:

Put the cream cheese in a small bowl, and pour salsa all over it. Although you can mix the two together, I don’t like it that way .. so I don’t recommend it. After you pour on all that yummy salsa, take a tough chip (potato chips probably won’t hold up, I use Santitas® corn chips) and scrape the cheese with it. You’ll get salsa with it pretty much automatically. YUM!

Cream Cheese and Salsa, a deliciously creamy, kinda salty dip. YUM!

For something so satisfying, this dip is incredibly easy to make. Well, you’re probably on your way to the kitchen to make this, so I’ll leave you to it. Enjoy!