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Just Breathe: Coping with Mental Illness

I was a little hesitant to publish this post, as it is very personal. But I feel it is important, and I know many of you will relate.

 

With 20% of Canadians experiencing mental illness in their lifetime, this has become a very popular topic these days. All Canadians will be indirectly affected by mental illness at some point in their lives, be it through family, friends, or colleagues. It is unfortunate that the stigma behind mental illness still exists. This makes it difficult for those suffering to reach out for help as they can feel judged and unaccepted.*

MY JOURNEY

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Our daughter’s tiny hand. Born at 28 weeks, 2lbs 7oz.

I personally struggled with postpartum depression after my third child was born at 28 weeks. It’s a pretty messed up situation when you can’t be with your newborn baby. The constant worry, the reality of what could have been, the frustration…really took its toll on me. I didn’t even realize I was suffering until I caught a documentary called Pardon my Postpartum. It freaked me out; I was watching myself up on the screen. The feelings I was experiencing weren’t just busy-mom-of-three overwhelmed normalness. I was sick. For over two years I’ve been struggling with different types of mental illness, wondering why this happened to me, and why I can’t get out of it. It started with depression, and is now low self-esteem and anxiety. It’s been a tough journey but I’m doing well and I finally feel like I’m getting back to the old me.

This journey has been one of the hardest things I have had to overcome in my life so far. I am very lucky that where I live I have access to free workshops and services to help me cope and get better. The workshops begin with a short mindful meditation session, which is definitely my favourite part. As meditation is something I had wanted to partake in for years, but never knew how, or if I was doing it right, it was very exciting for me to learn properly. Though I know it is good for me and I feel amazing after doing it, I still don’t take the time each day to meditate. I am using my blog as a ‘practise what you preach’ type of platform. As you know, I am trying to be the best version of myself. I, like I’m sure many of you are, am a huge procrastinator (characteristic of anxiety, btw). I know what I need to do, I just don’t do it. It’s beyond frustrating. My blog will create accountability for me to get things done.

MEDITATION

The easiest way to get started with meditation is through guided meditation audio. You can find tons of these online: calm.com and YouTube are always good choices. Some of the ones you find are good, some…not so much. You will have to find out what works best for you. The meditations are anywhere from 3 minutes to over an hour! When you first start out it is important to know that you will become distracted, but as long as you can pull yourself back into the mediation, you are doing it right. Even the most experienced monks get distracted sometimes. There really is no wrong way to meditate…as I have also learned. It’s all about being aware of yourself, your surroundings, living in the moment, and observing without judgement.

GRATITUDE

Yoga can be another effective coping strategy.

Yoga can be another effective coping strategy.

Another good coping strategy is gratitude. I truly am blessed to have the life I do, and the help and support from all my family and friends is wonderful.  I am not a morning person and if I wake up grouchy and tired it can throw off my entire day. So when I wake up I smile and thank the universe for another day with the ones I love…or whatever else I am grateful for. It has helped me feel a little more relaxed in dealing with the morning chaos.

Today’s society is so fast paced and everyone is consumed by their smart phones, other people’s lives, and wanting what they don’t have, that we have created a mess of the human race. Taking the time to let go of all this and just be is one of the best things we can do for ourselves and our future generations.

 

*Source: Canadian Mental Health Association

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