Right now, there is no cure for mental illness. There is no magic pill or unique therapy that will change brain chemistry. The brain is mysterious, and scientists are still feeling their way in the dark as they study it.
But some things make mental illness worse, and you can work to change them. You can change your environment, which has a huge effect on your brain health. You can also change your attitude, which will help you get on the path to recovery.
After a suicide attempt six years ago, I put my foot on the path to recovery. I made an unbreakable contract with myself that I was going to change what I had control over. I knew I couldn’t make the changes overnight. I made a goal to make small changes every day. Over the years, the changes have added up and made me the person I am today.
There was one key thing that made it possible for me to be the well-balanced person I am today. There was one thing that served me better than any pills or therapy ever could.
The key is perseverance.
What is Perseverance?
If you want to recover, you have to persevere. You have to persist even though changing your life is the hardest thing you will ever have to do.
I broke an addiction to both benzodiazepines and cigarettes but recovering from a mental illness enough to feel happiness and fulfillment was the most difficult thing I’ve ever done in my life.
Don’t ever kid yourself that recovery is easy. It’s not.
I have a positive attitude and know that if you work hard, you can recover. But I won’t blow magical fairy dust up your ass and tell you it’ll be easy.
In no way is recovery easy.
If Recovery is Difficult, Why Would You Try?
How terrible is your life with mental illness? Mine was bad enough that I was willing to do anything I had to do to change it. If you aren’t ready to change, then you haven’t hit rock bottom yet.
When you do hit bottom, you’ll look up and decide to change your life. Nothing worth doing will ever be easy.
Let me say it again: nothing worth doing will ever be easy!
I wish I hadn’t waited until I was at the bottom to change. I wish I could have decided long before that I needed to do something to help myself. It would have saved me a lot of pain and unhappiness.
Most of us will keep suffering in silence. Maybe we have a high-functioning mental illness. Sure, you feel bad, but you can still go about your day-to-day life. You can still work and take care of your family.
But is that any way to live?
Should you have to struggle through life waiting for sleep to take everything away? Should you have to be uncomfortable in everything you do if there is an alternative?
Please don’t suffer if you don’t have to. Do something to make the changes in your life! You’ll thank yourself later.
How to Step on the Path to Recovery
If you want to recover, there is one thing you must do above all before you take one step. Think about the goals you’ve set in your life and how many you were able to achieve. What is the difference between success and failure?
The first thing you must do is decide without a doubt, that you really want to make changes. Don’t half-ass it. Don’t try it!
“Do. Or do not. There is no try.” — Yoda
You must know beyond a shadow of a doubt, that this time, no matter what, you will make the needed changes. Before you take action, make a decision you can’t back down from.
I finally quit smoking after 30 years when I promised myself I wouldn’t ever smoke again. When I was weak, I remembered my decision and I didn’t back down. I didn’t get weak because there was no alternative.
There was never “one more.”
The next thing you need to do is figure out what you need to change. Do you have a negative attitude? Are you a chronic complainer? Do you hang out with toxic people? Do you need to practice self-care? Do you blame everyone else for your problems? Do you live in a bad environment? Do you practice bad habits? Do you eat healthily?
There are hundreds of small things that you can change that will make a difference to the whole. Every little change you make is a step on the path of recovery.
Now is the time to take action. Pick one or two things to work on and do what you have to do to make the changes. Don’t try to change a hundred things overnight. Make small changes daily.
Celebrate the wins. When you notice a behavior changing because you are doing small things, celebrate! When I first started on the path, one of the things I changed was how much I complained. First, I went for an hour without a complaint. Then a day. Then a week and kept going. I still complain at times, but it’s not something I do regularly. I know when I complain, my mind turns to the negative, and I don’t need that.
I celebrated every milestone, and it helped me to the next level.
You should be keeping track of your changes. For me, because I am a writer, I could keep track with a journal and blog posts. Some people need a list on the fridge. Some people tape a note to the bathroom mirror where they will see it every morning.
Whatever you do, keep what you are working on in the front of your mind.
Take stock of where you’ve been and where you’re going. Add changes gradually. Always keep yourself moving forward. When you have a setback, get yourself moving forward as soon as possible.
Never stop making positive changes. Even when you’re starting to feel better about yourself and your life, keep moving forward. You will never arrive; you’ll always be on the journey.
Once you step on the path, never stop moving forward.
Before you know it…
Soon, you’ll be smiling more. When I started feeling better, I noticed that it was easier for me to crack a smile without realizing it. I could feel moments of joy where before there was only pain.
The happiness sneaks up on you. Yes, you will have bad periods. There are times I don’t get out of bed for days. But, you know what? Eventually, I do, and I move forward again.
You will enjoy the things you hated before. I used to have a panic attack every time I went to the mall. But last year, even though I didn’t like it much, I was able to make it through a day of Christmas shopping without running away in terror.
Pay attention to the small things. Notice how people are starting to relate to you better. Notice that you are more kind and thoughtful. You’ll care about others more and want to help as much as possible.
Recognize that the small changes you’ve made have added up and now you’re a different person.
Soon you will realize that you aren’t as depressed and anxious any more. You have more positive thoughts than negative ones. You will see that you feel happy more often than not. You will feel fulfilled.
It only gets better from here. Stay on the path and always be changing for the better. The best thing that happened to me was not that I was successful, but that I stopped even caring about the definition of success. I appreciated that I was feeling better and that was enough for me.
If you want to get on the path to recovery, do this:
- Decide to change. There is no try, only do.
- Figure out what you need to change and write it down.
- Take action. Pick one or two things to change at a time. Make small changes.
- Always move forward. Even when you have a bad day, get yourself moving forward as soon as possible.
- Celebrate the wins.
It’s not any more difficult than that. Don’t try to make it harder. Decide what you must do and do it. Persevere. Be steadfast in your decision to change.
Always move forward. Happiness and fulfillment will be yours.
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