Living with mental health issues can often feel like an incredibly lonely place to be; having to constantly battle with your own mind is exhausting and at times debilitating. And while everyone encourages you to seek support from others, to reach out to your friends, to lean on other people, this should not be your only source of comfort and support. That is not to say that you shouldn’t speak to a trusted friend about what you’re going through (you absolutely should), but you also shouldn’t rely on this as your only method of coping. You need to take responsibility for your own mental health first and foremost.
I know it can often feel like you aren’t capable of doing this. You may think, ‘How can I trust myself to manage it when my own mind is playing tricks on me and making me spiral out?’ I know when you feel as if you’re drowning, all you want to do is have someone tell you that you’re not crazy, that your feelings are valid and you will be okay, but you can do that for yourself.
No, hear me out—when you’re having a particularly difficult day, whether your depression is crippling, your anxiety is making you feel as if you want to rip your own skin off, or anything else where you feel completely out of control, you can remind yourself that you’ve been here before and you survived it. You can self-soothe, where you talk back to your thoughts and try to reframe them in your mind. It isn’t easy, I know that, but it’s a skill you have to practice—the more you try it, the easier it will get, and you’ll learn which methods work for you.
And if you find that difficult to do because your thoughts are so intrusive, so commanding, so completely overwhelming that they block every rational thing you tell them, you can use methods of distraction: journaling, coloring (honestly, adult coloring books are a complete revelation), crafting. The list is endless. And then there are those self-care routines: take a long bubble bath, do a face mask, paint your nails, anything that makes you feel good about yourself, anything where you are devoting time to making you happy, even if it’s in a small way. – Self-care, of course, doesn’t only refer to these surface-level activities, they refer to loving yourself first and taking care of your well-being.
Because the thing about always relying on your friends or other people to manage your mental health for you is that when those people are busy, you are going to feel as if you are lost, drowning and even more out of control. The thing about relying on other people is that eventually they are going to experience burnout, not because they don’t love you and want to help you, but because having to manage someone else’s mental health is exhausting. You don’t want them to feel like your friendship is one-sided, that they can’t come to you with their problems or just leave them feeling overwhelmed, resulting in them pulling back. Often mental health can cloud everything else, and in these moments of utter despair, your empathy, selflessness, and understanding can get lost. That is not to say you’re a bad person for experiencing mental health issues—you’re most definitely not. Mental health issues exist as an entity of its own—they are not who you are, they are something that is happening to you.
So next time you’re having a bad mental health day, next time your immediate course of action is to seek support from others, first try soothing yourself. Try talking back to your thoughts, try those small tasks you know will help if you push yourself to do them, even if it’s simply opening the curtains in the morning, even if it’s taking a shower or walking to your nearest coffee shop and buying yourself a cappuccino. Whatever it is, no matter how small, these things can help. Write a list for these days, make a self-care box, fill them with things you know have helped before, and keep adding to it. When these days hit you out of nowhere, your first response can be to delve in and see what works, if anything works.
Your friends will always be there, though. They will always want to help you, and you are allowed to seek support from them, but just remember it isn’t their responsibility to manage your mental health. They aren’t your therapist (which by the way is also a great tool for mental health), and you know in your heart that you wouldn’t want them to feel that way. And above all, you are amazing, intelligent, magical, brave as hell, and stronger than you ever give yourself credit for. You have survived a million difficult days, and you can survive many more. You have all of the tools at your fingertips—mental health issues just have an excellent way of convincing you that you don’t.
You can save yourself, I promise.