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Maintaining My Mental Illness is a Lifestyle

By: Andrienne Kennedy

If someone had asked me five years ago how do I manage a mental illness, I would have not been able to give an answer. For years, I was uneducated about mental illnesses or mental health all together. That changed back in 2014 when I was diagnosed with generalized anxiety disorder, as well as bipolar disorder. Although, I was shocked and ashamed I still wanted to know about bipolar disorder and anxiety. I am going to be honest here, I was not excited about admitting that I had an illness. I was concerned with what other people would think of me if I had admitted that I was “crazy”.  Of course, this an example of the negative stereotypes that society reinforces when referring to people with mental health disorders.

I did not take the management of my illness seriously when I was first diagnosed. Come to think about it, for a couple of years after receiving the news I was under the impression that I could take a couple of pills here and there as well as go to therapy sporadically. I could not have been more wrong.

It was about a year and a half ago when I decided to take my mental health seriously. I found a new therapist and started going to my psychiatrist on a regular basis. It was then after doing some research and making my regular appointments that I realized that maintaining my illness would require a lifestyle change.  

Keeping my regular appointments, a healthy diet, exercise, and removing negative elements from my life were some of the changes that I made to alter my lifestyle. Once I made these changes I noticed that things started to look up for me.

I never realized how important it was for me to rid myself of negative people and situations. I also took a more mindful approach with my own outlook and mindset. I began being more positive and my mental health became more and more stable.  

The most important thing during this mental health journey for me is identifying my triggers. It took me some to get to the point where I could identify the things and people that were triggers for me. I so desperately wanted to have this information. Once I finally uncovered what triggered, I felt like a great weight was lifted from my shoulders. This was because I had more information on how I would better be able to care for myself and my illness and also share this information with friends and family. I took an active role in managing my illness.

I cannot stress the importance of making significant lifestyle changes in order to properly care for a mental illness. I do realize that everyone is different and each person will require different forms of treatment, but what I can say is that when you view caring for your illness as a change in lifestyle, you will have great success.  

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