Maintaining Positive Relationships While Struggling With A Mental Health Diagnosis

Hello all,

Today I would like to talk about how to make and maintain positive relationships while struggling with a mental health diagnosis. These tips are useful for all relationships, including friendships, partnerships, professional relationships, and all of the other relationships that you can think of!

I know that sometimes having a mental health diagnosis can get in the way of maintaining positive, healthy relationships. It can be difficult to find people who understand and relate to your struggles.

However, having a mental health diagnosis:

  • Does not mean that you are unworthy of these types of relationships

  • Does not mean that you are harder to love

  • Does not mean that you have to settle for less because of your diagnosis

Having a mental health diagnosis:

  • Does mean that you are still human

  • Does mean that you are still lovable

  • Does mean that you are still a friend, a family member, a loved one, and so much more.

To recap, having a mental health diagnosis does not change your worth as a human. You are still worthy. Do not let anyone make you question that.


(1) Make sure that your partner, friend, etc. is aware of your mental health diagnosis. Remember that you only have to share what you feel comfortable sharing. However, it can be helpful to share details of your diagnosis, especially if you can work through problems with someone who shares and possibly understands your struggles.

(2) Try not to be too hard on yourself. In relationships, it can be very easy to blame ourselves whenever things go wrong. View failures or mistakes as opportunities to learn, better yourself, and grow in unison with your partner.

(3) Try not to obsess over the little details in life. For instance, my boyfriend and I went out of town to celebrate our three month anniversary a few weeks ago, and I let absolutely everything upset me. I was being completely unreasonable and forgot to look at the bigger picture: how precious it is to spend time with my significant other.

(4) Make note of all of the great things that you do for the people you care about (and vice versa). It can be easier to see our faults rather than all of the things that we do incredibly well! Start by thinking of all of the things that your partner, friend, etc. does for you. Then, think of all of the things that you do for your partner. Do you do the dishes? Do you offer your partner emotional support?

(5) Remember that it is perfectly okay (AND NORMAL) to express your feelings! Sometimes thoughts are overwhelming and we just need a little reassurance (or a lot!) to make it through the day. If you are having a bad day, tell your partner and let him/her/them guide you through it! If something upset you, share those feelings and work together to avoid them in future situations. Things do not have to be 100% perfect all of the time. It is okay to talk through things and share feelings! It isn’t healthy to keep things bottled up.

(6) Think before you speak. I think that this tip is a great one that applies to all relationships. When difficult situations arise, it can be very easy to let our feelings get the best of us. Therefore, it is important to step back, take a deep breath, and think before you speak! It is okay to step back from a situation, especially if you know that you need a moment to compose yourself.

(7) Remember that patience goes a long way. I have learned through my many years of life that it does not do much good to get upset about things, and it certainly isn’t worth ruining your entire day. There is nothing in the world that is more comforting than someone who is trying to understand what you’re going through. You deserve someone who will be patient with you, which means loving you on your best days and your worst days. Do not ever let someone make you feel like you are a burden simply because you have a mental health diagnosis and often cannot control your feelings.

(8) Practice active listening. There is nothing in the world that is more important than being a good listener. When venting, people often want to feel like they are being heard. In order to practice active listening, it is important to maintain eye contact, refrain from talking while the speaker is finishing his/her/their thoughts, check for understanding by paraphrasing what you heard, and encourage positive feedback.

(9) Practice being empathetic. As I’ve mentioned before, it is crucial to try to understand what your partner, friend, etc. is going through. You want to try to put yourself in his/her/their shoes so that you can figure out how best to help your loved one through difficult times. You want to try to feel the emotions that your loved one is feeling. While this is a great quality, it can also be an overwhelming one, so it is important to set boundaries and realize when it is appropriate to help and when it is not.

(10) Develop your communication skills and be open to feedback. In order to do develop your communication skills, you need to be able to openly and effectively express yourself and your feelings. Be open and receptive to expressed feelings and feedback. Try to learn from the situation and see how you can improve yourself, your communication skills, and your overall relationship moving forward. Be respectful of your partner’s feelings at all times.


This is just the beginning of an incredibly long list of ways that you can maintain a positive relationship. If you need more tips or have some that you want to share, please feel free to reach out to me, and I will gladly assist or add your tips to this post.

With love and warm wishes,

K

Resources to Better Your Mental Health

Hello,

Today I would like to take the time to introduce you to some resources that can help you better your mental health. As you will see below, I have included a wide variety of resources that assist with a multitude of diagnoses. The best thing about these apps is that they are all FREE and available to iOS and Android users. If you have any questions, comments, or concerns, OR if you want to share a resource with us, reach out to me and let me know!

(1) The first thing I would like to bring to your attention is the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. This is a 100% free service that is available 24/7. If you or someone you know if having suicidal thoughts, call 1(800)273-8255 and a trained crisis counselor will answer the phone and help you deescalate the situation.

(2) The Crisis Text Line is also a 100% free service that is available 24/7. If you or someone you know is experiencing a crisis, text HOME to 741-741, and a trained crisis counselor will respond and help you during the crisis. I would also like to note that a crisis is NOT LIMITED to suicidal thoughts. You can use this service for a number of different situations, if desired.

(3) Now I would like to introduce you to Calm Harm, an app that provides users with tasks in order to reduce the urge to self-harm. There are six different categories of tasks available to users: Comfort, Distract, Express Yourself, Release, Random, and Breathe.

(4) Super Better is a resilience training app that provides you with quests and tasks to help you use psychological strengths in order to build resilience in daily life. Users of the app report being able to tackle depression, chronic pain, concussion recovery, and more.

(5) ThinkUp is an app that allows you to create daily affirmations that help you develop a more positive mindset. You can browse through recommended affirmations or create and record your own while adding background music and tracking your progress.

(6) Breathe2Relax is a stress management app that instructs users on diaphragmatic breathing. The breathing exercises provided by this app can help to decrease the body’s stress response, help with mood stabilization, control anger, and manage anxiety.

(7) PTSD Coach allows you to take assessments while tracking and managing your PTSD symptoms. The app has resources and information to educate survivors, family members, and loved ones. in addition, there are resources to help those with PTSD find professional help and a support network. This app is especially useful for Veterans.

(8) The National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA) is a great resource for individuals ages 13 and up who are struggling with eating disorders. One great resource provided is the NEDA Helpline. Individuals can call (800)931-2237 to speak with a trained volunteer who can lead you to support and educational materials. There is also an online chat feature called Click-to-Chat or a texting feature. To use the texting feature, text “NEDA” to 741-741 during crisis situations. However, the hotline is NOT open 24 hours. It is open Monday through Thursday from 9 AM - 9 PM and Friday from 9 AM - 5 PM (Eastern Standard Time).

(9) BetterHelp is a resource that offers online counseling to individuals who prefer meeting via text, phone, or video chat. This is an affordable resource that offers financial aid and plans starting at $40/week. They offer a wide variety of qualified licensed professionals who can assist with many issues including low self-esteem, anxiety, stress, depression, grief, relationship troubles, anger, and so much more.

Last but not least, do not forget to check out resources in your area. If you or someone you know needs help finding counseling, support, or other services in your area, please do not hesitate to reach out to me!

Above all else, take care of yourself! Remember that different things work for different people. Sometimes you have to try several resources before finding the perfect fit. The number one thing is to not lose hope! You have a whole community of people at The Letter Project who are supporting you.

I’ll be seeing you.

K

Waves of Depression

I never would have imagined that during my senior year of high school I would find the therapist I had always been searching for. When I first found him, I had no interest in attending counseling. Instead, I was mandated to attend by my high school. I quickly learned that these sessions were the most helpful of any I had ever attended.

I felt understood. I felt comfortable. I felt like I was not being judged for the first time in a long time. I felt safe.

My therapist guided me through the remainder of my senior year of high school into the beginning of college and still to this day. I am convinced that there isn’t a single problem in this world that my therapist couldn’t help me overcome. I will never understand how he does what he does, but I am immensely grateful. I wish I could bottle up his magic powers and give them to you in order to help you in your mental health journey, but sadly, it does not work that way.

It is absolutely true that he has seen me at my best and my worst. I go through phases where I attend therapy multiple times per week. Other times I only attend therapy once a month or on an as needed basis. Sometimes I go in and sit in the chair and think to myself, “What in the world am I going to talk about? Everything in my life is going better than I could have imagined.” However, there are several days where I go in and sit in the chair and immediately start crying because my life is in shambles.

That is because depression comes in waves.

Personally, I struggled with depression for several years before I found the “perfect” therapist and medication regime, if “perfect” treatment even exists. I went through a period of time where I felt like I was on top of the world, but I came crashing down again, just like a wave in the ocean. I walk into my therapist’s office and tell him that I don’t understand where I went wrong. I complain that I feel like I’m losing progress, possibly even regressing (even though that’s not true, it’s how I honestly feel at times).

It is hard to come to terms with your mental health. It is even harder to come to terms with your mental health when it comes and goes in waves. You think to yourself, “Am I really depressed or am I just sad?” You might talk yourself out of getting help because you think it’s silly to get help for something that appears and dissipates so suddenly.

However, I am here to tell you that it is normal for depression (and other mental health conditions) to come in waves. It is perfectly normal to be okay, and it is perfectly normal to not be okay. Your mental health journey isn’t supposed to look one specific way versus another. You aren’t always going to be on the up and up, and you aren’t always going to feel like the world is against you. This is just life…This is how life is. It is confusing and it is difficult to come to terms with. It makes us feel vulnerable. There are times where we want to run and hide and there are times where we want to scream from the mountains. It is unpredictable. However, it is beautiful.

I find comfort in knowing that even though I am currently experiencing a wave, I know that the wave will eventually crash and I will begin to rise again. I find comfort in knowing that I am not alone in any of this because I have all of you, just as you have me. I find comfort in knowing that pain teaches us lessons that, more often than not, turn into something beautiful. I find comfort in knowing that this is temporary.

I am not broken simply because I am experiencing a wave of depression. I am human.

The key to coping with the waves is to keep your eye on the shore at all times. The “shore” can be a dream or a goal (some people call it ‘the bright side’). The “shore” can be a loved one that you know you must stick around for because life without you would be unimaginable. The “shore” can also just be a place in your mind where you feel comfortable and at home. Never lose sight of that. Never give up.

You must keep fighting. You must keep riding the waves (with all of the ups and downs) and make it back to shore.

While you are riding the peak of the wave, stop and enjoy life. Enjoy the view. Enjoy the ride.

While you are coming down, find comfort in knowing that you will rise again. You will reach the shore.

I know that sometimes it feels like you’re drowning, but I will not let you drown. Let me be your life vest and let’s get through this together.

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Here’s a list of 10 tips that can be incredibly helpful when experiencing a depressive episode.

  1. Remember that this is temporary. As I stated before, waves crash upon the shore, but they always rise again.

  2. Do not give up or lose hope. When you experience a depressive episode, you might assume that your life is spiraling out of control. However, depressive episodes are common. You are a survivor. You survived the depressive episodes before, and you will survive them again. Just remember to keep your eye on the shore at all times.

  3. Do not be afraid to ask for help. It can be scary to come to terms with your depression (or other mental health diagnosis), especially if it comes and goes in waves. However, you do not have to face this alone. There are plenty of options out there and people who want to help you get better. Please feel free to seek out the help of a therapist. Additionally, medication can be very helpful in some cases. There are other treatment options available (just do your research!). If you feel like you need immediate help or just someone to talk to, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (1-800-273-8255) or reach out to the Crisis Text Line by texting “HOME” to 741-741.

  4. Practice self-care. Self-care is something that looks different for everybody. For me personally, I enjoy face masks, bubble baths, and writing. Some people find it very beneficial to exercise or practice yoga and/or meditation. Make sure that you find a routine that works for you. If you want, you can include other people in your self-care routine, or you can be alone, if preferred. Remember, self-care isn’t selfish!

  5. Make sure you are getting enough nutrients. One of the biggest problems that accompanies depression is difficulty eating. When you are depressed, it can be very easy to shrug off meals, simply because you don’t feel like eating or you don’t have any interest in getting out of bed. However, if your body is not getting its required nutrients, you may actually feel worse. This isn’t my way of saying that you should be on some super serious diet. Rather, I am saying that you should eat enough to nourish your body and make yourself happy. Don’t put too much pressure on yourself.

  6. Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate! I know that this probably sounds silly, but I cannot even begin to tell you how important it is to stay hydrated. Dehydration can affect your organs AND your mind! Dehydration plays a big role in cognition, memory, pain sensitivity, motor skills, and mood. It’s a very simple thing to do, so make it part of your daily routine.

  7. Make sure you are getting enough sleep. Another thing that accompanies depression is too much or too little sleep. Trust me, I know how it feels to want to stay in bed forever, but the truth is you will probably feel so much better if you’re up and active. Remember that each individual needs a different amount of sleep, depending on a variety of factors including age and gender, so do your research and try out what is best for you.

  8. Try journaling. I have to admit that this is probably my favorite tip! Journaling is my go-to whenever I feel a wave of depression coming on. There are several different journaling prompts available on the Internet, or you can be creative and make something up on your own. Personally, I try to write down at least one thing that I’m grateful for and something good that happened that day. I do this every night before bedtime. It reminds me to be mindful and positive, no matter how bad things seem. If you are artistic, it can also help alleviate some stress if you doodle on the pages or design them however you wish!

  9. Try to do at least one thing each day. What I mean by this is that it can be really difficult to do things when you’re experiencing a depressive episode. As I mentioned before, it can be difficult to leave bed or shower. Therefore, I want you to try to do at least one thing that you’re proud of each day, whether it’s taking your medication, showering, getting out of bed, making yourself breakfast, visiting your grandmother, going for a walk, or something completely different. If you are capable of doing one thing, then you are making progress.

  10. Above all else, take care of yourself. One of my biggest problems in life is that I am frequently trying to rescue everyone around me. I spend all of my time and energy catering to the needs of those around me, and I am frequently left feeling depleted and exhausted. So, I want to remind you that you are the most important person in your life. At the end of the day, you are the one person who is going to be there to take care of yourself, so you need to make sure that your mental, physical, and emotional health are in check. It is perfectly okay to take a break from prior commitments in order to get your mental health straightened out. You are not letting anyone down. You are allowed to have bad days. You are allowed to have bad weeks, even bad months. Just take care of yourself. Don’t forget to give yourself the same kind of love you give to those around you.

I hope these help.

I’ll be seeing you,

K

Welcome to Our New Mental Health Blog!

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For those of you who do not know me, my name is Kirsten Fox (most people call me "k"), and I will be working as a Mental Health Intern for The Letter Project. I am a junior at Indiana University Bloomington studying Social Work with a minor in Sociology. Upon graduation, I would like to pursue my Master's Degree in Social Work and become a Licensed Clinical Social Worker, which will allow me to work as a mental health counselor. Personally, I have struggled for several years with Major Depressive Disorder, Generalized Anxiety Disorder, and Panic Disorder. Therefore, I know how easy it can be to let your mental health rule your life (and not always in a good way)! However, my struggles have given me a generous amount of insight into how to cope with a mental health disorder, as well as how to live your best life regardless of your mental health status.

If it is alright with you, I would love to share my knowledge and passion for mental health with you. I will be posting weekly blog posts that focus on self-care tips, mental health education, and personal stories or blog posts (from other writers) that I think will help you in your mental health journey. I always welcome questions, feedback, and requests. So, if there is a topic that you would like to learn more about, or if there is a tip that you would like to share with the community, please feel free to reach out to me. My virtual door is always open.

My mission as a mental health intern is simple: I am here to remind you that you are worthy of love and kindness. I am here to remind you that your mental health status does not define you. I am here to remind you that there will undoubtedly be good days and bad days, but that does not mean that you should let the number of good days versus bad days determine your progress. As long as you are staying alive for another day, you are making progress.

With that being said, I want to note that mental health is not something that is simple. It cannot be fit nice and neatly into a little box. It can be very difficult and overwhelming to define, and sometimes, there is no clear definition.

I want to acknowledge that while each individual has his/her/their own mental health journey, that does not mean that we are complete strangers to one another. More likely than not, we probably have something in common somewhere along the lines, whether it be a diagnosis, a coping mechanism, or a situation that helped bring a mental health condition to light. Also, I want to acknowledge that some of my tips may not be as effective for one individual as they are for another, but that does not mean that you should give up. It simply means that there is a different tip out there that may fit you a little bit better, and that is perfectly okay.

It is okay to try different things, especially regarding your mental health. It is okay to feel lost or confused or frustrated with the process. We all feel that sometimes. However, I want you to know that you are not alone in any of this. I am here to support you and remind you of your worth. In fact, there is a whole community of people here at The Letter Project who wants to teach you how to love yourself because we love you and believe in you.

For now I will leave you with this reminder: self-love is not selfish.

I'll talk to you soon,

K