Coping with a Mental Illness: Sometimes Old Dogs Know Some Way Cool Tricks

July 29 2019 Erie, PA

For the last thirty years I have been coping with a mental illness. Over the decades I have learned some way cool tricks.

Perhaps the first and most important trick I learned was not to giggle gaggle with my meds without the doctors ok. One way a person can better cope with a mental illness is by taking medication as directed by a good doctor. Nothing hampers coping like adjusting one's medication or stopping it abruptly without the doctors ok. Many decompensations can be avoided by simply listening to a trusted doc. He or She has spent a lot of time preparing to practice medicine. And then spent a lot of time practicing it. Not to take the good advice you pay for is folly.

Next sometimes it is wise to act the opposite of the way you feel. One might feel like isolating, eating poorly, not trying to exercise or rest properly, act in risky ways, drink, use illegal drugs, settle for the company of those who do you harm, or give up on life. Don't!

Avoid comparing yourself to others. In the end the only one to be better than is the person you were the day before. Remember not everyone has the same challenges and circumstances as you.

Accept yourself. So, you have a mental illness, what of it? Engaging in denial or avoidance of proper action is time and energy wasted. While it might be comfortable denying storms are coming, when it pours out your going to get soaked absent shelter or a reliable umbrella.

Just because things get tough don't forget to breathe. Remember 537. Breathe in for the count of five, hold for a count of three, breathe out for a count of seven. This trick is calming.

"Reframe" your thoughts. Your provider of services is late and has you waiting. This is troubling and often stress filled. Instead of getting upset, reframe your thoughts. For example, good I have a little time to read this sports magazine, it will give me something to talk about with my buddy or barber.

It is ok to let yourself feel things. You may feel nervous. Everyone gets to feeling nervous now and again. Let yourself feel nervous for a moment or two. But do not linger there. Take action to calm yourself in a healthy fashion. I like to read or listen to music. Other like to exercise and still others like to meditate. Denying your very human feelings is a fool game to be avoided. Feeling unacknowledged and unaddressed have a nasty way of expressing themselves in unwanted ways.

Use the senses God gave you. Consider employing your five senses to "ground" yourself or distract yourself from troubling emotions that linger with you too long.  Focus on five things you can see and so on.

Finally give yourself a break. Often living with mental illness causes you to be less able to tolerate stress. While stress is part of the human condition. It is important to manage it. Seek low stress environments, recreation, and employment. You may not live the life of the rich and famous. But you can live a life of quality and honor.

So, that is some of the tricks this old dog knows. I hope you find them helpful and that they spare you some mistakes and suffering on your journey to recovery.

Respectfully Submitted,


Brian Patrick McLaughlin MS/CPS
MH Consumer Advocate
Erie County, PA.


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