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20 Things Only People Who Live With Mental Illness Can Understand

20 Things Only People Who Live With Mental Illness Can Understand

If you live with a mental illness, you really have a tough battle on your hands. The stigma attached to this illness can result in isolation, discrimination, and hostility. The fact that mental illnesses are all grouped together in one lump does not help either. The conditions in this category can range from depression, psychosis, personality disorders, PTSD, ADHD to more serious cases where suicidal and homicidal tendencies can lead to violence and death.

Here are 20 things you will have no trouble in relating to if you experience a mental illness as they are probably a daily experience.

1. You are shunned

If your moods are on a rollercoaster due to having bipolar disorder, your social contacts may tend to avoid you. You wonder why their mood swings are rarely noted or talked about.

2. You get no sympathy

Anyone who has a serious medical condition like cancer gets a lot of attention. Because you are severely depressed, sometimes it can feel like nobody wants to know and you get no sympathy at all. In fact, it is rare that anyone will ever ask about your depression but they will know everything about cancer treatment and rates of recovery.

3. You have to keep your condition a secret

Why not let everyone know what you have suffered? You must be joking! Who wants to have that label hanging around their neck when discrimination and misunderstanding about this illness are widespread?

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4. You have very little chance of getting a job

Job discrimination against the mentally ill is rife. We know that only 18% of those with mental health issues are in full time employment. You know of cases where people have to sign a contract agreeing to be sacked if you are of “unsound mind”, according to the Mental Health Act in the UK. You know you may not always fit the image of the ideal employee but adjustments should be made by employers.

5. You get no special treatment

People who get physically ill or are absent from work are all well looked after. There are no special cases for mentally ill people who are not supposed to have any relapses at all.

6. You are regarded as weird

You know all the stereotypes about mentally ill people which are widely transmitted by the press and on TV. You are tired of being called crazy and wish for more understanding.

7. You are tired of all the ignorance

Nobody bothers to learn more about what being mentally ill really means. Yet, one in four people suffer from these problems but nobody wants to know.

8. You are fed up with people’s embarrassment

In one UK survey, about 30% of the respondents stated that they felt embarrassed by mentally ill people. Over 80% stated that they were sure that the majority of people in general felt ill at ease in their presence. The only good news is that the Time to Change organisation in the UK has noted a 6% improvement in attitudes and prejudices about mental illness in the period 2011-2014.

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9. You cannot get proper health insurance

Most insurance policies do not cover mental illness as it is far too common and the companies would collapse. You know of one man who had clinical depression and was left to pay off debts of $10,000 because his policy did not cover depression.

10. You hate people whispering

Everyone lowers their voices when talking about addiction and suicide. You hear them all the time at the supermarket but they talk loudly about someone who has had cancer. What is so risky about (PTSD) post traumatic stress disorder? Is it contagious?

11. You are exploited by sales persons

They have no hesitation in going for the kill even though they know that you may have some issues about understanding what a contract really involves. They have no compunction in getting you to sign. No wonder so many mentally ill people are homeless, in debt or in prison.

12. You are let down by medical staff

Many doctors are unsympathetic and you are not in the least surprised that 60% of mentally ill patients are not getting any treatment at all.

13. You wonder when health authorities will wake up

Why are medical and paramedical staff not trained properly to deal with us? Why are we always treated so unfairly? It is no surprise that the Disability Discrimination Act (UK) does not cover mental illness.

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14. You wonder about getting proper treatment

As you struggle with reduced capacity to get through the ordinary daily routine, you wonder why your medical condition is often treated with disdain and shoulder shrugging. You begin to wonder why more research has not been done to make treatment more effective.

15. You have problems with self-esteem

It is a downward spiral because unemployment can lead to homelessness. Experts believe that jobs and medication are the keys to helping people with these issues. Mental illness should not go hand in hand with low self esteem.

16. You need more post treatment support

Supportive housing with adequate provision for proper medical care is the way to go. One study showed that when people were in these units there was a 58% fall in the number of emergency room visits. I know of several patients with schizophrenia who are benefiting from this type of support.

17. You are not getting equal human rights

In the USA, mentally ill persons are 10 times more likely to end up in prison instead of in a psychiatric ward. Many advocates for better mental health care regard this as a violation of human rights and that prisons are nothing more than concentration camps for the mentally ill.

18. You resent the class and racial stereotypes

You know that mental illness is not a class or race issue. It is the great leveller, like death.

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“Mental illness is an equal opportunity illness — it strikes across all barriers of race and class. Yet the public perception is still the disheveled person on the street.”- Michael Allen, Judge David L. Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law in Washington, D.C.

19. You are not just a problem

Whatever your condition, you are a real person with needs, desires, hopes and emotions just like any other human being on the planet. Just because one part of your mind is malfunctioning you should not be condemned to live on the margins of society.

20. You hope you will get more social support

We know that when mentally ill prisoners are released, 50% of them will re-enter prisons within a three year period. Rehabilitation programs and strong social support are needed to lower this alarming figure.

Let us hope that people’s attitudes and government initiatives will help to make mentally ill patients’ lives better.

“Never give up on someone with a mental illness. When “I” is replaced by “We”, illness becomes wellness.” – Shannon L. Adler

Featured photo credit: Marina del Castell/Flickr via flickr.com

More by this author

Robert Locke

Author of Ziger the Tiger Stories, a health enthusiast specializing in relationships, life improvement and mental health.

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Last Updated on July 3, 2020

How to Control Your Thoughts and Be the Master of Your Mind

How to Control Your Thoughts and Be the Master of Your Mind

Your mind is the most powerful tool you have for the creation of good in your life, but if not used correctly, can also be the most destructive force in your life. To control your thoughts means to influence the way you live your life.

Your mind, more specifically, your thoughts, affects your perception and therefore, your interpretation of reality. (And here’s Why Your Perception Is Your Reality)

I have heard that the average person thinks around 70,000 thoughts a day. That’s a lot, especially if they are unproductive, self-abusive, and just a general waste of energy.

You can let your thoughts run amok, but why would you? It is your mind, your thoughts; isn’t it time to take your power back? Isn’t it time to take control?

Choose to be the person who is actively, consciously thinking your thoughts. Be someone who can control your thoughts—become the master of your mind.

When you change your thoughts, you will change your feelings as well, and you will also eliminate the triggers that set off those feelings. Both of these outcomes provide you with a greater level of peace in your mind.

I currently have a few thoughts that are not of my choosing or a response from my reprogramming. I am the master of my mind, so now my mind is quite peaceful. Yours can be too!

Who Is Thinking My Thoughts?

Before you can become the master of your mind, you must recognize that you are currently at the mercy of several unwanted “squatters” living in your mind, and they are in control of your thoughts.

If you want to be the boss of them, you must know who they are and what their motivation is, and then you can take charge and evict them.

Here are four of the “squatters” in your head that create unhealthy and unproductive thoughts.

1. The Inner Critic

This is your constant abuser who is often a conglomeration of:

  • Other people’s words—many times your parents
  • Thoughts you have created based on your own or other peoples’ expectations
  • Comparing yourself to other people, including those in the media
  • The things you told yourself as a result of painful experiences such as betrayal and rejection. Your interpretation creates your self-doubt and self-blame, which are most likely undeserved in cases of rejection and betrayal.

The Inner Critic is motivated by pain, low self-esteem, lack of self-acceptance, and lack of self-love.

Why else would this person abuse you? And since this person is youwhy else would you abuse yourself? Why would you let anyone treat you this badly?

2. The Worrier

This person lives in the future—in the world of “what ifs.”

The Worrier is motivated by fear, which is often irrational and has no basis. Occasionally, this person is motivated by fear that what happened in the past will happen again.

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3. The Reactor or Troublemaker

This is the one that triggers anger, frustration, and pain. These triggers stem from unhealed wounds of the past. Any experience that is even closely related to a past wound will set him off.

This person can be set off by words or feelings and can even be set off by sounds and smells.

The Reactor has no real motivation and has poor impulse control. He is run by past programming that no longer serves you—if it ever did.

4. The Sleep Depriver

This can be a combination of any number of different squatters including the inner planner, the rehasher, and the ruminator, along with the inner critic and the worrier.

The Sleep Depriver’s motivation can be:

  • As a reaction to silence, which he fights against
  • Taking care of the business you neglected during the day
  • Self-doubt, low self-esteem, insecurity, and generalized anxiety
  • As listed above for the inner critic and worrier

How can you control these squatters?

How to Master Your Mind

You are the thinker and the observer of your thoughts. You can control your thoughts, but you must pay attention to them so you can identify “who” is running the show—this will determine which technique you will want to use.

Begin each day with the intention of paying attention to your thoughts and catching yourself when you are thinking undesirable thoughts.

There are two ways to control your thoughts:

  • Technique A – Interrupt and replace them
  • Technique B – Eliminate them altogether

This second option is what is known as peace of mind.

The technique of interrupting and replacing is a means of reprogramming your subconscious mind. Eventually, the replacement thoughts will become the “go-to” thoughts in applicable situations.

Use Technique A with the Inner Critic and Worrier and Technique B with the Reactor and Sleep Depriver.

1. For the Inner Critic

When you catch yourself thinking something negative about yourself (calling yourself names, disrespecting yourself, or berating yourself), interrupt it.

You can yell (in your mind), “Stop! No!” or, “Enough! I’m in control now.” Then, whatever your negative thought was about yourself, replace it with an opposite or counter thought or an affirmation that begins with “I am.”

For example, if your thought is, “I’m such a loser,” you can replace it with, “I am a Divine Creation of the Universal Spirit. I am a perfect spiritual being learning to master the human experience. I am a being of energy, light, and matter. I am magnificent, brilliant, and beautiful. I love and approve of myself just as I am.”

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You can also have a dialogue with yourself to discredit the ‘voice’ that created the thought—if you know whose voice it is:

“Just because so-and-so said I was a loser doesn’t make it true. It was his or her opinion, not a statement of fact. Or maybe they were joking and I took it seriously because I’m insecure.”

If you recognize that you have recurring self-critical thoughts, you can write out or pre-plan your counter thoughts or affirmation so you can be ready.

This is the first squatter you should evict, forcefully, if necessary:

  • They rile up the Worrier.
  • The names you call yourself become triggers when called those names by others, so he also maintains the presence of the Reactor.
  • They are often present when you try to fall asleep so he perpetuates the Sleep Depriver.
  • They are a bully and is verbally and emotionally abusive.
  • They are the destroyer of self-esteem. They convince you that you’re not worthy. They’re a liar! In the interest of your self-worth, get them out!

Eliminate your worst critic and you will also diminish the presence of the other three squatters.

Replace them with your new best friends who support, encourage, and enhance your life. This is a presence you want in your mind.

2. For the Worrier

Prolonged anxiety is mentally, emotionally, and physically unhealthy. It can have long-term health implications.

Fear initiates the fight or flight response, creates worry in the mind, and creates anxiety in the body. This may make it more difficult for you to control your thoughts effectively.

You should be able to recognize a “worry thought” immediately by how you feel. The physiological signs that the fight or flight response of fear has kicked in are:

  • Increased heart rate, blood pressure, or surge of adrenaline
  • Shallow breathing or breathlessness
  • Muscles tense

Use the above-stated method to interrupt any thought of worry and then replace it. But this time, you will replace your thoughts of worry with thoughts of gratitude for the outcome you wish for.

If you believe in a higher power, this is the time to engage with it. Here is an example:

Instead of worrying about my loved ones traveling in bad weather, I say the following (I call it a prayer):

“Thank you great spirit for watching over _______. Thank you for watching over his/her car and keeping it safe, road-worthy, and free of maintenance issues without warning. Thank you for surrounding him/her with only safe, conscientious, and alert drivers. And thank you for keeping him/her safe, conscientious, and alert.”

Smile when you think about it or say it aloud, and phrase it in the present tense. Both of these will help you feel it and possibly even start to believe it.

If you can visualize what you are praying for, the visualization will enhance the feeling so you will increase the impact in your vibrational field.

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Now, take a calming breath, slowly in through your nose, and slowly out through the mouth. Take as many as you like! Do it until you feel that you’re close to being in control of your thoughts.

Replacing fearful thoughts with gratitude will decrease reactionary behavior, taking the steam out of the Reactor.

For example: If your child gets lost in the mall, the typical parental reaction that follows the fearful thoughts when finding them is to yell at them.

“I told you never to leave my sight.” This reaction just adds to the child’s fear level from being lost in the first place.

Plus, it also teaches them that mom and/or dad will get mad when he or she makes a mistake, which may make them lie to you or not tell you things in the future.

Change those fearful thoughts when they happen:

“Thank You (your choice of Higher Power) for watching over my child and keeping him safe. Thank you for helping me find him soon.”

Then, when you see your child after this thought process, your only reaction will be gratitude, and that seems like a better alternative for all people involved.

3. For the Troublemaker, Reactor or Over-Reactor

Permanently eliminating this squatter will take a bit more attention and reflection after the fact to identify and heal the causes of the triggers. But until then, you can prevent the Reactor from getting out of control by initiating conscious breathing as soon as you recognize his presence.

The Reactor’s thoughts or feelings activate the fight or flight response just like with the Worrier. The physiological signs of his presence will be the same. With a little attention, you should be able to tell the difference between anxiety, anger, frustration, or pain.

I’m sure you’ve heard the suggestion to count to ten when you get angry—well, you can make those ten seconds much more productive if you are breathing consciously during that time.

Conscious breathing is as simple as it sounds—just be conscious of your breathing. Pay attention to the air going in and coming out.

Breathe in through your nose:

  • Feel the air entering your nostrils.
  • Feel your lungs filling and expanding.
  • Focus on your belly rising.

Breathe out through your nose:

  • Feel your lungs emptying.
  • Focus on your belly falling.
  • Feel the air exiting your nostrils.

Do this for as long as you like. Leave the situation if you want. This gives the adrenaline time to normalize. Now, you can address the situation with a calmer, more rational perspective and avoid damaging behavior, and you’ll be more in control of your thoughts.

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One of the troubles this squatter causes is that it adds to the sleep depriver’s issues. By evicting or at least controlling the Reactor, you will decrease reactionary behavior, which will decrease the need for the rehashing and ruminating that may keep you from falling asleep.

Master your mind and stop the Reactor from bringing stress to you and your relationships!

4. For the Sleep Depriver

(They’re made up of the Inner Planner, the Rehasher, and the Ruminator, along with the Inner Critic and the Worrier.)

I was plagued with a very common problem: not being able to turn off my mind at bedtime. This inability prevented me from falling asleep and thus, getting a restful and restorative night’s sleep.

Here’s how I mastered my mind and evicted the Sleep Depriver and all his cronies.

  1. I started by focusing on my breathing—paying attention to the rise and fall of my belly—but that didn’t keep the thoughts out for long. (Actually, I now start with checking my at-rest mouth position to keep me from clenching.)
  2. Then I came up with a replacement strategy that eliminated uncontrolled thinking—imagining the word in while breathing in and thinking the word out when breathing out. I would (and do) elongate the word to match the length of my breath.

When I catch myself thinking, I shift back to in, out. With this technique, I am still thinking, sort of, but the wheels are no longer spinning out of control. I am in control of my mind and thoughts, and I choose quiet.

From the first time I tried this method, I started to yawn after only a few cycles and am usually asleep within ten minutes.

For really difficult nights, I add an increase of attention by holding my eyes in a looking-up position (closed, of course). Sometimes I try to look toward my third eye but that really hurts my eyes.

If you have trouble falling asleep because you can’t shut off your mind, I strongly recommend you try this technique. I still use it every night. You can start sleeping better tonight!

You can also use this technique any time you want to:

  • Fall back to sleep if you wake up too soon
  • Shut down your thinking
  • Calm your feelings
  • Simply focus on the present moment

The Bottom Line

Your mind is a tool, and like any other tool, it can be used for constructive purposes or destructive purposes.

You can allow your mind to be occupied by unwanted, undesirable, and destructive tenants, or you can choose desirable tenants like peace, gratitude, compassion, love, and joy.

Your mind can become your best friend, your biggest supporter, and someone you can count on to be there and encourage you. You can be in control of your thoughts. The choice is yours!

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Featured photo credit: Priscilla Du Preez via unsplash.com

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