Recovering from Mental Illness

Recovery from mental illness is possible, but it can be surprisingly more difficult than expected. Many may believe that the new year is an ideal time to recover from mental illness as it can be a time of reflection, goal setting, excitement and new beginnings, but it can also be a time of pressure to change, share what is going to be new and believe things you may not necessarily agree with. We hear, "What is your New Year’s resolution?" hundreds of times during the months of December and January and we may think it is going to motivate us to overcome our mental illness. But a time of year doesn’t determine if recovery from a mental illness is possible, a decision does.
Schizoaffective disorder recovery helped me gain confidence, but first, recovery took away a gift I thought made me special.  Before my diagnosis in my early 20s, when I was really struggling, I thought that I was a medium and could communicate with spirits. I had both auditory and visual hallucinations that I thought were ghosts. Letting go of the belief I was psychic in early schizoaffective disorder recovery hurt my confidence.
Life after an eating disorder, and treatment for both bulimia and schizoaffective disorder, is much better. I often write about my experience with schizoaffective disorder at HealthyPlace, but it was really my struggle with bulimia that led me to seek help in the first place. I struggled with my eating disorder for many years, and eating disorder recovery was rough until I was also treated for schizoaffective disorder. In my case, the two were definitely related. When my mood and psychotic symptoms were reduced with medication, I finally felt strong enough to really get a handle on my eating disorder. I spent several weeks at an eating disorder treatment center in my early 20s. I truly believe it saved my life, and during my life after an eating disorder, I haven’t looked back once.
Recovering from a mental illness during the holidays can be more difficult than recovering at any other time of year. The holiday season can bring additional financial, personal, and emotional stress as well as a sense of overwhelming anxiety. Seeing family members, having to purchase gifts, and juggling the added responsibilities during the holidays are all not conducive to recovering from mental illness. But recovering from mental illness over the holidays is possible with a plan and awareness of what the holidays may bring up for you.
Stressful life events play an enormous role in mental health issues; the connection between stress and mental illness is strong. There have been a few stressful events in my life that have really affected my mental illness symptoms. Moving, college, and motherhood have had the biggest impact on me. Some of these events took place before I was diagnosed with schizoaffective disorder and bulimia, and some took place after. Here’s what happened and how I coped with these stressful life events.
Many times our relationship with food affects our mental illness recovery and our mental illness recovery affects our relationship with food. Whether it’s overeating or not eating enough, usually our eating patterns are abnormal. This affects our mood, energy, thoughts, and feelings about ourselves. Lack of normalcy with food can make it extremely difficult to recover from mental illness. Being healthy and confident in our food choices, or having a good relationship with food, is key to recovery.
Being a college student with mental illness can be challenging, but for many, it is well worth it. A few months ago, I wrote an article on the importance of persistence as a college student. Persistence in college helps greatly, but it takes more than that to succeed. There are many resources available to college students with mental illness and it’s also important to build a network of support, including mental health professionals, peers, mentors, family and friends.
A daily journal becomes a powerful tool when it comes to mental illness recovery because it allows you to get out of your head and onto paper. Oftentimes when someone is recovering from mental illness, they spend a lot of time alone or feeling lonely (even if they are around other people), and he or she is usually in his or her head with his or her thoughts. When you are able to write down your thoughts, your feelings, your beliefs, and what you are going through, something magical happens. You find so much clarity and peace in that practice, one of the many mental health benefits of journaling. Keeping a daily journal will aid your mental illness recovery.
In 2016, my life changed forever when I became a mom for the first time, but my mental illness has made my new role as a parent sometimes challenging. I was diagnosed with schizoaffective disorder 10 years before giving birth to our daughter, and I have been doing really well with medication for the last several years. Being a mom with a mental illness comes with additional parenting concerns specific to mental illness.
For the past 10 years, mental illness medications have been an integral part of my recovery from schizoaffective disorder. Finding the right psychiatric medications and dosage was difficult at first. My medications now are very effective, but still occasionally need adjustment. I know the life I live now would never be possible without mental illness medications.