Loving Yourself When You Have a Mental Illness
In 1972, a kids program called "The Most Important Person" gave 3-minute self-esteem lessons about respecting yourself, learning from mistakes, and protecting yourself in the face of various meanies. The theme song began with the following lyric:
The most important person in the whole wide world is you and you hardly even know you.
Almost 40 years after hearing that song for the first time, I often find myself repeating the lyric in my head. Wouldn't it be great if that program was redone for adults? What if someone made a "love yourself" cartoon for people with bipolar?
Loving Yourself with Bipolar Disorder
When I'm Bad I'm Bad. When I'm Good I'm Medicated.
Being able to love yourself when you have bipolar disorder, or another mental illness, isn't an easy task a lot of the time. Mostly because we don't feel lovable all of the time. But recovery requires honesty and self-investigation which, if done right, involves admitting some of your negative attributes to correct them.
It's often difficult to maintain a level of self-love when, like me, you're admitting to your ex-boyfriend that you've started thinking of him as an asshole to save yourself some grief but, you know, it was the mania that caused me to wake you up at 2AM and curse you out. Nope, I'm not proud of that admission, and it doesn't make me feel lovable. In fact, it may indeed have precipitated a dearth of love in my life because I used passive-aggressive behavior and sarcasm to drive men away. But I'm awesome!
I love myself when I am laughing, and then again when I am looking mean and impressive - Zora Neale Hurston
Maybe love means forgiveness, like you have to forgive the people you love for their wrongdoings or something like that. But what about when we're doing wrong to ourselves? We say things to ourselves, whether consciously or unconsciously, that we'd never say to our friends. Negative self-talk like "nobody will ever love you" are very real when you have a mental illness. The disease makes you feel less-than-normal and, therefore, undeserving of love and consideration, even from yourself.
How many of us treat ourselves badly without even thinking? We don't do the things necessary for recovery, even though they're good for us. Recently, I ignored a psychiatrist appointment, ran out of Effexor. If you've taken the drug, you know how dreadful the withdrawal is. Actually, my mood is still great, but the brain shocks and flu symptoms are pretty unbearable, even though I accepted them. I have no reason for making myself suffer SSRI detox, other than I just didn't feel like going to the doctor and thought I could handle it. But the fact that I didn't think anything of making myself suffer physically probably means that, on some level, my mood isn't as good as I think it is. And blogging coherently when your brain is in a fog? I wouldn't recommend it.
But I would recommend practicing self-love on a daily basis, whether it's going to bed at a decent hour or giving yourself credit for the awesomeness that it takes just to get out of bed sometimes. No matter what, we only get one self.
Lloyd, T. (2012, January 6). Loving Yourself When You Have a Mental Illness, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2019, September 16 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/relationshipsandmentalillness/2012/01/loving-yourself-when-you-have-a-mental-illness