What's the biggest day-to-day challenge people living with mental illness experience?
We asked 10 SANE Peer Ambassadors for the biggest challenge, fear or obstacle they face.
And they said their biggest challenge is . . .
My biggest challenge is acting or reacting in a way considered socially acceptable, such as not getting annoyed, inpatient or angry.
Overcoming fear and anxiety when dealing with new people is also a challenge, and not shutting down and going into protective fight-mode. Likewise, I struggle to connect with people who I have little in common with and sometimes I fail to see the value in that.
Guilt and shame
I blamed myself for not being able to handle everything better and I was ashamed of my behaviours and actions. Sometimes, it seemed like I was watching myself being made to do bizarre things through my eyes with no control over the outcomes.
I hated the way my children looked at me with a combination of fear and pity. They were just young teenagers and they deserved better than I could give them. It has taken me years to come to terms with that.
Making yourself a priority
When things are going well life gets in the way – work, family, friends. I love all of them, so saying no is hard.
When I become complacent and stop my regular practices it's almost a guarantee that my mood will change and go downhill. Getting enough sleep and going for a walk are necessities, no matter how busy I am and how good I'm feeling.
Being conscious of my symptoms, working hard at managing them, knowing when to reach out for help and not being too proud to accept help. If I'm elevated I can find it hard to hold myself back and not take so much on.
Identifying moods and feelings
A big challenge is not knowing if how I am feeling is related to my illness, my symptoms, or just a part of life.
Because of a policy change at work I've been on reduced hours. As a result, I've found it very hard to motivate myself to work at home and be productive. Is this symptomatic of my illness? Or is it associated with feelings of loss and doubt over my future, and therefore normal? I second guess myself a lot because of my illness.
Maintaining good routines
It's easy to come up with a reason to not exercise, walk the dog, or cook dinner (as opposed to takeaway). I have to really work at maintaining those positive habits.
Living up to expectations
Others' expectations are a huge factor in how I feel day to day. The pressure of being everything I need to be. A mother, partner, constructive work colleague and good employee can be overwhelming.
The unknown hurdles symptoms bring
My biggest challenge? When I wake up, not knowing what the day will be like. How will my mood be? How will I handle daily stressors and triggers?
To combat this I limit the number of commitments I make each day. This allows for unforeseen disturbances in the day and time for self-care.
Planning and navigating the world
I've learnt that to manage my anxiety I have to know what I'm doing every day, right down to what I'm eating.
If I walk into the bathroom or the kitchen and something is out of place it throws me off. It's the day to day things that are the hardest.
Despite all of that I still manage to work and study and make attempts at having a social life. It just means I work very hard every day and it leaves me a bit tired.
The eternal question: Will my illness return?
The biggest day-to-day struggle for me is not knowing if my illness will return or not.
My first and only episode of psychosis was severe, so the uncertainty of not knowing if I will have a second episode is an ongoing concern in the back of my mind. I am grateful that I haven't had a second episode, but I struggle with knowing that it could come back at any time throughout my life.
For more information about people's experiences of living with a mental illness, see SANE's People Like Us.