When I was first diagnosed with a mental health condition my Self Management amounted to taking my medication and attending my appointments. At the time I did not think of this as Self Management nor was I ever told that was what I was doing. In fact Self Management was never mentioned. I was told I would need to take medication for approximately a year before it could be gradually reduced and stopped. I would then be better, healed or dare I say it recovered. I was therefore devastated when this turned out not to be the case. I self stigmatised as I thought I had failed. I had also been told the more relapses I had the less chance there would be of “getting better” one day.
My turning point came during a conversation with my GP. He told me to think of my anti depressants the same way as I thought about my asthma inhalers. I needed my inhalers to physically stay well and I needed anti depressants to stay mentally well. It took a while for me to accept this concept but once I did it empowered me. There were things I did to try and not have an asthma attack so perhaps there were things I could do to help my mental health.
I volunteered to participate in the Condition Management Programme which essentially gave me hints and tips on how to deal with a long term health condition. This in turn gave me the confidence to volunteer with a local charity to see if I liked social care. I decided to change career from the Civil Service to Social Care which essentially meant instead of dealing with man’s inhumanity to man I helped vulnerable people to live the best life possible.
I then saw an advert from Stirling University looking for volunteers to participate in a mental health research study re the effects of Mindfulness versus the Wellness Recovery Action Plan. I was placed in the WRAP group and attended for 2.5 hours every week for 8 weeks during which time I made up my own Plan. My WRAP is still going strong and is the cornerstone of my Self Management. Two years ago I decided I wanted to incorporate Mindfulness into my life so took a course.
Through my work in Social Care I had to continuously enhance my self development and knowledge through training courses. Some of these courses were very helpful for my own wellbeing including Nutrition for Health and Wellness, Stress Management, Mental Health At Work, Mentally Healthy Workplaces and Mental Health First Aid to name but a few.
Bits and pieces from the courses have been incorporated into my WRAP. As I was writing this I thought I probably could call some of my Self Management strategies “L-A’s rules for Wellness”. Some of these are
1 Start every morning with a lemon and ginger tea with honey.
2 Always eat breakfast which 99% of the time is homemade muesli with fruit and homemade yoghurt.
3 Take medication
4 Drink water throughout the day and no caffeine
5 Eat 5 a day and no processed food if at all possible
6 Plan my week in advance and include ME time every day
7 Practice mindfulness throughout the day
8 Journal every day – rate mood and include at least 3 things to be grateful for that day
9 Talk to my girls every day
10 Dip into apps on iPad – the Mighty , Shine , Blurt , Pacifica etc
11 Participate in hobbies at least twice a week
12 No daytime tv
13 A good nights sleep
14 If a bad day turns into a week and then a fortnight seek help
15 Call Crisis Helpline if feeling suicidal
It has been a long and winding road but I now have many tools in my Wellness Toolbox. If one tool doesn’t work on any given day I move on to another one.
My life is very different to what it once was due to all of the positive changes I have made in an effort to live the best life I can despite being diagnosed with physical and mental health conditions. My mental health is no different to my physical health in that I can have good days, alright days and down right awful days. Last year I contracted Sepsis and needed a whole team of health care professionals to save my life against all odds. This means I no longer work so I have a lot more time to concentrate on keeping myself as healthy as possible and try very hard to live the best life I can.
My new role – Lesley-Anne’s Wellness Co-ordinator !!!