Facing the Grip of Mental Health Illness is no longer SAD
I was fortunate but had to suffer the pain of Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). Why fortunate?
It was late spring, 2018. A lot was happening in my life. Dealing with a mentally abusive person, selling my condo, coordinating my move, finding a new place to live, and ultimately suffering from exhaustion and dehydration. Then the final trauma was from my hospital experience.
I was released after a night and without warning, my mind started shutting down. I was losing interest in activities I once enjoyed, I started feeling depressed most of the day, my energy level was low, I would get easily agitated, had difficulty concentrating, feeling hopeless and challenged to manage my thoughts and the big one was my growing battle with sleeping at nights.
I dreaded the nights and wished they would not come. As the symptoms progressed I could do very little for myself and grew desperate for help. For a while I didn't know who to turn to as I figured no one would understand. I didn't know who I could talk to.
My depression grew stronger into the summer. On one visit to my doctor, I came to understand that this was a common thing. As assuring as that might seem, the question that plaque me was, "if it was so common then why can't there be a quick fix?" The solutions offered to me where to seek therapy from a psychologist and take some medication to help me to sleep.
At first, I declined both, but later decided to try the psychologist. I had a couple sessions which felt more like a research initiative. This made me feel frustrated as I was looking for clear things that will help me get better. As my sleep challenges got worst, I decided to take the medication. Three weeks after starting the dosage I finally started to get some sleep at nights.
The journey through the summer was my toughest. Amidst all the challenges, I discovered 8 helpful things to do. However, the key to unlock it all is to be receptive.
1. Have a Solid Support Team
Thankful I had a great support team that helped me through this period. Four friends opened their home to me. They allowed me to talk and express myself. They also provided the basics of life and helped maintain my dignity.
I walked for over 400km, which is a distance just short of Toronto to Montreal. Walking was my daily activity. It allowed me to explore the outdoors and stay in the sun which was necessary. Walking also allow me to connect with the world through nature, the landscape and people. This simple one step gave me the peace I needed.
3. Talk to Real People
Talk is surely not cheap. However, I found the real value in talk with the people I was closest to. They where the ones who would simply listen and encourage me daily. They didn't seek to try and fix me, but they listened. They also allowed me to be myself and to do whatever I needed to.
4. Stay away from Social Media
Some of my lowest moments where a result of what I saw or read on Social Media. I had to shut myself away from it. One of the key things about suffering through a mental health illness is the things that you feed your mind with. I had to consistently work on keeping a positive focus and mindset.
5. Take up a Hobby
From I was 18 I started writing. Poetry was my primary writing disciple. However, during my illness, for the first time I couldn't write. If I did, it was very little that I was able to do. Writing was my go-to but for this moment I could not go to it. So, I picked up drawing. I purchased a drawing pad and got some colour pencils. In my walks, I would stop and capture the images on paper. Slowly my writing started to come back as I now explored a combination of writing, drawing and photography.
6. Take on a physical project
While I had no interest in anything that I would normally do, I needed to fill my day with something to do. Fortunately, I had the opportunity to paint a house. Every morning I would get up with that purpose. In the space of about 6 weeks I painted the entire interior of a 3-bedroom house. At the end, it gave me a sense of pride and accomplishment. That reduced my sense of hopelessness.
7. Eat, Drink and Fall in Love with the Sun
Nutrition, hydration and the sun are essential. The good thing for me was, my illness took place in the summer so there were lots of sunny opportunities.
8. Mediate, Pray and Listen to the Bible App
This activity settled me at nights and gave me the peace in my sleep. It also made a difference in my rising the next morning. Gratitude is at the start and end of each day.
At the end of the day, it is important to stay positive, stay focused, remain present and keep living. Life is short and in that breath, we can make a difference in all that we experience. If you have a sense of hopelessness, talk it through with someone. Everyone needs to feel needed. Everyone has something to offer. Let's help each other to achieve that and break the grip of mental illness.
O. Stephen is passionate about words and believes that words can Inspire Change, Connect People, Perspectives and their Stories to create new possibilities. A published author through his company Released Expressions Media. He writes daily to experience the power of the written word. He fosters growth through listening and learning to shape perspectives and bridge ideas.
He believes every individual can attain their full potential by Starting with a Word. O. Stephen is leading a movement to inspire people to Release their own Expressions. It is this vision that drives him daily to see others realize their superpower and deliver at work, home and play every day.
An avid Toastmaster and a member of the Toronto Writer’s Collective (TWC), O. Stephen carries his badge as a Mental Health Advocate. These offer him the motivation to stay grounded and be committed to serving the community. He is a dad to two (2) children. He is driven each day to live a life of gratitude and that’s just how he seeks to end each chapter.