A year ago today I was discharged from the hospital where I had spent the past month. Yet I did not feel much better than when I entered. I did not believe in myself, my happiness, or my own self-worth.
Yet somehow I found my superpower, the ability to take responsibility for my recovery – to make me work.
Before, I had listened to the advice of those who wanted me to be better. The internet, friends, and family thought somehow I would be OK by telling me to do simple mundane tasks. No. No I could not even.
So I know that putting responsibility on yourself, is not an easy thought. But nothing was. Realising that it was down to me, and taking these slow steps, has seen a steady improvement in my life. Proof: I am here saying this!
Number 1: Gratitude is a must
There is always something to be grateful for, and focusing on that, no matter how small, can shift our mindset from empty to plenty. Make it a habit morning and night to list five things you are grateful for. Write it down if it helps. Those who suffer from depression know how easy it is for our minds to conjure the worst. But the best can also come like that too.
Number 2. Positives over negatives
A bit like the above. We are building mental strength like muscle. Train your body to reject pessimism, and for each negative thought to replace it with a positive – the opposite if you will. Like lifting weights, this does require persistence and practice. But you can take to it gradually.
Number 3: Exercise the body too
Depression gets its name from the ‘repression’ of feelings. We find it hard to express ourselves and so our emotions turn inward. From negative self-talk to the extreme of self-harm, repressing our emotions builds up pressure.
However, you are no bust pipe. Think of exercise as letting out that pressure. Intense exercise has been found to curb self harm because endorphins send signals to your brain to increase production of serotonin, which is the “happy” chemical. 30 minutes a day has a massive impact on my mood.
Number 4: Your self-care plan
I feel this is the ultimate for recovery, to realise you are worth looking after. For me, these include some of the above: exercise, journaling, eating healthy, going to bed on time, spending time with my little niece, relying on my intuition, and the list goes on.
Self-care is personal to you, it is looking at your day and thinking, “How can I show myself and my body love today?” Practicing honesty with myself in this way, and with others, was essential to learn my value, my identity, my boundaries and my emotions that I had kept hidden from others.
Number 5: Therapy and medication
If you can afford and access it, please accept it. It is okay to not be ok. Do not listen to family members who are ignorant about mental health, or are themselves repressing their own problems.
Had I listened to others discouraging me from seeking help I absolutely would not be where I am today. I can only hope that with more awareness Jamaica as a society will recognise the truths in the pain that many Jamaicans carry with them.
Through these practices I learned to trust myself more and to become unapologetic about myself. I gained perspective, a new outlook and found deeper patience, gratitude and compassion for myself along the way. I hope you can too.
UNICEF has conducted polls on youth mental health with our U-Report social messaging tool. Our most recent poll allows U-Reporters to take a quick test to assess their anxiety levels, and seek help if necessary. Jamaicans aged 13-29 years old can become U-Reporters and take the test by messaging the word ANXIETY to U-Report using either: Facebook Messenger or SMS to 876-838-4897 (free texts for FLOW customers).