A very challenging and important aspect of dealing with mental illness of any kind is acceptance. If you can’t or don’t accept the reality of the situation, it’s much harder to treat. If you aren’t open to treatment of any kind, how are you going to feel better? If you refuse help from everyone, it hurts you, and them. Ultimately, everyone wants to feel better.
Some of the hardest things about many types of mental illnesses are the crushing lassitude of depression and despair that overtake a person and make them feel like they’ll never smile again.
And that ubiquitous mood disorder, the bully we call depression, pretty much says NO to everything.
No, I’m not getting out of bed.
No, I can’t stand myself.
No, I don’t care about anything anymore.
No, I’ll never feel better ever again.
No, I don’t want to be in this world.
So I present to you a thought exercise that might help you and your loved ones, regardless of what painful challenge is surrounding you, by shifting your perspective.
Just say YES.
Saying yes is a good idea when facing reality and looking to support and handle your health. I’m not suggesting you say yes to everything. There are many books about that road, including one by Shonda Rhimes, but most of us really shouldn’t say yes to everything (like recreational drugs, drinking, cheating, lying, stealing, etc.).
The reason I’m so amped on the whole yes thing is that I spent many years performing and teaching improv.
It was loads of fun, and I wish I could do it more, but the pandemic and my mood disorders have had other plans these last few years. I do hope to take it up again.
Will you teach improv again, Emi?
YES, AND it will be fun when I do.
The entire basis of any improvised scene is Yes, and…
Example: I say to my performing partner: “Aunt Judy, is that you?”
She answers: “No.”
END OF SCENE. That’s called a block.
How about this, instead:
Example: I say to my performing partner, “Aunt Judy, is that you?”
She answers: “Yes, and Clara, I can’t believe it’s been forty years since we were mud wrestling together in Miami!”
YAY, a scene to build on! Probably a pretty interesting one, too.
I know It’s hard to say yes to much of anything these days except for staying home and being anxious. That’s not great for the human psyche. Whether you have a brain-based disorder or not, this covid situation is endlessly brutal. Everyone struggles with it in many different ways. It can be hard to be cheerful when this nightmare never seems to end.
But if we use a yes, and… mindset, things can be a tiny bit better.
Saying YES to mental illness may sound counterintuitive, but it actually helps. If you and your loved ones can accept that these are the cards that have been dealt, then there is more room for health, balance, and joy in all of your lives. It’s not easy, but you will have a better time with an open mind and an open heart and yes, and… on the brain.
Let’s try it:
Q: Do you have a mental illness?
A: Yes, and I’m working really hard to stay healthy.
Q: Does a loved one have a mental illness?
A: Yes, and I’m doing some research about it, and trying to listen to them so I understand them better.
Knowledge is power.
If you can say yes to depression, that doesn’t mean giving into it. It means saying, Yes, I’m depressed, and I‘m going to eat some oatmeal and then ask a friend to take a walk with me. (If you’ve got a pup, you HAVE to take that friend out for walk; think about it. )
And on those days when you feel like hell, and someone asks you:
“Are you having a rough time?”
You can answer: “Yes, and I’m going to keep on keeping on so I can get through this.”