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    How Online Support Groups Helped Healing My Mental Health

    The negative side to social-media use is well documented, but there’s also another, much more positive side that is often overlooked. Every day many thousands of people who suffer from mental health issues find acceptance, advice and support among people they can closely relate to in social media groups and other communities. Support that can sometimes be lifesaving. 

    (Before I start though I want to kindly point out that support online should NOT substitute psychotherapy or any other kind of support available out in the “real world”.)

     

    It’s not a secret that mental health issues commonly put us in situations where it’s easy to become isolated from the rest of the world. People with depression tend to push others away, while those who suffer from anxiety, paranoia or autism oftentimes find themselves simply unable to interact with others. Many also find themselves excluded due to odd social behaviours. Having a network of support right at your fingertips, ready to lend an ear or to give advice is valuable beyond measure. It’s a safe haven for many, a meeting place, refuge away from peering eyes and oftentimes even a lifeline.

    Earlier this year when I first was told of Avoidant Personality Disorder I felt very confused. I couldn’t make out what it meant for me, or for my life.

    Was I now officially crazy?

    Without being rational I felt like my life could just as well be over now that I had been “labeled”. The prospect of ever finding work seemed tiny, and I didn’t really have many friends or family other than my son and a handful of people overseas. People I thought may still look for the door once they find out what’s going on.

    Deep down I knew nothing had changed. I was still me, facing the same old obstacles I’ve always faced long before this even came up. The only difference now was that my issues had a name to go by. Yet I didn’t want to be diagnosed. It wasn’t something I was keen to acknowledge. Especially not with a personality disorder because to me that ultimately meant my personality is flawed. Think about it. What made me, me, is flawed. It was a pretty lonely time seeing as I didn’t know anyone else with the same problems. To me, I was the only one.

    At some point, one evening, I had the idea to search for Facebook support groups for people with mental health issues, and especially for other avoidants. I found a relatively big group of people who all identify with the avoidant disorder and I joined. It was one of the best things I could have done for my mental health. Immediately I had a community, I place where I belonged. It felt as if I had found “my” people, my tribe. We occasionally do avoid each other, but it’s ok because we understand it, we recognize the behaviour in ourselves. There’s no having to explain yourself. People just get it.

    Connecting with people who are similar to me has helped me tremendously to accept myself. I no longer feel like the odd one out. We are all odd ones out and together we’re the norm. Our community has given me an outlet where I can feel normal, and from my own experience that’s all you want when you struggle with mental health issues. To be normal. As I already mentioned above, this is in no way a substitute for a proper treatment plan, but it’s a factor that makes a huge difference to my overall well-being.

    I really think that’s it. Finding a place in the world where you fit in, a place to belong.

    What are your experiences with finding support online? Are you active in specific groups or on message boards? I’d love to hear what YOU people have to say.

    With Love,

    Kristina

  • Uncategorized

    Finding Motivation While Depressed

    In the wake of healing your mental health it’s so important to have something that motivates you. Without motivation there’s no drive, no movement forward and you remain stuck in a vicious circle. It’s nowhere near as easy as to just flick a switch to change your moods, but there are ways to slowly find that spark within again.

    Before you do anything it’s a good idea to ask yourself if all your basic needs are met. Are you getting enough sleep? Do you make sure to hydrate throughout the day? Are you getting any sort of exercise done? Even if it’s just a 5-minute session of stretching. Set the bar low. It’s ok. You need to start somewhere.

    1. Start
    Easier said than done, right? But the only way to get anywhere is to simply start. There’s no way around it. As I just said, set the bar low to make sure you’re not getting overwhelmed and discouraged in case you run into trouble early on. Strive to complete simple tasks such as just taking a shower, getting yourself dressed or unloading the dishwasher and raise the bar as you go. If you do feel very overwhelmed by a task, take note that it might be a goal set too high and you need to lower it to something that is more realistic at that point in time.

    2. Ask for help or support
    In times of trouble it can be crucial to have people around you who help and support you. This isn’t something that comes naturally to many though. A lot of people who suffer from mental illness are ashamed or feel like they don’t deserve the support. However, that is not true. We all deserve to be happy and to feel great. Having a trusted friend or family member to hold you accountable is also a good idea. That way you’re more likely to actually get started and work through the goals you set up for yourself.

    3. Be kind to yourself, always
    There is nothing more destructive than self-loath and criticism. Calling yourself “lazy” and “unproductive” is counter-productive, and will make you feel worse and thus, incapacitate you further. Instead, imagine that you are speaking to a loved one, or a much younger self. What would you tell them? Most likely not how lazy they are.

    4. A good bribe
    Don’t laugh now, but really, what works better than a good bribe? Visualize how much better you’ll be feeling after that shower, or after that cup of tea or coffee. If you sit up in bed, you can check your phone. If you get out of bed, you can have that refreshing shower. If you go to work, you can have coffee. Just the knowing you didn’t spend all day in bed, and actually did something, will encourage you to continue the good job you’re doing.

    5. Find a reason
    Now, this is a tricky one as I know that nobody would voluntarily lay in bed with depression and anxieties if it was just that easy to get over it. However, I do believe that having something to do in the days will help motivate you to get out of bed. Maybe actually sit down and write that to-do list of simple tasks down on paper? By doing this you get a sense of achievement as you’re crossing them off one by one, and the mere knowing that the day wasn’t entirely wasted is almost worthy of celebration. Another idea is to plan something to do that usually brings you a lot happiness and do your best to follow through with it. Maybe even start studying a new language, start up a blog (that’s what I did!), or why not try out a free online course in a subject that interest you? Start volunteering? But in baby-steps, of course.

    6. You are courageous, acknowledge that
    Staying in your depression is safe. You know what to expect, you know the pain as an old friend, and you’re sure to know that tomorrow is likely to be the same. If you do what you’ve always done, nothing is going to change. You need to do something different, even if it’s just in small steps at the time. And I know, stepping out of your comfort zone can be incredibly scary, and you’re courageous for taking the steps. Even just reading this article shows that you’re interested in a way out even if you haven’t begun your journey just yet. Good on you!

    Depression has no quick fix, but I’m hoping some of these tips will strike a chord within sombody out there and help them find the motivation to make the right changes in their lives. What are your own experiences? Do you have something else to add to the list? Please let me know in the comment section. I’d love to hear from you!

    With love,

    Kristina