Recovering from a mental illness is a challenge, but there are some mantras you can keep in mind for those rough days. I have battled mental health concerns for nearly nine years and know from my own struggle and recovery how important it is to keep mottoes like these close to home. I even have some of them written down in my journal to help on those days when recovery from mental illness seems impossible. Here are some mantras that I hope will help you in your recovery.
1. Never Give up
There was a girl in my group therapy who often raised this point about recovering from mental illness: Never. Give. Up...Ever. This mantra stuck with me because it’s very direct. Things can get confusing during recovery because your emotions are all over the place. I know they were for me. But by keeping in mind that giving up wasn’t an option, it gave me the motivation to keep trying after relapses and slip-ups. It inspired me to never give up and to keep fighting until I reclaimed my life.
2. It Gets Better
So much can happen in a year. You may be struggling to see any reason to keep going but I promise you it gets better. I think of a quote from Lewis Carroll’s “Alice in Wonderland” that I like that goes, “I can’t go back to yesterday because I was a different person then.” Every day changes us, even if it’s the tiniest bit. Look and see where you are at in a day, a week or a year. It may be cloudy now but it does get better.
3. Stop, Breathe and Be
“Stop, Breathe and Be” was a mantra we used in my group therapy to help bring mindfulness into our lives in order to deconstruct distortions. When you become aware of racing thoughts, such as the urge to engage in a self-destructive behavior or the spin of anxiety, take a moment to stop whatever you are doing and just breathe. Let yourself be present in this moment, in all its chaos. Then decide what would be the best thing to do going forward from here. If you need to write it out because visually seeing it may help you better, then grab a notepad or journal and start writing.
4. The Same Sky
No matter where you are in the world or what time of day it is, there is someone out there wishing the best for you. You are not alone. We are all under the same sky. It doesn’t matter what kind of day you are having; you have the opportunity to soak up the sun or stare at the stars and know that we are all connected. This thought helps ground me when I feel disconnected and isolated from the people and the passions that make me want to keep fighting.
5. Play Your Cards
During a lecture by Marya Hornbacher in regards to her battle with mental illness and addiction, she said, “I may not have chosen the cards I was dealt but I intend to play them well.” No one chooses to have a mental illness but it’s a result of various psychological, physiological, emotional, social and cognitive factors. If I could have prevented my mental illness, then my life would be different. But because I have struggled with mental health concerns from self-harm to an eating disorder and more, I’ve needed to learn the difference between using my cards and playing them. Using them as a crutch is unhealthy because it doesn’t allow you to play consciously and make the most of your life. You are not handicapped by your mental illness unless you let it have that control over you.
6. It’s Okay to Feel This Way
When feelings of sadness, loneliness, frustration or anxiety creep their way into your world, it gets challenging. I can’t say I like the feeling of crying myself to sleep or emotional exhaustion, but I’ve learned that it’s okay to feel this way. Life is full of pockets of all emotions. It’s also okay to feel content, blissful, sincere and happy. I believed I wasn’t worthy to be happy because I was a horrible person, or so my thoughts led me to believe. But I’ve learned that it’s okay because this feeling will pass. It’s not okay to keep quiet about how you are feeling and repress those feelings.
7. Keep Calm and Carry on
I love the British slogan “Keep Calm and Carry On.” Its roots come from World War II but the saying is alive today and is bound to stick around with our fascination with it. Winston Churchill issued the slogan to let citizens know that no matter what was happening on the battle front in Europe, to just keep calm and carry on and everything would be okay. In recovery from mental illness it’s important to keep this motto in mind after relapses. Slip-ups happen and are a part of recovery but it’s important to keep pushing forward through it all. I have a phone case with this saying and even had the words on my wall at college.
These are some of my personal favorite mantras to keep in mind when recovering from mental illness. What are some other mottoes that have helped you in recovery? What’s your favorite?