The one thing most people don’t realize about what it’s like to have mental illness is that it never takes a day off. Every day of the week, every hour of the day, every minute of every hour, and every second of every minute it’s there.
Some minutes and hours are better than others, and after 5+ years, I’ve gotten used to the voices in my head, but there are times when I just pray to God that they would leave me alone.
The daily battle with mental illness requires resilience. I have what my Dad calls a “toolbox of coping skills.” I will spend hours typing my story on an old typewriter. Punching the keys gives me a small victory over the voices because it tells them “I’m not paying attention to you right now.”
When I’m not pouring my energy into writing, I work out. Initially I could only go to the gym for 10-15 minutes before I had to leave. Today, I have a home gym that my sister and I put together, thanks to COVID-19, and I am pumping iron for 60-90 minutes every single day. Like writing, it gives me control over the thoughts in my head which is critical on my journey to recovery.
The best coping skill I have in my toolbox is music. As you can imagine, putting on a pair of headphones and listening to Jazz, R&B, or Hip Hop completely silences the outside and inside world. Music takes away the stress and anxiety that have built up inside me and replaces it with a calmness that allows me to get back to my day. Some days I will put together a random playlist that will include, The Smithereens, Bruce Springsteen, Pavarotti, Miles Davis, and The Doors. I feel like the inconsistency of the music confuses the voices; they don’t know what is coming next. It makes me laugh when I think about it.
One other coping skill I use is reading books. I love diving into a good book because it requires my complete attention. I appreciate an author who demands that I follow them on their journey which means I can leave mine at home. One of my favorite books is “The Magic Strings of Frankie Presto” by Mitch Albom. It is a journey through time and space. It’s about music and a mystical figure who challenges himself and everyone in his world.
Coping skills and daily challenges are essential when dealing with mental illness every day. Without them, I might actually lose my mind.