Living with a mental illness is hard for people to understand if they have never experienced it themselves. It makes most tasks more difficult, or puts a strain on your ability to do basic life tasks.
I’ve created a list of challenges specific to living with a mental illness (one’s I and my loved ones have struggled with such as anxiety and depression) and hope this can help people relate, know they aren’t alone, or simply reduce the stigma around the difficulties of life with mental illness.
1. Explaining feelings
When you are down, or feeling off, it is extremely hard to communicate. This makes it difficult to explain why you feel that way because often there isn’t a logical explanation. The smallest thing can trigger your sudden anxiety attack, state of sadness, or episode that sometimes you don’t recognize.
Those suffering with mental illness are more likely to have insomnia or sleep disorders. When you lack sleep, your mental health can deteriorate, worsening this affect.
3. Managing time
Getting from A to B, arriving to work on time or juggling your schedule can be a lot harder when you have a mental illness. Your brain is in constant overdrive, you procrastinate or you lack the motivation to complete your daily tasks.
Whether your antidepressants have decreased your libido, or you just can’t get yourself out of bed to maintain a relationship; dating can be difficult. I struggled to date for years because I knew I wasn’t in the right place, but also because I couldn’t be bothered.
5. Social interaction
This is one of the most difficult I have found from suffering from anxiety and depression. Social situations become nerve-racking or have even caused me to become ill at the thought. I lost interest in maintaining a social life and couldn’t motivate myself to make plain conversation at social gatherings.
6. Work life balance
When you suffer from anxiety, work and home are not easily separated. You bring your work home, can’t leave personal situations at the door when you’re at work, or constantly worry about unimportant things.
7. Finding motivation
If you haven’t gathered by now, motivation is hard to find. If you suffer from depression, some days you can hardly get out of bed, let alone find the strength to do something else.
8. Trying new things/breaking habits
Trying new things or adapting to change is hard for most people. When you lack energy, strength and courage this becomes even more difficult.
9. Managing stress
When something minor happens, it can feel like a big deal. I noticed I am very sensitive and hold feelings tightly, so stressful situations are very difficult to process. They can cause severe anxiety attacks and even illness.
Making a commitment is difficult. It can be because anxiety takes over and questions your judgement, or because you know your illness will always be a part of the picture. It’s important to remember that you are not defined by your illness and can prevail regardless.
11. Seeking help
Like anything, admitting something wrong is always difficult and until you have, seeking help can be challenging. It means you have to acknowledge there is a problem, or something different about you which is difficult to admit at first.
12. Living up to expectations
When you have anxiety, you rarely meet your expectations. Your mind puts pressure on you, you worry about what other people think and finding true satisfaction is difficult.
13. Regulating mood
With your brain chemistry altered, mood regulation is difficult. You can feel things deeply, hurt more, or take longer to come out of a mood.
14. Having confidence
Having any sort of health problem can alter confidence. Your ability to act in situations is lessened because of a decrease in self-assurance. When you are judged because you are different, this decreases confidence.
15. Feeling stigmatized
Ultimately, mental illness is a challenge in part because of the symptoms, but also because of the stigma associated to it. If there were no stigmas, people would feel more confident and less unsure about what it means to suffer from a mental health problem.
We need to work to understand how mental health affects people on a daily basis. While these are only a few of the challenges I have experienced, there are so many more with drastic effects. Take the time to reach out, be patient and seek to understand why someone feels the way they do.