A problem often faced by those who have mental health issues is investing in your future. For those who have ADHD, PTSD, and depression, this is particularly difficult. When one has these issues, it is difficult to imagine a future, let alone a pleasant one.
I believe the strongest way to combat that is to fall in love with your future self, treat your future as a tangible thing, and accept that you’re in charge of change.
I believe that through hard work and focus, one can save their future from their past.
To fall in love with yourself, you must first have empathy for yourself. Put simply, treat yourself like a friend you like. When I started going to cognitive behavioral therapy, I was taught how to have an open dialogue with myself. Whenever I felt ill, up or down, the conversation begins with an “Are you okay?” from myself to myself. Followed by, “Why do you feel the way you do?” I ask these questions to myself over and over until I get to the bottom of what the issue is, which is the same process I have when a friend of mine is upset. Empathy is the root of love and if you can learn to treat yourself like another person you like, then you’re golden. However, this does require you to have the ability to step back and look at your personality objectively, all of it, and not judge it, embrace it and move forward, which is difficult but possible.
The way to become who you wish to be is by making choices that the ideal you would make, to almost play yourself as you would a character in a video game. Examine who you are and in what you believe, and then act on that. One may choose on a daily basis to push oneself in a direction that is preferred. Unlearn what you have learned and be who you desire to be. Everyone can be as kind, funny, and smart as they want to be, as long as they are willing to work at those things. Positive qualities take a fair amount of dedication and gumption. Consumed by good intent, one may change one’s pattern of thinking and behavior. You cannot do this on your own, however. You must seek out help from those who have already done it. I highly advocate for therapy in all of its forms and also finding the form that fits you best. The most crucial thing about self-improvement is surrounding yourself with those who are willing to accept and encourage the positive changes you are making in your life. Those who wish you to stay the same, the version of you that they have in their head are to be avoided and replace them with those who are willing to learn about your illness and hold you accountable to your own health standards.
Think of yourself as someone who is in the future. Time is a construct; it is a rate of decay and that’s about it.
Think of yourself as someone who has already achieved everything you want, you just need to catch up with yourself. Think of your future self as a real human person who is breathing and eating and loving and is uncertain—a full human being. Someone who will also, if you’re doing it correctly, take care of you later on down the line. Think back to who you were five years ago and think of all that you have done in between then and now, and think how much more you will know in just a few years’ time. This will also be the case for current hardships and decisions. You’ve already healed; you’ve already achieved goals. You just haven’t caught up with it yet. This attitude had a lot to do with my decision to become sober. I thought, how can I best serve myself for the rest of my life rather in the now? It is sometimes hard for those of us with mental health issues to think of time beyond the now. This line of thinking can often lead to bad calls regarding behavior, life choices, and morality, which is where I found myself. Then in a moment of clarity, I stepped back and saw that alcohol was exacerbating all of my symptoms of mental illness. I woke up every morning after drinking the night before paranoid and willing to lash out at whomever seemingly confirmed my suspicions. I was afraid that I was hated, so I drank to fit in, to feel calm, but it ultimately just made things worse.
I was an asthmatic person living in a dusty attic.
Then I decided to make an active change.
It was the best decision I’ve ever made.
Think of yourself as someone who gets to shape your story. Give yourself agency to choose your best life, not the most fun life. The decision for me to get sober was a difficult one, yes, but one that I knew would lead me toward a more constant and brighter future. Life is a series of choices; it is imperative that you choose to invest in your future. Committing to your own health is a huge step for those who have mental health issues. Making sure that one first understands their illness and how best to treat it takes years of hard work and research, but how you treat yourself and your illness is entirely under your control. You can choose, as difficult as it may be, to be healthier. The desire to just lean into being an unwell person can be overwhelming. But, you can still make positive choices and changes that ensure your stay on this earth is as pleasant as possible for you, and, consequently, for others. The power of choice is such that, once committed to an idea, you can change your world for the better.
Original article appeared on Stigma Fighters. Reprinted with permission.
Photo by Kyle Loftus on Unsplash