For me, education was valuable in aiding my recovering during a 7-month admission to hospital. After watching the Grassroots and Hay Campaign livestream, I found myself later in the evening reading entries I had written while I was there, and it reminded me of how important the lectures and classes were. St Pat's was very driven on educating its patients on mental health subjects in order to help us understand our minds which in turn helps our healing process.
I was reading my 2nd blog entry where I spoke about the autonomic nervous system. This part of the brain is responsible for your mental state, reactions and behaviours. It can be split into 3 sections –
1. Ventral vagal – the part where you feel safe, social and engaged with others.
2. Sympathetic – the part that makes you feel overwhelmed and anxious
3. Dorsal vagal – the part where you feel shut down and numb to the world.
At any given time, your nervous system is moving up and down the ladder unbeknownst to us. When we are feeling depressed and anxious our nervous systems are usually fluctuating between sympathetic and dorsal. What I found helpful was being able to see visually how I am feeling on the ladder at any point during the day. It was easier to express this to staff when I didn’t know how to describe it, I was always lost for words. I believe that comprehending and understanding how your brain works through education, combined with therapies and in some cases medication, is the correct way to help people heal from mental illness.
Top tip for when you’re feeling overwhelmed and anxious:
5-4-3-2-1 Grounding Method.
When you feel like you’re out of control and can’t focus, take a deep breath. Look around you and try name 5 things you can see, become aware of 4 things you can touch, acknowledge 3 things you can hear, notice 2 things you can smell and become aware of something you can taste. Repeat as often as you need. When you feel overwhelmed, it almost feels as if your mind has wandered so far away, and this method is a simple yet effective way to ground you and bring you back to the present moment.
“Mental Illness is nothing to be ashamed of, but stigma and bias shame us all. Together, we will replace stigma with acceptance, ignorance with understanding, fear with new hope for the future” – President Bill Clinton June 5 1999