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Saturday, October 8, 2011

Twenty Tools To Help You Manage Your Mental Illness

Tools to help you with your mental illness.
When I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder several years ago, I was put on a treatment plan of nothing but medication. Over the years, I've learned that getting involved with groups can make a major difference in your path to recovery. My favorite group is Recovery International. And it has helped me beat an anxiety problem I suffered with for 16 months with no relief, and it did it in six weeks. Today, I'm going to share with you twenty tools to help you manage your mental illness.

Recovery International was formed in 1937 by a group of mental hospital patients, under the auspices of Dr. Abraham Low. The goal of Dr. Low's method was to keep patients out of institutions and possibly free them from medication. No one should every stop taking their medication without consulting with their care provider. The Recovery Method uses "spotting" techniques. These techniques are to help you through a situation when you start to experience symptoms of your illness.

Honestly, I think everyone should go through Recovery International. Low's techniques deal with managing the extremes of temper. Angry temper is when a person becomes upset, angered or even violent. Fearful temper comes with lowered feelings, depression and if severe enough, suicide.

Angry temper is external, where fearful temper is internalized. With angry temper, the person is more likely to blame others or lash out. Fearful temper is when a person is upset with themselves, feels guilty, ashamed, inadequate, hopeless, marginalized or depressed.

At our weekly Recovery meetings, a few members will offer an example of when they had either angry or fearful temper. They will describe the symptoms they experienced - agitation, sweaty palms, nervousness, dizziness, tightness in the chest, tremors, etc. Then, they will explain how they used a "spotting" technique to help them gain control of the situation. Finally, the person giving the example will explain what they would have done prior to their Recovery training, to show the progress they have made.

To fully understand the spotting techniques, I recommend attending several Recovery International meetings and getting Dr. Low's book Mental Health Through Will-Training.

Consider this as a starter course in Recovery International. I'll give you twenty of the "spots" that we use to help control our angry or fearful temper. Attendees at the meeting have a variety of mental and/or psychological disorders - bipolar, anxiety, schizophrenia, depression, anger, unsocial behavior, etc. So, these "spots" will work for a wide range of afflictions. Give them a try.
  1. Temper blocks the light of logic.
  2. Calm brings calm. Remove right and wrong. Be objective. 
  3. Control the inner and the outer will adjust. 
  4. Seek peace over power. (This is when you choose not to argue.)
  5. Do things in part acts. Focus on one action then the next. 
  6. Be group minded. (Think of others around you. It could be an individual. But thinking about them, rather than pressing your feelings or issues on them is being group minded.)
  7. Bear the discomfort. (Sometimes, we have to suck it up. It will pass.)
  8. Expect to have ups and downs. Not every day is perfect for anyone. 
  9. It is average to feel uncomfortable in an uncomfortable situation. It is not a cause for letting your mind take you away with the situation. 
  10. Everyone hurts, but suffering is optional. 
  11. Symptoms are distressing but not dangerous. (You cannot die from a panic attack. Sweating or nervousness will not hurt you.)
  12. Humor is our best friend. (Try as often as possible to find a way to laugh, instead of getting worked up. One of my favorite tools is: Turn frustration into fascination. Find something amusing about a frustrating situation, apply humor and you will find fewer speed bumps in your road.)
  13. Worry not about the act, but decide how to respond to the act. 
  14. Excuse the outer environment, which is often rude, crude and indifferent.
  15. People do things that annoy us, not to annoy us.
  16. Move muscles to retrain the mind. (This one technique is what helped me with my anxiety disorder. I had to force myself to move through a situation where I would completely freeze. After a few times of just moving my muscles and going through the motions, my anxiety began to subside and my mind realized that there was no danger in the act.)
  17. Complications are not automatic emergencies. (People with anxiety get worked up very quickly when road blocks or speed bumps come into a plan. Understand that these hindrances are not cause for alarm.) See the next spotting technique.
  18. Work it down, don't work it up. (When we have situations of anger or depression, we tend to have a "pile on" effect on ourselves. We work it up and make things worse. Take a deep breath and try to work it down.)
  19. Calm begets calm. (See #18)
  20. Plan, decide and act. (When you have a difficult situation in front of you. Take a second, think of a plan, make a decision and act on the plan. Too many people get caught in the mud, so to speak, and the inaction or lack of thinking makes a simple situation much worse. Plan, decide and act. It's simple, but it can make a world of difference in your life.)
My suggestion is take one, two or three of these and write them down or memorize them. When you have a difficult time, either with angry temper or fearful temper, try to pause and think of the spot. Apply it. With repeated practice, you should start to see difficult situations becoming easier.

There are hundreds of "spotting" techniques through Dr. Low's method. I will provide a link to the Recovery International website at the bottom of this post and you can see if there is a meeting in your area. They are worldwide and I know there are about dozen or more meetings each week in my area.

Recovery International has done more for me than any medication (which I'm still taking) or any psychiatrist. I have tools and now you have twenty tools to help you manage your mental illness. Don't leave your tools in your mental garage. Put them to use and practice them regularly. It should help shorten the path to recovery and wellness. Peace to you. And I wish you well with your journey.

Related link:
Recovery International

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Recovery International - A Mental Illness Treatment With Results
We Need To Change The Dialogue On Mental Illness
Five Steps To Recovery From Mental Illness
Recovery From Mental Illness Should Include Groups
Mental Illness | My Psychiatrist Says My Mental Health Is Improving

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