Some of the lifestyle changes that I have made to treat my illness and you have heard me talk about before are diet, exercise, and sleep. I also need to balance my schedule between overworking myself and having down time. I need to keep doing things that bring me joy like scrapbooking and knitting. I also need to keep up a spiritual practice which can be meditation, an art practice, journaling, etc... The trade-off to this lifestyle is that it works. My illness can be managed very well by doing all of these things. However, the other trade-off is that it is a lot of work to keep up this lifestyle.
It is very hard to find things that I can eat when we go out or are with friends. People then seem to want detailed information as to why I eat the way I do and then some people judge my choice. I also have to eat pretty regularly so might have to eat during a meeting which some people find rude. I always need to have back up food in my purse in case I can't find anything to eat. I can't stay out late at parties. Sometimes I can't travel or I need different accommodations at things like retreats which combine people in rooms because that just gives me panic attacks. I have to schedule exercise in the morning, no exceptions, even for meetings. I can't have meetings or events that last all day or late at night because I can't handle the overload of being in the public so long or I need to get to bed so I have enough sleep each night.
|Taking an art break with Jeffrey. (Photo by Jeff Norris)|
These are hard things to handle because it is hard to have the ability to stick with these things yourself and, in my experience, you get a lot of peer pressure not to follow through on these lifestyle changes. Whereas few people will tell you you are stupid or weird for taking medication.
But these changes can make us better. These changes make me able to do great work, be a great Mom, and be happy and healthy. What we really need in order to help balance the trade-off of lifestyle changes being so much work is a good support system around us who helps us stick to these changes. Such as friends who exercise with us, a partner who will cook a healthy meal when we are feeling tired, people who on vacation help make sure we eat well and get sleep, workplaces that give people flexible schedules so they can work as productively as possible.
Lifestyle changes help manage your illness even when you take medication, it does not have to be one or the other. If you are not on medication though I always think you should still have a psychiatrist who you see regularly so that just in case you ever need extra help, you can get it.
So, take the plunge, make some liefstyle changes. It will take a lot of work but the trade-off is increased wellness.