4 things I’ve learnt since leaving a mental health hospital.

1) You need to structure your time.

Whilst I was in hospital I had a structured routine, Monday - Friday from 7 in the morning until 9 at night. At the time I used to moan that I had no time to myself or the classic 'this is pointless' statement that I probably made about 100 times a day, I actually realise now how important having a routine is now I'm in the community.
I find now that if I don't plan my day or week in advance I feel my anxieties heighten and I begin stressing myself out unnecessarily all because I'm not as organised as I could be.

When I talk about planning my day/week it doesn't mean I do something significant every single minute of the day because I end up exhausted however the simple/important things are the most effective. I like to plan my week ahead on a Sunday evening, to plan my important things first, for example; doctors appointments and DBT sessions (this is what I like to call 'adulting') and by doing that first it then gives me a rough idea on when I can schedule in the rest of my plans for the other days/hours that I'm free.

When I have a lot of free time and leave myself with nothing to do I tend to get unmotivated and start ruminate in my own thoughts. This for me can then lead down a road of procrastination, self-loathing and eventually a relapse. This is why for me structuring my time is SO important!

2) Self-soothe is key.

Self-soothe is not just a skill I learnt in DBT, I found that it can simply be about self care, giving yourself some 'me time' and most importantly it can be a good distraction. For me, self soothe helps me interrupt the negative signals my brain is sending me when I'm feeling low or destructive and it can then give me a focus for the next however long which also makes me feel good after.

Win win situation... 

However I don't always need to self-soothe if i'm feeling low in mood or struggling with urges, I simply use an hour out of the day to pamper yourself, watch a feel good film or simply meditating. By using self-soothe as a technique in everyday life it can then give me the knowledge and all the practise for when I really need it. It soon becomes second nature.

3) Now is when you need to practise your DBT skills more than ever.

Whilst in hospital I received DBT therapy (Dialectical Behavioural Therapy) as a group and as a 1:1 and  to be honest I can't thank Marsha Linehan enough for creating such an effective therapy that has helped me and so many others.
However there is a difference between practising DBT skills in hospital and practising them in the community.

On the ward I had constant reminders to practise my skills as there was mindfulness sessions twice a day, we had weekly homework focussing on a specific skill from 1 of the modules which meant I was surrounded by them 24/7. However being out of hospital is so different and I have found that this is when I've had to put those skills into practise more. I've had times where I've been like 'I probably should've used my interpersonal effectiveness skills back then', or 'I should've just had a bubble bath hours ago, I feel so relaxed now', and that's ok to think I should've done that, because sometimes we forget the things we've been taught and that's why PRACTISE MAKES PERFECT! (but no-ones perfect so just practise practice practice)...

Now pretty much most of the skills are engrained in my brain after doing it for so long however sometimes it's nice dusting off my DBT folder and having a look. Trust me, it helps!

4) It's ok not to be ok, all of the time.

I used to put so much pressure on myself when I first came out of hospital to be 'fine' and not appear to be struggling because I didn't want to seem like I wasn't coping or was falling apart. Now I realise that not every day is going to go your way, some days I may have a customer at work that doesn't appreciate the fact that I've been on my feet for 8 hours and that I'm really trying my hardest. Sometimes I get out of the wrong side of bed and think 'I can't wait for today to be over' and do you know what. THAT IS OK!

Nobody is perfect in this world and I have soon come to realise that no-body is going to judge me for having an off day or having a good cry because I'm having a day of 'what the hell am I even doing?'. You know, behind closed doors I'm sure many people feel the way I do and in a way that is quite comforting...

Despite having bad days (or weeks) I always remind myself that tomorrow is a new day and just because today I feel crap doesn't mean I'm a crap person or I'm failing at life. It means the complete opposite. It shows strength and courage to let those barriers down temporarily but picking up the pieces and shaking it off (with the use of some self-soothe I mentioned earlier) can be the difference between having just a bad day or having a bad life.

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