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Basic Care For Those Suffering From Mental Illness

Posted Jul 22 2009 10:07pm

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These ten basics are the foundation of the treatment program that I recently took part in at a local hospital. I thought that they might be useful to other readers, so I am typing them up to post here. To hopefully avoid any confusion I’ll type my words in italics, and those from the hospital in regular font. Oh, how I wish we owned a scanner. Here goes.

Good Food: 3-6 small, healthy meals per day help your brain keep a steady pace to support positive impact of medications, ease side effects, supports clear thinking, concentration, memory and problem solving
Do not use alcohol, or other non-prescribed mind or mood altering substances of any kind. Keep your intake of caffeine and refined sugars to a minimum.

Good Sleep: Keep a regular sleep schedule with a soothing pre-sleep routine, no PM caffeine and no naps.

Meds & B Vitamins: Take medications as prescribed. Let your doctor know if you have troublesome side effects, or if, after a reasonable time, the medications don’t seem to help. Take a time release Multiple B vitamin with breakfast or lunch to increase energy and help build neurotransmitters. (Make sure it’s time release, otherwise you just get a single burst of energy that won’t last throughout the day.)

Laughter: Whether you feel like it or not, enjoy it or not- do something that makes you smile or laugh.
Relaxation:  Relaxation is the best antidote to anxiety. Any activity that slows breath, calm the mind, relaxes muscles, and lets your heart rate slow. Guided visualization, slow, calm breathing, listening to relaxation tapes or music, etc. Several times a day, practice the skill of relaxation.

Relaxation: Relaxation is the best antidote to anxiety. Any activity that slows breath, calm the mind, relaxes muscles, and lets your heart rate slow. Guided visualization, slow, calm breathing, listening to relaxation tapes or music, etc. Several times a day, practice the skill of relaxation.

Exercise: 15-30 minutes a day, move in ways that work your heart, muscles & lungs-walk, run, stretch, bike, swim, dance, lift weights, do yoga, etc.

Affirmations/Positive Self Talk (“Cognitive Exercise”): Consciously and consistently give yourself credit; acknowledge the hard work you’re doing, say affirmations. Encourage yourself, catch and challenge thinking errors with rational truths. (Some of the references here are things you would learn more about in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. Most of us have been doing what is referred to as thinking errors for so long, and so frequently, that we might not even be aware of it. An example is thinking that you are a failure or that you are never going to get better. An affirmation doesn’t have to be some new agey statement that you cringe while reading. I used, “This too shall pass” when I was having panic attacks or anxiety, or even, “I’ll feel better in 15 minutes”. Putting some sort of time limit on how long I was going to be that uncomfortable helps me. I also used a lyric from a John Lennon song because it was easy for me to let it flow through my brain, even if I didn’t believe it every time, “Every day in every way, It’s getting better and better”)

Spirituality: If religious faith or spiritual practice has ever been an important part of your life, don’t neglect it now. Every day do what feeds your spirit. (I had actually forgotten that I was in a Catholic hospital until this one was read to me. Being someone who went to church 6 days a week as a child and went through 9 years of Catholic school only to run away from the Catholic church as fast as I could when my Dad died I must admit my first thought was ,”Oh Shit!” I thought they were going to get really preachy with us but they never did and I realized that it was OK for me to “feed my spirit” in other ways, so to speak.)

Journal: Every day take a few minutes 5-15 to put your thoughts and feelings down on paper.

Reach Out: Connect with others; resist the tendency to isolate; ask for, and accept, support from others.
Track your progress! Be sure to add anything that is important for YOUR recovery every day, but might not be on someone else’s list of basics…assertiveness, sobriety, etc.

OK. Me again. One thing that I learned to do, even though it wasn’t listed, was to get up and take a shower everyday and prepare myself as if I was leaving the house, even if I wasn’t. I got dressed, did my hair, even put on a little makeup. It made me feel a little bit better about myself and I found I was less likely to just crawl back into bed if I was dressed. Now I’ll be the first to admit that in the state I was in when I first entered the hospital I received all of this information, went home, and promptly took a nap. Part of the program, in the first few weeks at least, is working closely on how to follow the basics. The basics are simply a list of things to do that help you learn how to take care of yourself. Hey, look at me! I am 36 and I don’t know how to take care of myself! Sad, but true.

The list was overwhelming to me and having a morning check in daily where I had to speak out loud in front of a group of strangers regarding how I had done made me want to leave. I decided to start with three of the basics: Good Food, Good Sleep, Meds and Vitamin B. After that it was easier to take a walk, or work in my garden, or to spend time learning how to relax. Laughter came at unexpected moments, such as the morning when one of the therapists asked a new guy how he had done the night before and new guy responded, “Great. I spent the night with my good buddy Jim Beam, and then I passed out in my chair and slept for ten hours.” “Oh, how wonderful”, she responded, “you reached out to a friend and you slept well, two important basics!”

I didn’t expect the laughter, it just burst forward and I had to swallow it down. For the record it’s not funny that he got drunk on Bourbon and passed out in a chair, it was just the way it went over her head and she complimented him for it. Maybe you had to be there.

Anyway, I hope some of this helps someone. I have now graduated from the program and I feel that the daily structure was something that I needed. My graduation was brought about by my insurance company refusing to pay anymore but I am grateful for the time that I had there. I did a lot of notebook journaling both while I was there and on the buses to and from and I’d like to post some of that here to. I am moving onward, to where, I don’t know. I don’t feel as anxious as I was. I am truly trying to take it one day at a time. I am still hoping to go to college. I went over to my sister Maria’s house last week and she helped me fill out the forms for financial aid.
I don’t know what I want to study yet, but I want to help others, that I do know. If I can do that now through this site, that would be pretty cool too.

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