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Self-care for Mental Health: A Winner’s Story

October 11, 2019 • Nanjulula

“See Dr. Victoria at 2 pm”

My name is Noni and I live with Bipolar Type 2 and ADHD. I’m also a mom to a gorgeous daughter.

To be honest I do not know if I am the best person to talk about mental self-care. I thought that by the time I was having children I would be off all my medication and be that optimistic, hair in place mommy that we all see on shows.

I’ve learned that expectations, whether mine or societies are rarely fulfilled when, where and how I have planned. My daughter’s birth wasn’t what I “wanted” and motherhood hasn’t been what I thought it would be.

Okay, the smelly diapers and endless smiles are there. Lots of smelly diapers and big poos.

Mental self-care, in my opinion, isn’t just about taking a breather or putting your phone on airplane mode for a day. It’s a conscious and on-going process of deliberate life choices that will one day pan out. And when that day comes, you’ll be quite shocked that instead of choosing a toxic pattern, you choose a healthy one and did not feel guilty about it. I repeat- you choose a healthy pattern and did not feel guilty about it.

Dr. Victoria is my psychiatrist, I see her every three months. We talk about how my medication, eh scratch that- I tell her how the medication is reacting, I tell her about any challenges at home or with peers or workmates and how that is affecting me. I tell her what is going on with me so that she can see that I am actively documenting my life and recognising the old familiar patterns and what I am doing to choose patterns that are healthy yet strangely foreign.

So I’m thinking you’re probably wondering “okay can she get to the part where she talks about soaking in a tub with bath salts and lavender”

Ha! I’m a new mom remember?  So I shall start with the number one self-care routine that’s so underrated you’ll facepalm. Ready?

Get a good night’s sleep. Yep. The first and foremost to a healthy brain is adequate sleep. I’m not going to pretend to be an expert and tell you how you need 8 hours blah… just sleep and if you wake up feeling like its been 12 hours then congratulations you had a good night’s sleep. I’m currently operating on my daughter Khai’s 6 hours “Mommy I want milk at 4 am” body clock. Whoosh. You should see the coffee mug I currently use. He!

Now that we got sleep out of the way, let’s look at what I think are the utmost essentials of mental self-care- or rather this is what Noni does so that she does not end up in Mathare Lol

I have a mental health group that I am in. I think everyone should be in a mental health group. The reason I say this is because we all struggle with our emotional intelligence- we just don’t know what to do with our anger, sadness, and jealousy. We don’t allow ourselves to feel some emotions and let other emotions take control of our body and woo… (Insert your own example of when said emotion was acted upon).

A therapist/counsellor (the title doesn’t really matter) because your best friends are going through some murky waters and will not always be there to “give” you advice. I put give in quotes because we don’t really need to act upon any one’s advice; we just want to hear that our chosen path is valid. So find yourself a good therapist and let them help you find your solutions to your problems. Also, said therapist will come in handy when you are going through a crisis. Trust me on this.

Make a determined effort to acknowledge your “weaknesses “and find ways to turn them into strengths. I also put those in quotes because I’m not a big believer of labeling or boxing up mental traits that can be changed. I mean I’m bipolar *shrugs*

Journal your thoughts and make a conscious effort to review them and see your growth. I personally do not journal in the conventional way of ati “dear diary”… I’m more of a poetic journal writer. I write poems based on my emotions and situations and looking back at them I can tell exactly what was going on.

Have a list of your triggers and how you can either find coping skills or just completely try and avoid them. Nothing more to say here. I could give you an example but that would turn into a book Lol.

SELF TALK!

How could I forget about your inner voice? So I first hand know how hard it is to change your inner critic to be your inner champion so  I will give you my secret – I sleep listening to 8 hours of I AM (insert positive word like courageous) affirmations. Every single night without fail I put on any of the amazing videos and sleep listening to how amazing I AM.

Finally, I get to the part of the long soak in the tub Lol. After a long day of navigating these tough Kenyan streets, a warm bath or shower is amazing for the soul and the mind. Use that time to wash away the heaviness of whatever you encountered during the day and imagine the water taking it down the drain.

Mental health care is the same and yet different from one person to the next. It needs to be tailored to accommodate the said person and their struggles. As long as you are making a conscious effort to change unhealthy patterns then give yourself a pat on the back and reward yourself.

Being mentally okay is hard for me personally. I’m still recovering from an emergency C-section which is its own trauma. I’ve had two Bipolar episodes (I’m freaking out and just done, snot type of crying and asking what is wrong with me type of episodes because I did not have enough sleep. I’m telling you sleep is key man!)

But as I sit here and type this out, I realize I’ve made it through and I’m still trying for me and Khai.

So if you are still trying– It’s okay to not be okay. Your feelings are valid and you are only human.

I see you and I acknowledge you.

A Rasta Bipolar Mommy

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