This next post is a collaborative effort from Abbey, who blogs over at Life and Relationship Issues, and Jen, of Thrive in Chaos. For this post, we wanted to explore how our mental health can affect our behaviour and how we should be careful to avoid toxicity. We follow those negative thought and behaviour spirals all the way to the bottom before reflecting on ways we can avoid them and manage them. (TW – if you are in a place of negative self talk, the beginning of this post might be difficult to read. Please take care of yourself and either skip to the end where we talk about strategies or come back to it at another time.)
Is mental illness an excuse for toxic behaviour?
Mental health is a really serious issue most people contend with. You might not even notice it for all it’s worth, you can be depressed for years and not even realize it. You might be suffering from anxiety and panic attacks but can’t even put a name to your situation. You can have BPD and still not know that’s the clinical term or even realize that it’s a sickness. Mental health in our present day society has usually just been brushed under the carpet as one being too emotional, or a cry baby or just not man or woman enough to face life.
But recently we’ve seen a turn around, people are slowly coming to terms with the fact that no one should ever have to go through suck periods of their life alone; they are now meant to understand that they aren’t alone, there are millions of people going through same all around the world. BUT……. I’ve seen people – and even I’m guilty of – using this as a reason to be toxic and then blame it on your mental health, consciously or subconsciously.
One crazy fact about this is that when struggling with your mental health you can feel like people are judging you; you can feel like people around you just have you around for pity. This can slowly begin to irk you and slowly anger begins to develop. You can begin to feel like everyone who’s around you is just there to get some new information to use against you on a later day. You can slowly begin to lose trust in those around you. You can slowly begin to withdraw from relationships you’ve had or are having. You can slowly begin to shut yourself down and build a wall between yourself and those around you. You can begin leaving without any reason because you don’t even know why you’re being this way. And finally, when you have cut them off, the loneliness begins to set in. It begins to eat into the fabric of your being, you begin to regret not keeping those friendships and relationships but it’s too late now so you bear the consequence of your actions.
If it reaches this point, you then live with the guilt that along with the bad you’ve thrown out the good and long lasting relationships that you would have had with those around you. You begin to become a shell of your former joyous self, your depression sky rockets, you feel even more unloved, or your anxiety kicks in and everywhere you turn to it feels like people are talking about you and whispering about your cold hearted display. You begin to sink even lower in the abyss of self loathing. You seem unable to keep any more friendships and you begin to stay away. You’ve no one to talk to or share your thoughts with except yourself. Your defence begins to crumble and your soul is pleading for relief.
You crave relief from the toxic situation you got yourself into because of fear!
You crave relief from burden you’ve placed on yourself.
This, of course, is where the negative thought spiral might take you if mental illness begins to negatively impact your behaviour, causing you to act in a way that is counterproductive and isolating. And it might sound like it’s unavoidable, but it’s not. It might sound like it’s impossible to get out of, but it’s not. Avoiding this situation, or managing those potentially toxic behaviours, is down to self awareness. This is something that is important for maintaining mental health anyway: by checking in with ourselves on a regular basis, we can monitor our thought patterns, our emotions and – yes – our behaviours. Take a moment at the end of each day to reflect on:
- The thoughts that are taking your focus – are they positive or negative? If they are negative, are they realistic reflections of reality or could they be distorted by fear or low mood? Are there any recurring thoughts you need to consider and address?
- The feelings that have been dominant throughout the day – are there any that are overwhelming? Are they being caused by something or are they just there? What can you do to help regulate and manage those emotions so they don’t overwhelm you?
- The behaviours you have exhibited throughout the day – have you been unnecessarily critical or evasive? Has your fear or low mood manifested through behaviour that could have negatively impacted someone you care about? If so, this is not a thing for you to then beat yourself up about: if you feel like you have behaved in a way you normally wouldn’t, take a minute to send a message to the individual concerned and explain you are having a difficult time and did not mean to direct your struggles at them.
Mental illness can make us very self involved and it does take some effort to maintain relationships when you’re struggling just to keep your head up, but it is worth our time and effort to do so. I know I’ve been in positions before where I have inadvertently ignored the needs of a friend, spoken too harshly and projected my own fears and feelings of inadequacy onto someone else, or have shut down and ignored people who were trying to reach out to support me. In any of these situations we can bring ourselves back into a more trusting, positive frame of mind and behaviour and it starts with awareness.
Abbey is a mental health blogger and enthusiast ,whose main aim is to put her emotions into words in hope that it speaks to someone out there in need of it. Check out her blog: www.lifeandrelationshipsissues.wordpress.com to see more of her work. You can also follow and interact with her on twitter @abbeyabbey110
If you or someone you know is struggling with mental health then please don’t be afraid to reach out and talk to someone. You are not alone and help is available. By opening up and starting the conversation we can move forward together and look to a mentally healthy future. Below are links to a range of fantastic organisations that can provide information, advice and services.
The Samaritans: http://www.samaritans.org
Young Minds: http://www.youngminds.org.uk
Papyrus (prevention of young suicide): https://www.papyrus-uk.org
Self Harm UK: https://www.selfharm.co.uk
Time to Change: http://www.time-to-change.org.uk
Rethink Mental Illness: http://www.rethink.org
American Foundation for Suicide Prevention: https://www.afsp.org
Please do not struggle alone.