Building A Life Worth Living: Thinking Of Life Outside Hospital

Building a life worth living is a big part of DBT and it’s something I haven’t worked on much or even thought about until recently. I’ve been unwell for well over a decade and have been in hospital for a year and a half. I’ve never been a mentally well adult and have not been able to function at a normal level since school. For these reasons I have always found it very difficult to think of a life outside of my illness and in some ways that can hold me back in recovery. However just weeks before I’m due to go to a specialist unit which can help me I have an idea of how life will look when I come out of hospital.

I know I won’t come home fully recovered and jumping with the joys of spring but I imagine I’ll be able to function. I want to attend outpatient appointments with my mental health team but alongside that I want to work in a bakery, go to ballet classes, help out with the younger ballet classes and prepare and cook my own meals and snacks from scratch. I could then channel my obsession with food down a productive and enjoyable route whilst still enjoying dance and exercise at a sensible level.

If I can maintain that lifestyle for a while then the next step will be learning to drive and getting a place of my own even if that’s renting a studio flat. Then the next step, and the one I’m most excited about will be becoming a mother. I’ve already decided for very personal reasons that I want to be single so I will go to a clinic and use a sperm donor to conceive.

I think it is good to go to this new unit with an image of what I want my life to look like when I come home. So this is me thinking of building a life worth living.

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The Small Steps Of Self-Care

Self-care is crucial for positive mental health. When people used to talk about self-care I used to think, “I look after myself! I bathe everyday, I brush my teeth” but to me that isn’t self-care, that’s basic hygiene. Self-care is looking after you and realising that you deserve to be the most comfortable and looked after that you can be. Self-care can be used for both physical health and mental health.

I was sat writing the other day, my arthritis was hurting, my head was agony and yet I kept on typing and typing. Then I realised that I could take some paracetamol for the pain. Something so simple, a solution to a problem and yet it didn’t cross my mind because I’m so used to putting my health and needs at the bottom of the pile. I got up, walked to the kitchen, took some paracetamol and got a hot drink. It took minutes and I felt good about myself because I was helping myself to feel better but it also felt like a massive step in recovery. The world can wait for me to be well enough to do whatever I am required to do. Someone can wait half an hour for me to have some lunch before they talk to me. It’s realising that you are allowed to put yourself first and that by doing so it helps you to feel better but probably improves your performance too. By taking care of yourself, you are doing what is effective.

I always feel so much better after self-care and it always shocks me as to how much of a novelty it is to watch my favourite film or listen to my favourite song. It isn’t selfish to haveĀ some ‘me’ time and whether it’s a morning or just five minutes, it will benefit your mental health and give you a boost.

Some ideas for self-care could include:

  • Taking medication when you are unwell.
  • Eating a nutritional and enjoyable diet.
  • Having a hot drink.
  • Watching your favourite film.
  • Listening to music that makes you feel good.
  • Having a bubble bath.
  • Lighting a scented candle.
  • Go for a gentle walk.
  • Reading a book on a comfy chair.
  • Yoga.
  • Craft.
  • Breathe in fresh air.
  • Look at the stars in the sky.

Don’t use self-care as a one off treat. Self-care should happen all the time, daily. Everybody deserves to be cared for so start by caring for yourself.