Mental illness can lead to physical problems such as tense muscles and a weak immune system. However, sometimes physical problems arise that have nothing to do with our mental health. Keeping your body healthy and dealing with physical ailments can boost your mental wellbeing. It’s not only important to feel good mentally, but also physically. Just suffering with your ailments only makes you feel miserable inside and out. The most important rule to recovery is, “Take care of yourself first.” That means inside and out. Jobs, college, and so on are not more important than you.
A friend of mine has many aches and pains. I have referred her to a couple of my doctors, but she refuses to call them. She comes up with excuses. She can’t afford another bill, she doesn’t like doctors, she can’t find the time, and so on. So she goes to work each day toughing out the pain and feeling wiped out physically and mentally. I tell her to put all her worries aside and take care of herself. She should be number one and her health is more important than the bills and finding the time.
I used to be like my friend. I used to drag myself to work sick. I even passed out a few times at work. I thought going to work was more important than my health. The more awful I felt physically, the worse I felt mentally. I felt sick inside and out. When I was physically ill my mind seemed to dip deeper into depression. I became obsessed with having perfect attendance. My mind raced and the darkness took over. I was afraid I’d lose my job if I called off, I feared other employees would think I was faking, I thought I wasn’t a good enough employee if I didn’t go in, and my mind went on and on. My illnesses only got worse.
When I married my husband, he refused to allow me to go to work sick. He made me call off. He told me, “You are more important than your job. I can’t replace you.” I soon realized he was right. Taking time off to take care of myself began to help me feel better within and get over my illnesses faster.
This even goes for aches and pains like when my ankle was hurting. I worried about my pain, I felt sad because something was wrong, and I started to think the worst. Lou insisted I go to my foot doctor and I’m glad I did. If I didn’t get my ankle taken care of when I did, I would have been in even more pain and out of work longer with no income. Lack of income, intense pain, and six months off would have only dumped me deep into depression. Taking care of it when I did has been a challenge emotionally, but yet a relief. Recovery has been hard, but I have found plenty of time to relax and have had no anxiety attacks.
When you’re working towards recovery, put yourself first. Take care of your emotional and physical needs. You’ll find that your physical needs are connected to your mental health. The better you feel on the outside, the better you’ll feel on the inside. When we are feeling the most vulnerable is when the mind attacks. When you’re physically ill or hurting is when you’re vulnerable. Make yourself number one.
I now take care of myself first and I worry about my job second. Because I take care of myself inside and out, I shine within the light.