Mental health awareness week is about to kick off, which is a great chance to get more people talking openly. If you have ever experienced a mental illness, you should have been asked to put together a staying well plan. What I love about a staying well plan, is that it encourages us to think about who we are when we are ourselves. So often, people who struggle with their mental health can write themselves off, I have heard expressions such as:
It’s just who I am
Anxiety is not who a person is. It is something they may experience, sometimes at really high, crippling levels. The same goes for bipolar, addictions, PTSD and so on. The sections of a well thought out staying well plan should separate the two. For example my plan has the following categories:
Signs that I am feeling myself
Things that help me to stay well
My triggers or things that make me feel unwell
Early signs that I may be becoming unwell
Things that I can do that help
Things that other people can do to help
I think it is so important to get clear on who you really are when you are well. I will get the ball rolling for you and share some of my notes from my plan below. This plan was written in regards to two manic episodes I have experienced. From my experience, there is a period of perhaps 2 to 3 weeks when things are acute and protection and medication are essential. This could be down to hallucinations, extreme paranoia, losing touch with reality, losing boundaries. Some people are high functioning when they are manic but they may not be thinking clearly or they won’t be themselves.
When I am well I sleep great. If I am becoming really unwell I sleep 2 hours a night max. When I am in recovery I sleep well if I am medicated. If I am heavily medicated, I oversleep.
When I am well, I sing and dance lots. When I am unwell, I sing and dance lots.
When I am well I love to read, when I am unwell, I can’t read. I listen to music instead.
When I am well I love to watch films or shows I enjoy. When I am unwell I can’t watch any tv. When I am in recovery, tv is one of my safe places and favourite distractions.
When I am well I love to write. When I am unwell I love to write. When I am in recovery, I find it hard to write.
When I am well I get excited about goals and can be super motivated. When I am unwell, I can get very over the top obsessive about goals and I lack healthy boundaries. When I am in recovery, I am motivated but only with specific things.
When I am well I can enjoy social media but I am also happy without it. When I am unwell, I am on social media far too much. It becomes a distraction. When I am in recovery I consider coming off it completely.
When I am well I am humble and often get embarrassed by compliments. When I am unwell, I have much more confidence and some of the things I say can sound either arrogant or totally unrealistic. When I am in recovery I can be hard on myself and I notice that my inner critic is much louder.
When I am well, I think about other people and really care. When I am unwell I can be very selfish. When I am in recovery I can retreat into my little safety net.
When I am well, I am a great listener and am open to feedback. When I am unwell, I can’t stand any criticism and will get really agitated if I am given it.
When I am well I am carefree and down for whatever. When I am unwell, I can be very carefree and down for whatever. But I can also be very anxious with a racing mind.
When I am well I am spiritual. When I am unwell I am buzzing and feel the spiritual world all around me like never before. In recovery I think about how I can stay grounded but remain open to spiritual practices.
I could go on and write so many examples of who I am when I am well, who I am when I am unwell and who I am in recovery. We all have different experiences. Whilst my experience of mental illness was pretty brutal and intense and confusing, I choose to be thankful that this has only happened to me twice in my life. Yes, I am still a bit shell shocked. Yes, I still have loads of it all to unpick with a therapist. But one thing I am certain of is that I am not the illness I experienced. Neither are you or the person you love. Mental illness is sadly something that a huge % of us will have to go through. It sucks. It can destroy relationships and strip people of who they are, sometimes for long periods of time. I think it’s very easy for those of us who go through it to hang onto the shame. The shame of things that the illness said or did. I still catch myself saying:
‘I said that, nooooooo cringe’!!!!! Some days I can be feeling great then I will be sitting at traffic lights and I get a flashback. But instead of thinking ‘I said that’, I should be thinking or saying out loud ‘the illness said that’ or ‘the illness did that’. I am not an illness and neither are you. Go easy on yourself. Get support. Take medication that helps your mind. Get outside. Keep it real and most importantly, remember who you really are. You got this.
Jojo Fraser is an award-winning mental health researcher, author, podcaster and performer, dubbed as ‘the Queen of positivity and a kindness advocate. She is a Tedx speaker and a regular contributor on BBC radio. Jojo is known for normalising discussions around our mental, emotional and spiritual health, making it accessible and relatable to all. She has quickly grown a reputation for having a huge impact even on the most sceptical of people. She was a finalist for ‘ Scottish Inspirational influencer of the year 2022’.
Connect with her across social @jojofrasermojo
Instagram (the old account was hacked)
Listen to her Tedx talk about the power of removing our masks.
Contact – firstname.lastname@example.org