Is positive self-esteem key to recovering from mental illness?

Dealing with mental illness…

Two days ago,  I got ‘THE LETTER’ – the one from my employer, the federal Government of Canada, informing me that since my disability has now reached the two year mark, I must now make a tough decision.

Do I return to work?


Do I opt to take medical retirement?

After some discussion with my husband, I have decided to apply for early retirement. I have plenty to back up this request, including two years of unpleasant medical and psychological history.

Since my break two years ago,  I rarely venture outside my own home. As a matter of fact, it’s traumatic for me to go to the lower level of our house or down the deck stairs to our lawn. If I have to, I can get to my car to drive myself to appointments with medical professionals I’m already familiar and comfortable with. Although I may say to myself, “I’m going to stop at Shoppers’ Drug Mart on the way home,” I’ve never actually been able to do it. In each of these cases I suffer mild to severe anxiety attacks.

Based on this, I know I  would not be able to function in a public work environment again. My only hope would be to find a job where I can introduce myself gradually to the environment and work mostly on my own, not dealing with the public and focusing only on work tasks. The ideal work situation for me would be to do contract work from home, but considering the level of technology today, I’m disappointed to find there are very few telecommuting opportunities available.

During my usual blog reading time this morning, I came across this great article, “How to Boost Self Esteem in 8 Simple Ways” by Harleena Singh. I noticed right away that the list of recommendations echo those I’ve heard over time from the medical and psychological professionals, making me think self-esteem may be a key component to one’s level of incapacitation due to mental health issues.

Below is encapsulated list of recommendations:

Focus on your positive points.

I do have my positive points. Unfortunately, these are not the positive points that make for career success in a public or government environment. I am sensitive, caring, creative (blogging, writing, photography, graphic design), intelligent, a good parent, and enjoyed owning my own business where I could use all of these talents and skills pursuing something I loved.

Don’t have negative thoughts or talks.

This is tough for me. I live in fear. While I’m in my comfort zone in my own home I can be comfortable, but ‘OUT THERE’ is a nightmare. I worry that my limitations make others uncomfortable, and therefore I don’t try.

Find something special to enjoy in each day.

This is easy. For me, this is my family (Mark, Erin and Stuart), our home, our deck with the mountain view,  our beautiful tulip tree, my beloved pets who are wonderful company when I’m home alone. The old cliché about ‘unconditional love’ is so true in all these cases.

Give back in some way.

This is not so easy. My limitations as mentioned above make it difficult in this area as well. We do donate to charity. Mark is always ready and willing to help anyone who needs it. This used to be me, but not anymore. As a matter of fact, one of my previous co-workers who I absolutely LOVED once asked me to help her with some computer problems she was having. The old me would have loved to, but I couldn’t and had to nicely refuse.

Take risks.

For me, taking a risk is getting dressed up to drive myself to one appointment or another.  In the beginning, I couldn’t even drive myself – Mark or one of the kids drove me. I did manage to bring myself to start – a big risk for me.

Don’t compare yourself to others.

I don’t compare myself to others. I’m disconnected from everyone and everything except my own family. The only comparisons I do make are between myself and my kids, wondering and worrying if they’re going to end up like me. This is a valid concern because both my mother and grandmother had similar issues – the propensity for depression and anxiety definitely runs in my family.

Regularly exercise, eat right, and take care of yourself.

Exercise? No, I don’t. Believe me, I’ve heard about it from everyone. I used to use our treadmill two or three times a week until lightning killed it.

Now I just make a point of moving about my own house a lot, doing housework, cooking, playing with the dogs, etc. I am, however, taking better care of myself, starting with eating much better. I like the leaner way I eat now (very few carbohydrates) and as a result, I have lost 48 pounds in five months.

Smile and look as good as possible.

I have a long way to go in the ‘look as good as possible’ department. I do make an effort to dress nicely for my appointments, but at home I’m in loungewear all the time. When I do try to wear street clothes I feel very anxious and on edge.

I do smile more now – and laugh. The laughter feels so good. When I’m laughing is one of the few times I feel like my old self – and feel hopeful and happy.

As you can see, I have a long way to go, but reading through this makes me happier because I can see the areas in which I’ve improved.

Published by Christine Blythe

A fifties' child, mom, wife, avid genealogy researcher, web contributor and author/owner of four blogs including Empty Nest Ancestry, Feathering the Empty Nest, Top Web Blog Tips, Job Bully, and our extensive family genealogy database site at Blythe Genealogy.