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The first time I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder, I sat across from my psychiatrist and watched her draw a wavy line on a piece of paper.
“These,” she said, “are your moods.”
The line immediately made me think of the ebb and flow of calm waves in a harbor. I cocked my head to the side and thought, “That doesn’t seem so bad.”
Then she reached for a thicker pen and began drawing again. This time the waves were bigger, the peaks much higher, and the valleys dismally lower. The bay turned into a violent ocean, whipping debris from all the ships stranded at sea.
“These,” she corrected, “are your moods when you have bipolar disorder.”
This simple illustration landed hard.
It explained the days of elation, like I could conquer the world. It also helped me understand the dismal depression that I often felt. Those waves explained why one moment, I could be charging hundreds of dollars on plane flights and then be suicidal just hours later.
I’ve lived with bipolar disorder for almost two decades now. Like many chronic illnesses, there are days where it’s seemingly unbearable. There have been moments when I’ve been convinced that my brain was broken beyond repair. But, more than that, there have been stretches of months where life is good. Where I’ve built a family, a career, a life that I love.
Trust me, my path to wellness has been a journey. Here are a few tips I’ve learned along the way that have helped me manage my mental health:
It’s easy to disregard our mental health symptoms as “having a bad day” or as “being too emotional.” If your mental health is impacting your daily life, I suggest seeing a specialist for a diagnosis. A specialist has experience with the nuances of different mental health issues and can provide you with more effective treatments than a general practitioner.
Perhaps it’s coffee with a friend, a heart-to-heart with a trusted family member, or (my favorite) a weekly session with a licensed counselor. Maybe it’s a combination of all of those. Either way, find someone that you can trust and confide in on a regular basis.
Find what feels good for you in this season and go with it. It could be walking your dog. Powerlifting. Perhaps it’s swimming laps or playing soccer. Studies have shown that regular exercise helps increase your brain’s serotonin production, so try to exercise 3-5 times a week.
A mental illness trigger is something that tends to make your symptoms worse. For me, it’s lack of sleep. For other people, it can be alcohol, spending too much time on social media, or perhaps a toxic person from their past. Take some time to learn what your triggers are and work hard to navigate around them.
At the end of the day, I encourage you to remember that mental illness is a diagnosable disorder. It is not a lack of personal discipline, an inability to shift to a more positive perspective, or a weakness of character. All illnesses can benefit from wellness practices such as movement, meditation, and self-care. Often, though, these practices must be balanced with professional medical supervision and medications. Repeat after me: there’s no shame in my SSRI game.
Want more mental health and wellness talk? Follow Paula on Instagram at @paulatamarahoss to read more about her story and tips!
Kyle House Fitness is Chattanooga’s premier fitness program offering group fitness classes and personal training with the best-certified instructors and trainers in the area. Located on Chattanooga’s thriving Southside, Kyle House Fitness is more than a gym, they pride themselves on building a welcoming and inclusive community. The owners of this gym, Kyle House and Kyle Miller (AKA The Kyles), may sound familiar to you since they recently wrote a blog post for us on how to be an LGBTQIA+ ally in the fitness space.
Since they happen to be one of the most influential duos in the fitness industry, we were eager to sit down and learn more about what wellness means to them. Ready to get to know The Kyles better? Let’s dive in.
We have always had a love for fitness. From an early age, we were both very athletic (swimming, gymnastics, and cheerleading). Once we graduated, we slowly transitioned into training young athletes and then later started working on our careers. Kyle House started personal training at a large gym and began building a solid career as a personal trainer and groups fitness instructor. Kyle Miller started working in marketing and communications ranging from politics, law enforcement, and tech becoming a leading public relations professional. After working in their fields for about 10 years they decided to combine their love of fitness with their experience and built one of the most successful fitness facilities in Chattanooga, Tennessee.
During our time working at other gyms and visiting other facilities that many were either missing qualified and motivating trainers, topnotch customer service, or a workout that was balanced and would lead to results for everyone whether they were casual fitness enthusiasts or hardcore athletes. We are motivated on a day-to-day basis by the idea that we can always be better. The experience can get better, the community can grow stronger, and we can continue to show people that fitness is more than just a way to look good, it's therapy.
Wellness to us has always been about leading a life that is balanced. It's not all fitness, it's not all work, it's not all fun... it's not all healthy food, it's not just junk food—it's about finding a way to reach your own personal goals while still having a healthy relationship with fitness, friends, family, and food—otherwise known as the four Fs.
If you're in the Chattanooga area, you should definitely check out Kyle House Fitness to take your wellness routine to the next level. You can book classes on the Mindbody app or through their KHF app.