Dealing With Mental Illness In These Difficult Times

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If you think you have a mental illness you should consult a doctor. Click here for an online quiz as a good starting point if you unsure.

Preface

During the current Pandemic where we are all stuck at home, it is easy to let your emotions get the better of you. On July 2nd, 2020, a renowned streamer, Byron ‘Reckful’ Bernstein had lost his battle with mental illness (he was only 31 years old). He was honored in World of Warcraft community with members of both factions on multiple servers and realms all gathering in Stormwind cathedral. All these players gathered to honor Reckful and took a knee to pay respects. Since this event, Blizzard has made an NPC named Reckful who is a rogue trainer to remember him.

Today I want to share some information regarding mental illness and also speak about some of my own experiences. Video games have always been my escape, and I want to preface this article that I am not a mental health expert, but I am sharing my experiences and resources that have been shared with me.

Mental Illness
Byron ‘Reckful’ Bernstein streaming on Twitch

Where It Began

I first knew something wasn’t OK when I was in grade 4. This is where I had my first thought of not wanting to be around anymore. I felt lost, confused, and when I voiced this to my family they reassured me that I wouldn’t want that. I never got help or counselling because my parents didn’t believe I needed it. It was tough as I never felt fully accepted. I always just felt like I was defective and something was wrong with me.

My Teenage Years

Fast forward past the many school moments that made things worse to when I was 18, straight out of high school. I was hanging out with some of friends and struggling in college. Too afraid to let anyone in my family down or fail as well as the many other things I had going on in my life. I decided to take a handful of pills and hoped that was it. Luckily one of my friends was worried about me that night and happened to see what I did. They called an ambulance and got me to the hospital where they pumped my stomach and thankfully, no damage was done. He saved my life that day and this past week, was the 3 year anniversary of his death.

After the new year, I dropped out of college and felt like I disappointed my parents. The next few months I was on autopilot and before I knew it, it was February. I realized that I needed help and finally went to the doctor. Growing up it was tough because I was always ashamed and felt if I admitted I had problems with depression that everyone would look or treat me differently. I thought it made me weak so I didn’t talk to people about it.

Adult Years

I talk about my ‘impossible year’ to anyone who has watched my YouTube videos about it. Three years ago, I went through a lot. I found out my fiance was pregnant with twins, and on June 12th my twins were born. June 27th my son turned 6, and on June 29th was my son’s birthday party. On June 30th that very man who saved my life passed away.

It broke me.

I talked to my doctor about it and they decided I needed to try a different antidepressant which anyone who has ever taken any you know it’s very tough. I had 1 month of straight hell, I wasn’t sleeping more than about 45 mins -2 hours of sleep, I was falling asleep at the wheel, I was hallucinating, and had bad night sweats. I basically felt like a drug addict detoxing.

When I told my doctor about how I was feeling, he assured me that I just needed to give it more time to take effect. When I followed up with the doctor, they upped my dosage even more, thinking it would fix the situation. With those circumstances I almost lost my family, I got kicked out my parents place, and I lived in my car for almost 3 months. I remember sitting in my car, in a soccer field parking lot, staring out at the field every night thinking, this is it and this is the end. After those 3 months, luckily things turned around. 

There is a story I tell to people who I can see aren’t doing so well. I mention a story of a previous co worker who I checked on and he thanked me as he said that night he was planning on committing suicide. He didn’t, because someone cared and thought to ask him how he was doing which made him realize it wasn’t the answer. Well that person was me.

When I was living in my car with a miserable job, thinking things were lost, I was at my friend Brendins’ wedding social. I saw my friends James and Brett and they told me if I ever wanted a change I should think about Bold. In that moment it gave me hope that if at least my job didn’t work out I had something to look forward to. 

In 2011, I was in college with my friends Evan and Shawn and I had found out my son was on the way. Shawn asked me how I was feeling one day and I explained what I was going through. I mentioned I was considering dropping out. He stepped up. He didn’t owe me anything but he told me that anything I needed, he would do. Although I ended up dropping out, that moment showed me that there are good people out there and people who thought I was worth fighting for.

I used to hit points before this where people fought for me and sometimes I actually said why you always trying to pick me up, do you ever think that maybe I’m just supposed to stay down.

Mental Illness
Mental Illness (Source)

Some Helpful Resources and Techniques

First, I want to talk about some myths surrounding mental illness:

MYTH: People with mental illness are violent and dangerous. TRUTH: As a group, mentally ill people are no more violent than any other groups. In fact, they are more likely to be the victims of violence than to be violent themselves.

MYTH: People with mental illness are poor and/or less intelligent. TRUTH: Many studies show that most mentally ill people have average or above-average intelligence. Mental illness, like physical illness, can affect anyone regardless of intelligence, social class or income level.

MYTH: Mental illness is caused by personal weakness. TRUTH: A mental illness is not a character flaw. It is an illness, and it has nothing to do with being weak or lacking will-power. Although, people with mental illness’ can play a big part in their own recovery, they did not choose to become ill.

MYTH: Mental illness is a single, rare disorder. TRUTH: Mental illness is not a single disease but a broad classification for many disorders. Anxiety, depression, schizophrenia, personality disorders, eating disorders and organic brain disorders affect millions of people every year.

Our mental health is an ever changing aspect of ourselves. Positive mental health is described as:

  • emotional and psychological wellness
  • positive self-concept, self-acceptance
  • satisfying interpersonal relationships
  • satisfaction in living
  • feeling in control, taking personal responsibility for your actions and feelings
  • ability to handle daily activities By being self-aware we can take positive steps towards mental health when the balance is disrupted. Here are some simple ways to work toward regaining a balance…
  • get adequate sleep
  • eat a balanced diet
  • get regular exercise
  • practice relaxation techniques
  • make time for pleasurable activities, hobbies, and work
  • prioritize tasks, delegate, don’t take on too much
  • develop supportive relationships
  • don’t be overly critical of yourself
  • focus on your strengths and abilities
  • LAUGH!
Mental Illness
Stress during covid-19 (Source)

Stress

Stress and tension are normal reactions to events that threaten us. Such threats can come from accidents, financial troubles and problems on the job or with family. The way we deal with these pressures has a lot to do with our mental, emotional and physical health. The following are suggestions to get you started on managing the stress in your life:

  1. Recognize your symptoms of stress.
  2. Look at your lifestyle and see what can be changed – in your work situation, your family situation, or your schedule.
  3. Use relaxation techniques – Yoga, meditation, deep breathing, or massage.
  4. Exercise – Physical activity is one of the most effective stress remedies around!
  5. Time management – Do essential tasks and prioritize the others. Consider those who may be affected by your decisions, such as family and friends. Use a check list; you will receive satisfaction as you check off completed jobs!
  6. Watch your diet – Alcohol, caffeine, sugar, fats and tobacco all put a strain on your body’s ability to cope with stress. A diet with a balance of fruits, vegetables, whole grains and foods high in protein but low in fat will help create optimum health. Contact your local Heart and Stroke Foundation for information about healthy eating.
  7. Get enough rest and sleep.
  8. Talk with others – Talk with friends, professional counsellors, support groups or relatives about what’s bothering you.
  9. Help others – Volunteer work can be an effective and satisfying stress reducer.
  10. Get away for awhile – Read a book, watch a movie, play a game, listen to music or go on vacation. Leave yourself some time that’s just for you.
  11. Work off your anger – Get physically active, dig in the garden, start a project, or get your spring cleaning done.
  12. Give in occasionally – Avoid quarrels whenever possible.
  13. Tackle one thing at a time. Don’t do too much at once.
  14. Don’t try to be perfect.
  15. Ease up on criticism of others.
  16. Don’t be too competitive.
  17. Make the first move to be friendly.
  18. HAVE SOME FUN!! Laugh with people you enjoy! Stress stretch when you are under stress, tension accumulates in your neck and jaw. Take a minute to gently and slowly move your head from front to back, side to side, and in a full circle. For your jaw, stretch your mouth open and slowly move your lower jaw from side to side and front to back. (NOTE: If you notice pain or if you have had any injuries to your back, neck or jaw, check with your doctor first.)
Mental Illness
Smart Goals (Source)

Set a SMART Goal and achieve it! Unrealistic goals that never seem to be reached add to your stress level. Try setting one goal for yourself this week using the SMART approach: Specific – Pick one small goal and write it down. Measurable – Can you count it or check it off a list? Achievable – Is it realistic? If not, make it smaller. Rewarded – Reward yourself when you reach your goal. Time-limited – Set a specific, realistic date to finish or achieve your goal.

Set aside some time for laughter, your body’s natural stress release mechanism. Rent your favourite comedy movie or record a TV show that you know makes you laugh (and keep it on hand for stress emergencies). Go to the library and borrow a book that can make you laugh. Read the daily comics in the newspaper, or phone the funniest person you know! Instead of sitting down for another cup of stress-inducing caffeine on your coffee break, opt for a stress relieving and energizing walk. If you don’t like walking by yourself, try forming a walking club with two or three of your co-workers or friends

Some Final Points

The last point I want to touch on is one is more recent, and not one person knows this. For my 30th birthday I got way too drunk during my party and missed most of it. I had an old school sweat wristband on and made the joke I was dressed like a guy from High school, but really I had harmed myself the day before. It made sense later why I was saying “i’m not having a good time” and kept drinking because I was trying to numb the pain and just be normal.

The focal point of all this, is you never know someone’s story or what is going on in their life, and you will be surprised what happens if you talk to people and ask for help. It doesn’t make you weak, it makes you human. One lesson I learned was that there are people out there who will make you feel like you can’t love yourself for who you are, but its not up to them, they don’t get to dictate your life.

There are tons of resources out there such as suicide hotlines and if you are struggling or know someone who is struggling, I am here to tell you that you are not alone.

I thank you for letting me tell my story and I am sorry it was kind of a jumble, those who know me, know I am not great at telling stories or talking about myself. Remember small acts can have big impacts, some of your actions could be what saves someone’s life.

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Kyle Zastre
Kyle Zastre
I am a QA by day and game writer by night. I have always had opinions and reviews on games and now I am finally able to put it out there. I used to do video game reviews under my youtube channel TheArcadeHack, but since then have been looking for an outlet to channel my creativity. I like to sing/write music, play video games (obviously), and love to learn!

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