3 ways I flipped the script on my mental health diagnosis

by | Environment, Modern | 0 comments

“No amount of medication or therapy could have achieved what travel did for you, you are glowing.”

Positive Psychologist

I was having a rough few months. I could feel the end of my 3-year long relationship coming to a close, but for some reason, we were still together. During these uncertain and tumultuous months, I experienced a lot of mental health challenges. I felt anxious all the time, reactive, cloudy, and extremely low. I decided to visit my GP to search for some answers.

Her prescription? Antidepressants and a trip to the psychiatrist to get a clearer diagnosis. So off I went. After a 15 minute assessment, I received a startling response. That I had a borderline personality disorder. I didn’t even know what it was until I did a quick google search on it. His prescription? Mood stabilizers with disturbing side effects, antidepressants, and unaffordable therapy with a 6-month long waitlist.

I chose not to go down the medication route because I didn’t feel like anything was making sense at the time. A week after my diagnosis, my partner took the reins and ended our relationship. It was devastating for me to say the least, but something that was necessary.

In that moment, while we were in the midst of our breakup, I knew I couldn’t stay in the same environment that was the cause of so much pain. I knew I had to do something to shift my story. So I made the decision to travel for a month. I bought a one way ticket to Bali the next day and left a few days later. I booked in a silent meditation retreat, planned to get my diving certification, and was determined to learn how to surf.

I had another appointment with my psychiatrist a day before leaving. He tried to discourage me from traveling alone, as I was “not fit emotionally” due to my recent breakup and newly diagnosed mental health challenges. I chose to ignore his advice and boarded the plane the next day.

I ended up spending 2 months in Bali. I travelled around the island, finished a week-long silent meditation retreat, got my diving certification, learned how to surf, met some beautiful friends that I’m still close with to this day, and ended up meeting my current partner.

The funny thing was, I didn’t experience any borderline personality disorder symptoms or signals once. I chose to return to Bali permanently after 6 weeks in Vancouver selling all of my belongings and saying goodbye to my past life. I visited my GP before leaving again, and she was completely blown away by my transformation. She said, and I quote:

“No amount of medication or therapy could have achieved what travel did for you, you are glowing.”

It’s been over 2 years since I got diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder, and I still have yet to experience any of its symptoms. This leads me to believe that I never had the disorder at all, that I was just in an incredibly stressful environment whilst experiencing the end of a romantic relationship. That, or the environment and relationship I’m in now is deeply nourishing and supportive so the disorder hasn’t had a chance to rear its head. Whatever it may be, I feel like I’ve found the answer in the context of my own life.

I wanted to share a 3 things that acted as my medicine when modern medication wasn’t an option for me.

  1. Lifestyle: Travel & courageously lean into new experiences 
  2. Environment: Change & seek nourishing environments
  3. Mind: Flip the 3:1 negative bias ratio

3 ways to Flip the script & truly live

1. Travel & creating new experiences

After my diagnosis, I needed to disconnect from the environment that was causing me so much pain and stress. Instead of taking mood stabilisers and antidepressants, I wanted to see the effect that travel could potentially have on me before I made a commitment to something like medication.

As soon as I boarded that plane, I felt something shift inside me. It was as if everything was falling away. I felt free, I felt light, and I felt all my worries ease. There have been studies done to see the immediate & long term effects that vacationing can have on individuals.

“Results indicated that one single short-term vacation, independent of the mode, has large, positive and immediate effects on perceived stress, recovery, strain, and well-being.”

It’s no wonder I could feel the shift almost immediately as I boarded the airplane. The excitement of the unknown, the fact that I didn’t have to work for the next month, and the experiences that were awaiting me completely overrode my negative emotional space.

2. Changing Environments

It’s no surprise that our environment has a direct effect on our mental health and wellbeing. Environment can be anything from where you’re living, who you’re living with, what you’re putting into your body, your psychosocial conditions and more.

“Any number of circumstances—for instance, sexual abuse, falling victim to crime, or the breakup of a relationship—can produce psychosocial stress.”

In my situation, I was experiencing a lot of this type of stress from my previous relationship and the ending of it. Ronald Kessler, a professor of health care policy at Harvard Medical School explains that, “Feelings of pure loss might lead to depressive disorders, while feelings of pure danger might lead to anxiety disorders.” These can come alone or as a combination, and can interact with our genetics to alter brain chemistry therefore altering our mental health.

I learned this through changing my environment while under a great deal of stress. I removed myself from the negative stimuli producing all of these effects (what led my psychiatrist to diagnose me with BPD) and introduced a nourishing, tropical environment with a very low stress level attached to it and watched my mental state shift. At this moment, I knew that medication wasn’t the only available option.

3. The 3:1 ratio

It’s safe to say that the experience of positive emotions, events, and interactions is essential to our well-being. The more positive experiences we have, the better we feel. Barbara Fredrickton, a leading psychologist in positivity, has a popular formula for happiness. The theory states that we have to experience 3 positive emotions for every negative emotion to be considered “thriving.”

I applied this theory to creating new and meaningful experiences whilst in Bali. For every positive experience I had, it negated a negative experience I had in the past.

As I was traveling around Bali, I learned how to surf, I got my diving certification, and created so many beautiful and positive experiences over the 2 months I spent there. When I eventually had to return home to pack up and sell my belongings, all of the positive experiences I had created built so much resilience from within, that even when I had to see my ex partner, there were no hard feelings involved and it was completely tolerable emotionally.

Rick Hanson states that,

“Taking in the good is a brain-science savvy and psychologically skillful way to improve how you feel, get things done, and treat others.”

He also talks about being present with a positive experience for at least 30 seconds before getting distracted. As Marc Lewis and other researchers have shown, the longer that something is held in awareness and the more emotionally stimulating it is, the more neuron’s that fire and thus wire together, and the stronger the trace in memory. This can lead to more unconditional happiness, love, and more resilience.

SUMMARY

I had no idea that hopping on a plane to Bali had the potential to help shift my mental health, my feelings of happiness, my stress levels, among so many other things. There is so much power in our environment, and I think the first step to making any sort of change is realising just that. Once we know we can take control of our own narrative and realise that we don’t always have to rely on traditional forms of treatment (therapy & medication in my case), we can make more empowered choices in the context of our own lives. I hope my story has inspired someone out there to know that they’re not alone, and that everything they’re feeling is okay. But most importantly, that they can be empowered to make a change.

CALL TO EMBODIMENT

Regrets

One simple question to reflect on. 

Am I happy? 

Ask yourself this when you have a minute of breathing space.

Let your mind rationalise the answer first, it will want to take over.

Once the mind settles, feel it in your heart.

Am I truly happy?

Am I living a life with no regrets? 

 If today was my last day on earth, what would I really be spending my time doing?

Journal and script your answers or just sit there and feel the answer. 

If YES, keep going! If you feel more moments of bliss, thats amazing!

If NO, change something, anything. Look to your vision board, your bucket list. Make a courageous decision to live a life that you would never regret living

If you end up somewhere amazing, please share your journey with us. We want to cheer you on from where we all stand.

Tag us on Instagram @selfcare.global >>> facebook @selfcare.global.official           

Lo Sidoruk
Lo Sidoruk

Academic Flow Writer for Selfcare

Lo is an academic writer from Canada with a  a background in teaching, language, communication and creative design. Her passion is to empower all women to stand independently on their own two feet. Living their best life and serving from a place where vulnerability, courage & radical honesty is power. Nothing to hide, no one to blame & most importantly; no regrets. 

Solution Focussed

High on life – Vloggers that truly lived.

Positive psychologist Barbara Fredrickson’s  – “The Golden Ratio”

Rick Hanson – Being present in positive experiences:

Laura Sidoruk – Flow with Lo

 

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