Wednesday 14 March 2018

Uncertainty Makes Mental Illness Worse

By Sarah Fader

One of the most foundational parts of living with mental illness is structure and routine. This can be applied to a multitude of areas in your life. Whether it's your career, friendships or romantic relationships, things need to feel concrete and defined. When you have a mental illness, having a schedule and routine to follow is imperative.

When things are ambiguous that's when you get into trouble. If you're unsure of what your day is going to look like you might feel anxious or out of sorts. If you are not certain of the boundaries in a romantic relationship, this can make you feel nervous, insecure or even depressed. This is not something that you need to worry about if possible. If there are ways to avoid feeling down or anxious about a relationship or an ambiguous situation at work, then these techniques should help.

There are things that we could obsess about when we don't know the perimeters or the boundaries of a relationship. When you have clarity in any context of your life you will inevitably feel better. This is crucial to someone who lives with a mental illness. Anxiety is exacerbated by "not knowing" and there are so many things in life that we don't know. If it's possible to have transparency in a situation, then, by all means, make that happen!


This is the tough part: ask the other person what's going on. When you are feeling anxious and you don't know where you stand with another person, the best thing to do is not to guess, but to directly ask them. Human beings are powerful creatures, however, we do not read minds. We cannot presume to know what is in someone else's brain. You might be afraid to hear what they have to say, but you can ask that person what they're thinking and how they feel.

When you ask for clarity in a relationship or a situation with murky boundaries, you will feel less anxious when you know what you're dealing with. People, like me, living with mental illness need to be mindful of what energy we bring into our lives. Many of us are sensitive and empathetic and when we are uneasy about something or someone, that takes a toll on our feelings. Being an empathetic person, I want to help others, but if I don't know what's going on, I can't help.

My point is if you can create a life in which you know pretty much what to expect from those around you, do that. Of course, life is unpredictable and there's never a way to know what will happen in a given situation. However, if you allow people into your life who are reliable and honest, you will be able to feel calmer and more secure. What about you? Do you feel comfortable with ambiguity or does uncertainty make you feel more anxious?

About the Author

Sarah Fader is the CEO and Founder of Stigma Fighters, a non-profit organization that encourages individuals with mental illness to share their personal stories. She has been featured in The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Atlantic, Quartz, Psychology Today, The Huffington Post, HuffPost Live, and Good Day New York.

Sarah is a native New Yorker who enjoys naps, talking to strangers, and caring for her two small humans and two average-sized cats. Like six million other Americans, Sarah lives with panic disorder. Through Stigma Fighters, Sarah hopes to change the world, one mental health stigma at a time.


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