Harmful Self-Medication: 5 Things You Need to Stop Doing

It can be so difficult to face up to mental health issues and personally, it has taken far too long for me to identify and notice what was going wrong. It’s all about learning what betters and worsens our life and creating a routine of growth towards a healthier you. Self-medication can either help or harm your situation, we tend to do it when there are limited options are available which is common in England with such a high demand and lack of resources to help everyone.

In my experience, I’ve foolishly taken part in damaging self medicating techniques which have worsened my issues in a lot of ways. But, I don’t dwell on it too much as I see it as part of my growing process to a better person. We kind of have to experience bad forms of self medication before we can find healthy methods that work for us, but I’m here to highlight where you could be going wrong and changes you can make to improve your growth.

1. Vicious Cycles

The first step to a journey of growth is to identify the flaws and difficulties in your life. I know it can be really difficult as mental health has a way of confusing you and making you feel very lost, but trying to analyse and identify where you face problems in your life can sometimes be really effective in finding the right steps you need to take for a healthier mind.

Maybe you get anxious in social situations, a relationship puts emotional strain on you or you have an unhappy life at work. Whatever you don’t like about you life, there are ways to change this. Never just accept unhappiness because you deserve to be happy and content in you life, everyone does. The brutal reality is that if you simply settle for an unhappy life and you’re unwilling to change the things that bother you, you can’t expect anything to change. When I struggled with a very unhappy mindset and life, I made a lot of lists of things I wanted to do and change. An example of this is when I was unemployed and felt very worthless and unhappy, I made it my sole goal to get a job for something to focus on and get me out of bed every day. This was not easy, in fact the day of my interview my mind was completely fighting against me and I was in tears minutes before I had to leave my house saying I couldn’t do it and there was no point. I was soooo close to not going but I thought fuck this I’m not giving up once again, I did the interview and I’m now in an amazing job which I love. I make lists like everyday, I’m a bit of an organisation freak and I live for notebooks and stationary. But I found that making these lists of steps I needed to take to extinguish stresses of my life, no matter how small or big they were, was an essential step in the early stages of my journey.

2. Making Excuses

And that brings me onto the next point. I am an absolute expert at making excuses not to do things that I know will benefit me. I’ve amazed myself at how easily it can be to talk myself out of doing things, especially the gym. Even though I know I’m going to absolutely hate myself for not doing it, I’ll still convince myself not to do it. I’m still learning not to do this and I genuinely believe everyone does it from time to time, but I definitely don’t do it as much. When you’re feeling very low, it’s even easier to make excuses because you just don’t see the point in anything. Even making your bed in the morning is a massive effort because when you’re having a depressive episode, all you can manage is to lie in bed and avoid the world even though you know you have so much you could do to improve your life.

Don’t get me wrong, I know it’s far easier said than done to just tell you to stop making excuses and start making changes to your life. When you’re in a bad place, it can seem impossible. I’m here to tell you that once you stop making excuses and with a clear mind start to just do things you know will benefit you, you will soon find yourself on a journey to a better mind set. No matter how small the task, even making your bed in the morning, can give you a positive mindset for the day and improve your outlook. Excuses are the devil on your shoulder and the demon on your back telling you you can’t do something, when you can do anything you set your mind to. Just ignore them voices they talk nothing but shit.

3. Feeling Shame

We are all aware of the stigma around mental health. There are so many reasons why people don’t want to talk about their mental well-being, many of which are related to how others will think of them. Feeling shameful about your mental health problems is just not an option. Mental health should be taken just as seriously as physical health, just because you can’t see the damage does not mean it’s there. Mental illness is one of the biggest killers out there, so why the hell is it not taken seriously?

I know it’s difficult to open up and wear your problems on your sleeve. There’s no chance i would have posted so openly about my problems like this even a few months ago, I’m still so shocked that I’ve done this but I am so proud of myself for being open now. I’m not ashamed of my mental health problems like I used to be and I think that’s down to educating myself on what’s actually wrong with me as opposed to just labelling myself a bit weird. I definitely think the stigma is slowly breaking and people are being more open, World Mental Health Day is my favourite day of the year because we really do all work to break down the barriers and there’s never a more supportive day to be part of.

The second you feel shameful for how you feel, the least likely you are to deal with the problems. You need to understand that you’re only human and you’re experiencing things that so many other people go through on a daily basis. It’s okay not to be okay, and there is no embarrassment in struggling – it’s part of life. It’s time to stop feeling shameful and ignoring your issues as a way of self-medicating. Ignoring your issues and pushing them away won’t make them go, you need to deal with them and I promise you will be glad you did.

4. Substance Abuse

I’ve spoke about substance abuse before in other posts, but I cannot emphasise enough how damaging it is to use these as a way for self-medicating your problems. Alcohol and narcotics have so many psychologically damaging effects, it seems ridiculous to integrate them into an already unhealthy mind. I myself and so many other people in the world have used substances as a way of escaping their problems and trying to cope with life, whether it helps temporarily or not, it is definitely not the answer.

All you’re really doing is putting off dealing with your problems. You either deal with them, or let them rule your life for the rest of your days. Drinking alcohol and abusing drugs to cope with your problems is not dealing with your problems. I believe if people could see the psychological damage that substance abuse can do to a mind, so many people would not use them. For so long I wasn’t aware of the effects that these substances had on me, read my Dry January blog post for why I decided to quit alcohol for the start of 2019 (a little update: I’m feeling a lot better in my mindset and productivity already and becoming more and more against alcohol as the month goes on).

Educate yourself on how damaging substance abuse can be, in attempt to discourage yourself from using them. Obviously, it is so patronising to tell people to just stop drinking or whatever, after all they are addictive substances for a reason. But what I would heavily suggest is that if you think you’re using these substances in a harmful way, seek help. I would start with the Recovery Helpline to talk to an expert who can put you in contact with local schemes and routes to help. There are so many charities and medical help out there to aid people who struggle with addition and substance abuse habits, use them to get yourself to a better place. I’m not saying all drugs are bad, as there are prescribed options which can aid mental well-being, but never self-medicate with any substances without medical advice first.

5. Not Seeking Help

One of the worst things you can do when struggling in a dark place, and something I did for far too long, is not seek help. Whether it’s just taking to a friend, to visiting your GP for advice, bringing other people into your situation can benefit in so many ways. Struggling on your own only heightens the isolation and feeling of failure, it is definitely not weak to reach out for help.

If, like me, you don’t want to bother other people with your problems or feel like talking to other people will do no help, please try to remember that people care about you and your life matters to this world. Mental illness can be a very draining burden to carry and it is unfair to have to carry it alone, especially when there are options available to help you.

statistics from itv.com

I have always been a very independent person who lives to deal with things on my own, hence why I never asked for help or talked to others about my problems. I didn’t see a point and thought that including other people would just bring stress on them. Chances are, your loved ones already notice your illness and sadness and would probably love nothing more than you to reach out to them. I for one know that I could help people with their problems by talking to them, the hard part is letting them let you in on their lives – something I can fully understand because I was so against telling people my own problems.

It is completely okay and admirable to just ask for help or even just let people in to lift the load a little. If you’re still dead against taking to anyone, there are so many amazing charities out there who were created just to support people like you. An amazing charity I would like to put out there is the Crisis Text Line UK, perfect for people who don’t want to reach out to friends or family or who don’t want to talk on the phone to Samaritans. It is a 24/7 free texting service which allows you to talk to a helpful volunteer who want nothing more than to help you live your life a little easier. Use these amazing services available to you and take a load off your back as living with mental illness is far to draining to deal with it alone.

I have definitely used every single one of these self-medicating techniques and I’d be lying if I said they don’t still creep up now and then. But I think the best thing I could have done is identify where I was going wrong so I could avoid these destructive patterns that made me a bit of a mess afterwards. No, I’m not a straight-edged sober warrior who never breaks down now and then. I still have my moments where I lie in bed all day and find it impossible to get up and face the world. But I know where I go wrong now, and I know what I need to do to get to a better place. I know what works for me and what doesn’t, I’ll be writing a blog soon about methods I’ve used to positively self-medicate, because there definitely is a lot of things I’ve noticed help me a lot in terms of anxiety and a poor mindset.

I hope this has helped not only inform you on where you could be harming yourself, but also gave you an insight into what loved ones may be doing in times of crisis.

– Beauty By Disaster x

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