Tim O’Connor on what he does to keep himself well

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tim O’Connor is a See Change ambassador from Limerick. He is a mental health advocate and also works in the mental health sector. After years of working in other job’s, Tim has found his work in mental health the most rewarding. Tim was diagnosed with bipolar disorder and in order to keep well he follows the list below. This is Tim’s experience and everybody is different, but Tim wanted to share his tips in the hope it may help someone who needs it. 

Tim O’Connor- What helped me in getting well

  • Finding correct medication and then taking it

(Being lucky enough to never having any noticeable side-effects to my medications.)

  • Support of friends and family (this is crucial post-hospital)
  • Having a daily routine worked out with Occupational Therapist before leaving hospital
  • Exercise (even just a daily half-hour walk)
  • Spending time with loved ones AND showing appreciation to them
  • Acting “as if” – e.g. I found that making myself smile while low, lifted my mood a little
  • If I was depressed, then I would make the effort to notice things outside of myself (e.g. while walking on the street)
  • Finding work and keeping it, reintegrated me, boosted my confidence and helped me feel competent again. (There are similar benefits in attending training, developing hobbies and going to night classes.)
  • Avoiding isolation (join a hobby or social group)
  • Gratitude lists helped me enormously – to the point of noticing very little things throughout the day which I had previously taken for granted.

(And I noticed very obvious things to be grateful for: e.g.    When I turned on a tap water comes out!)

  • Keeping a journal of what I did and what I thought helped. The journal felt like a friend I could always go to. The journal is always there – at weekends, at night etc.

(I’ve used journaling in conjunction with Talk Therapy also.)

  • Focusing on my hobbies; music, journaling, cinema and walking allowed me spend many pleasurable hours and took my mind off myself.
  • I found reading in general helpful and I sometimes read books about dealing with bi-polar and some popular philosophy books.
  • Diet is very important. I usually have the three meals a day. Especially something quick and easy like Weetabix in the morning.
  • In winter when there is not as much light, it is especially important to get out for a walk.
  • For me my seven or eight hours sleep at night is important – but not a hard-fast rule.
  • Many nursing staff over the past thirty-five years were very understanding and encouraging
  • In 2014 on leaving hospital I completed a 10-week ECDL (European Computer Driving License) course and gaining the accreditation gave me an enormous confidence boost.
  • Working in the mental health area since 1998 helped me. It gave me a better insight into myself and, as I worked in a variety of roles, including group facilitator and advocate I got to hear many issues of people in the services.
  • Support groups were extremely important to me and still are. Again on leaving hospital I found them very necessary.
  • Realising I had come through severe illness before and got back on my feet was a very hopeful and comforting thought.
  • Being lucky enough and maybe persistent enough to find satisfying and meaningful work
  • Realising that I did not have to take personally, any endings of what I had considered valued friendships (these things happen to everyone for a whole plethora of reasons.)
  • Contributing in any way I could through voluntary activities
  • Learning more about any hobbies or interests I had and continuing to pursue an interest

 

  1. What hindered me staying well

 

  • In the early days the medical model did not serve me
  • Losing friends through illness
  • Losing work through illness
  • Seeing a variety of junior doctors in lieu of my psychiatrist
  • Being turned away from A+E when deeply depressed
  • Being discharged too early
  • Stressful and inappropriate work
  • Pressure from managers within work
  • Normal losses of life: deaths of friends and family (These losses though led me to reassess my life and do more meaningful work in mental health.)
  • Long-term relationship break-ups

 

  1. Things/Tactics other people have found helpful

 

  • Keeping it simple
  • Setting achievable goals (having small successes increases our self-confidence and can lead to a greater sense of wellbeing.)
  • Learning to say no
  • Praying for your enemies (wishing your enemies well)
  • The slogan “What you think of me is none of my business”
  • Being gentle on ourselves
  • Acting on fears – do now what is possible – e.g. contact bank re finances
  • Meditation/Mindfulness
  • Being organised so as not to panic
  • Looking after our appearance
  • Avoiding news/media as it may trouble us when unwell
  • Regarding living with stigma, this slogan helped: “Those who matter don’t mind and those who mind don’t matter”.

 

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