Feeling strong is a huge part of my recovery, after feeling weak for so long, feeling inner strength allows me to truly believe that I am stronger than my mental illness and that I can continue with my recovery.
There are many different factors that contribute to feeling strong, things that I do not know will make me feel that way until after I do them, this changes with where I am. I remember achieving things at the beginning of my recovery, to the outside world I was strong but the thoughts I had, continued to weaken me. Inner strength is not something that people can see, or something someone can measure, it is a feeling and individual to you.
I feel strongest when I am connected both mind and body, when I am mindful and present, wherever I am, but mostly when I am outdoors and preferably up high. Maybe, because I used to fear heights, because for such a long time I was too physically and mentally unwell to see such beautiful views or because of the empowering feeling of the mountains.
As well as the mountains, for me, strength comes from the little things that still, even now, feel new to me. Like being able to help others, openly talking about my mental health and the little things that I once felt too weak to do. Each feeling of strength adds to my resilience, self belief and ability to get back up when I fall.
After writing my ‘I am a warrior’ post, and looking at my own strength, I became curious to see what makes others feel strong and the link with their recovery. I asked these lovely contributors what makes them feel strong and how strength has benefited their recovery from mental illnesses or problems.
“What makes me feel strong is using the negative experiences in my life as a drive to make a difference, and watching the impact that it has on those around me and seeing first hand a change in the way people act and think about mental health. The strength is in accepting that some days I am not okay, and that it is okay to reach out, and when I do the love and support I am shown by my friends gives me the strength, when I don’t feel like I have my own. Oh… and a cup of tea.” – Jodie Goodacer, Girl, Interrupted,
“Looking after my body, by changing my diet which resulted in me having more energy and strength to move my body. Having a healthy and strong body really helps with agoraphobia exposures. And also in not letting eating disorders /BDD voice in, remembering how much my body actually does for me.
Trusting myself and starting to believe in myself. Rather than waiting for others approval of me and what I do. Being able to believe that what I do, is useful and can make a difference as well as actually being so passionate about everything that I do. Having learned to trust my gut all over again, and still learning, also just helps me to look after myself and my mental health a lot better.
Being able to quiet the mind and tune into myself, makes me feel strong. Even though it’s always a working in progress, and I’m learning so much every day, being able to do this allows me better not to be completely identified by mental health issues, anxiety, intrusive thoughts or panic attacks. It gives me strength, knowing that I can help myself, just by focusing on my breath, by being in the nature and just taking some time out for myself.” – Kay Ska, more from Kay
“Learning to say no makes me feel so empowered because it puts me back in control of my own life and because of that, it makes my mental health better – I feel so free to be me” – Charlotte Underwood, more from Charlotte
“My outer strength is found in the incredible women I surround myself with. I will never stop feeling lucky for having the best group of girlfriends anybody could every ask for. They are a constant source of wisdom and nonsense rolled into one and I love them dearly. My boyfriend is my rock and gives me endless support through the most difficult of times.
I find my inner strength in achievements. Some are bigger and more tangible. Travelling alone. Lifting weights at the gym. Running.
But the things that really make me feel strong are the smaller, day to day successes. Ones that maybe no one knows about but me. Wearing an outfit even though my mind tells me I’m fat. Eating dinner AND pudding, because I want to and I can. Getting dressed even when I don’t have the energy to move. Having a bath even though I don’t care about being clean. Saying to somebody that actually, I’m not okay today. Most of these are silent battles, but that makes them all the more brave.
I feel strong because I know that I have battled with my mind a hundred times before, and every single time, I’ve won. And I’m determined to keep winning, no matter what.” – Cara Lisette, Moods, Meds & Meals
“I feel extremely privileged to be writing this on Nicole’s Journey, and having experienced my own journey I feel very inspired! I have struggled with anxiety for 4 years now, and after seeking professional help in 2015 I am currently in a much better headspace than I was before. The things that make me feel strong are looking back at my personal experiences and acheiving things that I never thought I would have. This really benefits my mental health, seeing how far I have come and feeling super proud of myself is always a win-win!! Also hearing feedback from my lovely viewers and all of their lovely comments always keep me in high spirits!” – Mia Williams, Infamous Mia
“Learning about and using self-care techniques has really helped me feel strong. What I have discovered over the last couple of years is that self-care is not selfish and is actually extremely important for my mental wellbeing and on top of this there are a lot of things I can do for self-care. Sometimes it can be as simple as relaxing and having a nice, warm bath or distracting myself with music. Other times it can be more proactive around mental health, such as reading inspirational stories, writing on my blog or listening to podcasts on mental health.
All of this makes me feel strong as it helps me to get through the rough days. Being kind to myself has helped raise my self-esteem and how helped me to cope with my depression and anxiety by not beating myself up on the tough days and instead being kinder to myself.” – Peter Shaw, Living with Anxiety
“For me, it’s the simple things. Family, friends, a good book, a bubble bath and most importantly; listening to my mind and body. Sometimes it’s easy to forget recovery isn’t a destination but a journey. Some days are harder than others and for me it’s so key to know my triggers and acknowledge when I need to stop and breathe. It’s telling myself that today it’s absolutely okay if all I manage is to get out of bed, and also it’s sometimes being firm with myself and saying ‘at least try.’
My strength comes from my loved ones and from my self care. It comes from knowing that I HAVE an illness, but I am NOT my illness, and that even on my darkest days I am still Zoe, and that emotions are not permanent; tomorrow is another day.” – Zoe Hazel
“I 100% believe that we are way stronger than we realise. We just have to notice!
Meditation & Mindfulness have been essential to me finding my mental strength. After suffering with Anxiety, Depression, Anorexia & Emetophobia for most of my life – discovering meditation was such a point of change for me.
I’m lucky enough to live by a meditation garden that is open to the public – I make regular visits there when I feel my strength is waining! Finding that time to be by myself outdoors in a safe, quiet, tranquil environment has helped me to rise to those challenges.
But sometimes that strength can only be found by going inward…
On those days where anxiety wants to wrangle me back into bed I make the point of repeating just how proud I am of myself for dealing with this challenge. It’s almost like being your very own cheerleader! The language we use when we speak to ourselves is SO IMPORTANT. It truly has changed my life.
Thank you to each of these wonderful contributors, after receiving and reading many stories of strength and bravery, I am left feeling empowered and completely in awe of the strength within us. I hope you agree that there is so much strength within this post and I hope that whoever is reading this finds it as empowering as I do.
Thank you for reading,
Please know that I speak from my personal experiences only and every experience with an eating disorder or mental health problem is individual.
If you need support or advice on eating disorders please visit B-eat. For help and support with mental health illnesses or problems please visit Re-think Mental Illness, Mind or Samaritans, please know you are not alone.