If you have or had mental health issues for multiple years; you must be tired of the phrase - “everything will be okay”. Out of all the boilerplate phrases such as “take rest, do something you enjoy, go on a trip, pick a new hobby” etc.; the promise of everything being okay soon feels the most empty.
When is it going to get better? So much time has passed, why hasn’t it gotten better already? Will it ever get better?
I will try to answer this with well-established scientfic research but before that, I highly suggest you to read my blog about self-hate; it should help you understand how your personality takes shape.
What you are going to read next applies to conditions such as depression, anxiety, ADHD etc. and is not entirely helpful for severe diorders such as schizophrenia. With that out of the way, let’s talk about neuroplasticity.
“No man ever steps in the same river twice, for it’s not the same river and he’s not the same man.”
It is fairly obvious that a person can change as they accquire new experiences but did you know that your brain physically changes when it has new type of information?
In 2008, a research paper was published about “neuroanatomic plasticity” or neuroplasticity. The term neuroplasticity refers to the brain’s ability to reorganize itself by forming new neural connections. This means that the state of a brain is not fixed or hardwired. It changes in response to experiences and it does not have a choice, it has to.1
If you are a dancer, learning a few new moves will not change your brain as much as learning to swim would. It’s not about new information - it’s about new type of information.
Living in a new enviornment, learning a new language or a skill, even having new types of conversations or thoughts - they will all form tons of new neural connections in your brain.
This suggests that we must break our daily loop, get out of our comfort zone and do something drastically different. Unfortunately, almost with every mental illness comes free the inability to function correctly. Some feel exhausted, some afraid and others fighting their own demons.
If we need to get out of our comfort zone but our mental illness won’t let us, how will our brain change? How will our situation ever get better?
This is why, the journey to fix it all starts with a visit to a psychatrist. They will analyse your state and recommend an appropriate treatment.
The treatment may include medication, therapy or both. If your condition doesn’t get better, they will keep trying with different medications. You should remember that if a medicine doesn’t work, it doesn’t mean that there’s something wrong with you. It’s just that our brains are complex and different things work for different people.
Hang in there and keep trying until you find a fit. You might also want to consult multiple psychatrists and therapists to decrease the chances of human error.
What’s the treatment for?
We learned in school how vitamin and minerals are essentials for our body to function properly. Just like our body, our brain relys on a variety of chemicals and will not function correctly if their quantity is not in a healthy range.
For example, the process to build chemicals called serotonin (responsible for a stable mood and sleep) and dopamine (gives you motivation to do things) requires vitamin B6 and other things. With lack of vitamin B6, no matter what you do, your mood won’t improve and you won’t have the motivation to work. See how important these chemicals are?
Apart from these chemicals, there’s also a psychological aspect to your mental health - your thoughts. If the way you think is flawed, no amount of nutrition can help you live well. Luckily, different types of therapies such as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy or Trauma-focused Therapy can gradually help you understand your psyche and change how you think.
Both of these things combined or individually may fix your issues completely, leave a few crumbs or only take you halfway there. I do not have the statistics to make any claims but what I do know is that you should see treatment as way to become more funtional not as a guarnteed cure.
From there, use whatever amount of functionality you have restored to do the things you need to do to improve your brain further. Neuroplasticity, remember? You can change your brain by accquiring new types of information? Yes, do that.
I will end this article with a tldr-style list of things to help you but the entire point of this article is to answer “will it ever get better?”. And we have a answer, it can.
less internet scrolling, learning new things, proper sleep, exercise, nutrition, self-compassion, mindfulness, interacting with better people, medication, cleaning up your room, having a pet, taking cold showers
Source: Blumenthal, J. A., Babyak, M. A., Doraiswamy, P. M., Watkins, L., Hoffman, B. M., Barbour, K. A., … & Sherwood, A. (2007). Exercise and pharmacotherapy in the treatment of major depressive disorder. Psychosomatic Medicine ↩