Home Health Want to feel better? Try this

Want to feel better? Try this


[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]Want to feel better? Try this

Mental health challenges are probably some of the most difficult to face – not only as the sufferer but also for those who love and care for them.  Sometimes it can be hard to know where to start regarding effective treatment but, in this interview, Kim shares her story of dealing with mental illness and one of the key factors in helping her overcome. Whether you suffer from ‘down days’ to major depression, what she shares is a valuable tool to implement.  In fact, it’s something we could all benefit from doing more often whether we’re sick or not…


Question:  What are your mental health diagnoses?


Kim:  In my early 20’s I was diagnosed with Major Depression and Generalized Anxiety.  In my mid 30’s, many symptoms I was struggling greatly with and did not understand made more sense when I was given the diagnosis of Borderline Personality Disorder.  I’m not fond of the stigma BPD evokes and prefer Dr. Marsha Linehan’s petition to get the current Diagnostic Statistical Manual (DSM) updated to include the new descriptive diagnosis to be Emotional Dysregulation Disorder.


Question:  What symptoms were you experiencing that were causing you the greatest interruptions in your life?


Kim:  When I reached the height of my illness and really recognized that my situation had become terminal, I had been hospitalized for either an actual suicide attempt or suicide ideation (thoughts and plans) around 10 times in my lifetime and I was about 35 years old with 3 kids and a husband that needed me to be functional and improved.  My marriage was at a critical stage as caring for me had become more than any spouse should be burdened with. He clearly loves me and remained committed to me and our family even though I never believed it to be true.

The previous year was the worst and the hospital became a revolving door that stabilized me for a short period of time and then I returned to crisis and was readmitted for safety and erratic moods yet again.  When not in the hospital suffering from mental health collapse, I was trying to work while not sleeping.  Also having a chronic physical health condition with pain exacerbated by mental anguish.  My level of function was minimal.

I had alienated myself from nearly everyone who cared for me.  I was unstable and unpredictable.  I was sad and angry all the time.  I could relate to no one and felt misunderstood by everyone.  I didn’t know who I was. I felt unloved and unlovable.  I thought I was an outcast and a pariah.  It became clear I was no longer able to function at work and had to leave a job of a leadership role that I loved serving those with disabilities.  Leaving them, their families and the staff I supervised behind resulted in the biggest identity crisis of my life.  I should quickly add, this was during the housing crisis, our family was broke, our home was upside down and we lost our home of 11 years and I felt it was all my fault.  I carried the whole weight of the world on my shoulders.  I felt defeated and crushed.


Question: Was there a turning point? Was anything in your treatment plan working?


Kim:  Up until this point, I had an ineffective team of helpers and a poor outlook.  And then finally two very important things happened.  The first had to happen to make the second possible.  The Lord, although I was yet to be a surrendered believer, began to place instrumental people in my path.  There have always been important people that have shaped me, but these people began to shape my RECOVERY from mental health madness, of which I thought I would not return; to which I had resigned to a life of misery or inevitable death as a result.  {In 2014, there were 42,773 deaths by suicide in the United States. Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death; It is the second leading cause of death for 15 – 24 year olds}. (SAVE Suicide Facts)

While spending a week in the hospital, there were a group of 3 women, each in their late 50’s.  We became close and they shared their histories of being in and out of the hospital most of their lives.  The greatest value and what they stressed to me in their wisdom was, despite their intense love for their children and husbands, their long absences, extreme and ineffectively treated symptoms, and at times, willfulness against treatment had a big impact on their families and caused erosion.  These conversations impacted my determination to open my mind to better and different treatment.  Resigning myself to victim status was no longer my only option.  

The second concept has been the catalyst to my recovery.  It has remained with me over the years.  As I now move into the next season of counselling peers with mental illness who are starting at the very beginning and don’t know how to launch, this is the place I suggest to start: GRATITUDE.  


Question:  Gratitude is an interesting concept.  Can you talk more about how being grateful helped you in the beginning stages of your mental health treatment?


Kim:  My current therapist, Lindsay, and then group facilitator, in her wisdom knew this to be true as well. Monday thru Friday for 10 weeks, that is where 15 or so of us started.  Now, with renewed determination and a more open mind, I came prepared every morning with 3 things to report to the group that I was thankful for. Often some of us could not achieve the goal without help from the group.  I chuckle a bit now because I remember so clearly how hard that was everyday in the beginning. Even still today, on difficult days and weeks, it is a challenge to push and do the opposite of what my emotions are suggesting I do.  My emotions are telling me to stay stuck.  Back then, they were not willing to take a risk and try something that at times felt inauthentic.

In short order, I began recording my list in a journal.  At first the idea behind that was not necessarily treatment focused.  My thought was, geeze, if I have to work this hard to come up with these buggars, I’m going to get full credit!  I also never allowed myself to repeat things I had previously been thankful for…. Can we say perfectionist, sigh…Now today, it is yet another thing to be grateful for because I have accumulated hundreds and they are a tool in my toolbox to combat depression.  I read them often.

When I didn’t have a specific person, incident or the like to be thankful for, I would use my 5 senses; vision, hearing, smell, taste, and touch.  I began to wake up to the world around me in a way I never had before. I started to realize there were so many things the Lord created for me and that I had easy access to that I could be grateful for.  These examples can show you how to start thinking in these terms and how you can begin to build a bit of momentum toward change.

Here are some examples of how to use your senses to find joy and gratitude.



Look at the nature around you, focus on the colors, how they sparkle and shine. Go to a museum with beautiful art. Buy a flower and put it where you can see it. Sit in a garden, notice the brilliance and patterns. Watch the snowflakes decorate the trees, bushes and ground during a snowfall. Light a candle and watch the flame. Look at a book with beautiful scenery or beautiful art. Watch a travel movie or video.  Sit in the lobby of a nice hotel.  Watch the stars in the middle of the night.  Notice the details of your loved ones – their freckles, scars, eyes…



Listen to beautiful or soothing music, or to sounds of the ocean or other sounds of nature (Youtube is great!).  Listen to a baby gurgling, giggling, cooing, or a small animal. Sit by a waterfall.  Pay attention to the sounds of nature that are naturally around you (birds, waves, the breeze, moving water, crickets, leaves rustling etc.).  Hear your footsteps on the ground and be grateful you are mobile.



Smell breakfast being cooked at home or in a restaurant. Notice all the different smells around you. Walk in a garden or in the woods, maybe just after a rain, and breathe in the smells of nature. Light a scented candle, heat wax or incense. Bake some bread or a cake and take in all the smells.  Boil cinnamon and water on the stove.  Put on your favorite lotion or take a bath with your favorite bath salts or oils.  Smell the freshly cut grass.  Most importantly, find smells that are uplifting for you and find a way to incorporate them into your life on a daily basis.



Have a special treat and eat it slowly, savoring each bite.  Slow your eating way down. Cook a favorite meal. Drink a soothing drink like herbal tea such as chamomile, peppermint or lemon with honey, or hot chocolate. Go to a potluck, and eat a little bit of each dish, mindfully tasting each new thing.  Sample flavors of ice cream at the store.  Suck on a piece of candy.  Eat fresh fruits that are in season.  Enjoy foods that are both hot and cold to shock the taste buds (ex: warm pie, cookies, or cake with cold ice cream)



Pet your dog, cat or any other pet.  Cuddle a baby, child or loved one. Put on fabrics and feel its softness and smoothness. Sink into a really comfortable bed.  Float or swim in a pool and feel the water caress your body.  Take a bath and pay close attention to the water running over your body or the bubbles as they move and pop.  Put clean soft sheets on your bed.  Have a massage.  Soak your hands and feet.  Put a cold compress on your forehead, wrists or back of your neck.  Curl up on a comfortable couch in loose clothes under a cozy blanket.  Brush your hair.  Rub a smooth stone. Play with silly-putty.  Hold ice in your fist and focus on the coldness in your palm and the water as it melts and runs down your hand.  Use a heating pad or hot rice pack on you neck, shoulders and back.


Initially what felt childish and a waste of my time became thoughts of gratitude in the shower and during my morning routine (rather than 5 minutes before my turn).  Then, I was doing my list on the weekends.  About 6 weeks into it, I added it to family dinners.  The kids began to say something they were grateful for too.  Things like being grateful that dinosaurs were extinct and that mom wasn’t sleeping all day every day anymore (out of the mouth of babes).  I began writing their expressions of gratitude down as well!

Give yourself a Double-Dog-Dare and try to find the things to be grateful for during times of greatest difficulty and crisis.  Thankfulness is generally there.  There are heroes and good guys willing to rise to the challenge.  It is a hard pill to swallow at times but it really is true – Nothing in life is ever ALL bad.  A sliver of blessing can be found.  It may take effort and some dusting off and digging up but I promise, and this is from a whole lot of life experience, that blessing exists even among chaos.


Question:  Would you describe yourself as a thankful person today?

Kim:  I feel like this is always an evolving process.  I think that I am less prone to seeing the glass half empty compared to a few years ago.  I still find myself in ruts of negative thinking that do not serve me well.  That said, despite mental illness and continued physical health challenges, being grateful for my many blessings, all past, current and those yet to come, remind me that I am not the sum of my illness.  Being a participant in a life worth living is a choice I have made.  Being grateful was one of the first instrumental concepts I grabbed on to with two hands quite quickly, have maintained and continue to grow into.  I expect with continued practice that can only improve.

I want to thank Kim for her vulnerability in sharing her story to help those who are struggling in this area and ask you if you’ll take up her challenge?  Will you commit to an attitude of gratitude?  As Kim pointed out, it can seem like a pointless exercise to start with, something childish and not all that valuable.  However, by her own testimony, she proves the value in such a simple exercise and it’s no surprise given the many commands in the Bible to rejoice and be thankful.  Focusing on the negatives leaves us stuck.  Focusing on the positives and being actively thankful lifts us up out of our circumstances to rise above and be conquerors.

Why not start your own ‘gratitude journal’ today and write something new in it every day.  Use Kim’s suggestions of things you can add if you feel so bad you can’t think of things to be thankful for and go from there.  If this is something you do, please let us know how it impacts you in the comments below so we can also be encouraged by your testimony.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][/vc_column][/vc_row]


Kim Sirek Kim was diagnosed with Psoriatic Arthritis, an autoimmune disease at the age of 16. She was later diagnosed with Fibromyalgia around age 20. She undergoes immunosuppressant and Chemotherapies for treatment. Along with physical pain, Kim also suffers from the mental health challenges of Depression, Anxiety and Emotion Regulation Disorder (BPD). Kim is in the process of receiving her certification to become a Peer Support Specialist in Minnesota to teach and advocate for others with mental health diagnoses. She is the mother of 3 and married for 16 years. She loves watching her children in their sports and activities, art/crafts, and music. For further support join her Facebook group: Chronic Christian Warriors


Your email address will not be published.