Choose social inclusion. Choose social recluse. Choose to pull through anxiety and go to your friends. Choose to curl up in a ball and stay in your bedroom for six days. Pick up the phone. Turn off the phone. Message someone back. Pretend you didn't see the message. Wake up and get dressed. Stay in bed until 1pm and stay in your pyjamas.

What do these things all have in common? They are all choices. Choosing to be social. Choosing to be meh.

I know for me, having schizophrenia and being an ex-drug addict, I need to be very careful with my choices. And follow through on them. Sometimes they are positive. Sometimes I choose to stay in bed all day and feel sorry for myself. That's a bit negative, but sometimes I need that to get me through the next day. What I'm trying to get at is our lives are full of choices and it's ok to have a break and fall down. But to get through, we need to choose to get back up again.

For me, it's a constant battle, mentally and physically. It's definitely not easy, but I know that when I push through my self-doubt, insecurities and paranoia, and do the best I can within my own mental and psychical capacity, positive good things come about.

If I choose to get up and go to uni, I end up having a good day learning and socialising. If I choose to keep myself busy with mental health advocacy and peer work and keep up with meetings/groups/speaking engagements/mentoring, I automatically begin turning my negatives into positives. Little by little. I might be ruined and tired at the end of most days, but I have chosen to make a difference and I reap the benefits. I feel good about myself. I feel mentally alive. I'm happier, my anxiety or paranoia go away for a bit. Each day I get to make the choice of whether I can positive happen or stay stuck in my mentally-ill cave where I feel like nothing will get better.

No matter how crap it gets or is, don't let that crap stick with you all week, all month or even all year. Feel crap for a day or two. We are entitled to that, I think. But don't let it repeat itself over and over. The negativity eats away at everything we have in us.

It’s not as easy as 1, 2, 3, boom! But we can be honest with ourselves, constantly work at a better life, never give in no matter what, get back up as soon as you realise you’re falling, and choose good things, meaningful things. Remember, you are loved. You are part of communities. People care. Even if you don't right now. Even when it’s not believable that anyone does care, people do.

Find your silver lining. Find the thing that makes you want to start each day afresh and hack away at it until it's yours. Choose your own life.

I'm not telling you what to do. Just telling you what works for me. My things I choose are what makes life worth it. Nothing happens overnight but keep choosing to fight.

I choose to get up most mornings. I work part time. I study part time. I have two beautiful boys in my life. I have a cat. I have a bunny. I run a weekly group for people with mental health and AOD issues. I regularly speak on mental health and drug addiction recovery at high schools, universities, carer groups, workshops, church groups and forums. I exercise at my local mental health hub. I have peers in my life that I can look up to and ask for their help or thoughts. Most of the time these days I'm good, but I still have my bad days. It just comes down to how many bad days do I have per week compared to good days? I want good days. I choose to strive for good days. 

Anyone resonate with any of those thoughts? Do you own your life or does your mental illness own it? There is no right answer. Only choices.

Joel Chatelier