How the Enneagram Helps You Recognize Your Mental Health Red Flags

I said that the next time I posted, I would talk about some of the things I find helpful when I’m in a mental health slump. But as I thought more about it, I wanted to be sure to first talk more about how to recognize your own mental health red flags. Before you can get help, you have to realize that you need it.

On my resources page, there are two different infographics that can offer some insight regarding this. One is from the National Institute of Mental Health (NIH) titled My Mental Health: Do I Need Help? The other is from the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) and is called Common Warning Signs of Mental Illness.

Those infographics are a great place to start, but I also think each person has their own unique red flags and triggers when it comes to mental health issues. And learning what your own unique red flags are will be immensely helpful in making sure you don’t go too far down the path towards a mental health crisis before intervening. 

Another really amazing resource for identifying your own personal red flags is the Enneagram. 

I have found the Enneagram to be an absolutely amazing tool for helping me learn more about myself and try to grow into a healthier version of myself.

If you’re unfamiliar with the Enneagram, I recommend checking out the Enneagram Institute. Essentially, the Enneagram helps you to find your basic personality type out of 9 different options. Once you know your type, you can really start digging in to all the resources the Enneagram has to offer!

Enneagram chart with types listed

Each Enneagram type is associated with a basic set of general traits that describe them, and each type also has unique traits that they exhibit when they are in times of stress (disintegration) and times of growth (integration). 

I am an Enneagram type 1 – which is known as the Reformer (or Perfectionist). When Ones are in a healthy place, their growth arrow moves them towards the healthy traits of a Seven (the Enthusiast), which means they become “more spontaneous and joyful” (often hard for Ones who like having control of all situations.) But when Ones are in a state of stress, or disintegration, their arrow points them towards a Four (the Individualist), which means they might become a bit more “moody, irrational, or dramatic” (some of the less-healthy traits an Enneagram Four might exhibit.)

Over the years, I’ve started paying attention to myself more, and have discovered a few telling signs when I’m under stress. One of the big ones for me is that my tolerance for mess and clutter goes to zero. I like things to be neat and tidy on my best days, but when I’m under stress, every little pile of papers and dirty dish just grates on me like nothing else! So I find myself spending all my free time cleaning, and it’s never good enough. And then I see my family members doing things they enjoy, like playing games or relaxing on the couch, and I start to get angry that no one is helping me with all the chores.

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DREAM - HOPE - BELIEVE - DARE - RISK - TRY

A Quick Turnaround

6 weeks ago when I wrote my last post, I was really immersed in disappointment and had no hope that things were going to get better anytime soon.

I’m happy to report that so much has happened since then – and I’m in a much better place.

When I’m in a dark place, sometimes I have a tendency to want to “fix” things, or try taking drastic measures to make things better. One of those drastic things I had thought about doing six weeks ago was quitting my job. I loved the place and the people I worked with, but I didn’t exactly love what my specific role was. I constantly felt like I was failing, and despite being at my job for over four years, I still felt like I didn’t know what I was doing. I was majorly burned out.

I ended up having a meeting with my boss. He knew I was going through some hard stuff. I told him I couldn’t keep doing what I was doing, and that I was honestly thinking of quitting. He asked me what would need to change in order for me to want to stay. I proposed moving to a different department where I felt like I would be better supported and could be successful. I also proposed working less than 40 hours a week – maybe 32, or even 20, hours.

And because my boss is awesome, he was like, “done!”

So, two weeks ago, I officially began working in my new department – with a team of people who are excited to have me and who are teaching me how to do the work that needs to be done. They are patient with me when I ask a million questions, and the work has been good and steady, and surprisingly more meaningful than I thought it would be. I’m also only working four days a week – I now have Fridays off.

The past two weeks I’ve felt like a completely different person from the one who wrote that last post. I am SO much less stressed. The hours pass quickly at work, I love learning how to do new things, and the tasks are challenging me in a good way. I’m feeling successful. I feel like my work matters, and I’m helping more people than I ever was before. I have more energy for my family, and for myself. I started going back to the gym this week. I decided I would start taking a yoga class on Tuesdays and Thursdays. I started making green juices for breakfast in the mornings. I’ve been going on more walks with my dog.

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cross with flowers at church entrance

40 Days of Lent and My Own Personal Season of Disappointment

It has been a rough couple of weeks for me. There have been numerous disappointments over the past month. Things that I took for granted would happen, and then they didn’t.

Things that were a pretty big hit to my confidence and self-esteem. Things that were a hit to my faith.

I’m not talking about your casual, run-of-the-mill disappointment. I’m talking about the devastating feeling of being punched in the gut when you learned the news. I’m talking about the kind of disappointment that requires a mental health day (or two) off of work. The kind of disappointment that makes you think, “what’s the point!?”

Why would God let this happen? Why did he keep ignoring my prayers? Did he just forget about me, or did he not care about me anymore?

It’s been interesting because this season of disappointment and doubt has corresponded amazingly well with the season of Lent, which began on March 2 this year: Ash Wednesday.

I went to my first Ash Wednesday service this year. In the faith tradition I grew up in, we just didn’t observe Lent. I had never even heard of it until I went to college, when suddenly people were talking about giving up caffeine or chocolate for the 40 days before Easter.

I think some people feel very uncomfortable stepping outside of their own faith traditions, but I have found it beneficial to keep an open mind, and see if there is a potential spiritual benefit in partaking in other faith traditions. Lent is not even that far of a stretch for me, it’s still a Christian tradition, just not the brand of Christianity I was used to.

At our Ash Wednesday service, we sang hymns together and had a time of private and public confession of sin. It was a time to focus on our mortality, and our thankfulness that Jesus died for our sins. It was a time to be grateful for the grace of God.

I thought about giving up something for Lent, but nothing seemed right. I started out the season of Lent with a lot of hope, but found myself unfortunately collecting disappointment after disappointment. Our church had created a podcast especially for Lent, where members of our church shared prayers and Scripture and recited the Lord’s Prayer together. Many people talked about how much they loved the podcast, and how uplifting and meaningful it was for them to listen to it each morning.

But I found myself less and less able to listen to it as the weeks went by. I felt like my faith was failing as I watched and waited (and waited some more) for my prayers to be answered. And then they weren’t.

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