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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When Healthy Eating Becomes Too “Healthy”

(TW for disordered eating)

I wanted to write a follow-up to my post about eating salmon every day for clear skin – I got a lot of “likes” on that post, so it seems like it’s a topic of interest, or at least intrigue, for many.

First of all, you may be wondering: how is my skin doing? Am I still eating salmon every day? 

The answers to those questions are that my skin is doing okay – it’s not perfect, mind you – and I am NOT eating salmon every day anymore. 

I was eating salmon daily for a while, and my skin really did improve (I was also limiting my sugar, gluten, and dairy, as those also seemed to be triggers for acne for me.) But even so, my skin still never fully achieved perfection. 

I have a friend who on Facebook is an advocate for fighting against disordered eating and fatphobia. Her posts have recently challenged me to think about my own relationship to food, and my own dieting habits. I realized that I was slowly getting stricter and stricter with my diet – I was eating salmon daily, but also cutting out multiple other foods. I was looking at food only in terms of “will this make me break out or not?” I began to be afraid to eat many foods, even small amounts of them. At the same time, sometimes I really craved eating some ice cream or a cookie! But I felt stuck in my rigid diet because I knew eating those things would make my skin break out. 

I had to be honest with myself and admit that this was unhealthy, and probably verging on disordered eating. And I’ve got a history of disordered eating (look up the term “orthorexia”), and I didn’t want to get to that place again. I wasn’t afraid of becoming fat or overweight, but I was terrified of having bad skin, of looking less than perfect. Acne-phobic? Imperfect-phobic?

I had also really wanted to clear my skin naturally – not using any sort of pills or topical medications or anything like that. I had hoped that eating the right foods (and not eating the wrong foods) would just balance my body out on its own. But instead, I think I set myself up to try to reach an impossible goal. I realized I was so preoccupied with what I was eating, and so scared of my skin breaking out, that it was affecting my life, and that I needed to make a change. 

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Being Married to a Peacemaker (Enneagram Type 9)

Enneagram Type Nines are some of the best people, the salt of the earth, so to speak. Nines are called “Peacemakers” and are described as easy-going and self-effacing. Nines strive to avoid conflicts with others, and many times this shows up as not having a strong opinion about things, but going along with what others think – never rocking the boat.

My husband Dean is a type Nine – a no-questions-about-it kind of Nine. As I look back to when we first met, I think this is part of what immediately drew me to him. I could tell he was a genuinely good person – he was so sincere and kind. He was (and still is) a great listener, he’s great at validating points of view that are not his own and seeing issues from all different sides. (It’s probably no surprise that he ended up a licensed marriage and family therapist!)

If you read my earlier Enneagram post, you’ll know that I am a Type One – the “Perfectionist” (also known as “Reformer” in some circles.) As you can imagine, my husband and I are very different when it comes to our personalities. Being in a marriage that’s a One/Nine combination comes with many challenges, but also plenty of opportunities.

The Enneagram Institute does a great job at describing relationships between all the different types. As I read the One/Nine relationship description, I felt like it genuinely could have been written about Dean and I.

Opportunities

Some of the great opportunities between a One/Nine relationship are described as follows:

Nines tend to take a bit of the rough edge off of the criticality and seriousness of Ones, while Ones give clarity and direction to Nines. Further, Ones feel that they have a mission in life, and they are able to inspire Nines to become aware of their own purpose and to want to follow it.

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