I once had a therapist who kept asking me the question, “What are you going to do to support yourself?” I hated that question, but she had a point.
More recently, I’ve come to appreciate the importance of taking proactive steps to support myself, not least because this can prevent a full-blown crisis from taking hold.
Depending on the situation, here are a list of “quick fixes” which I’ve found helpful when I start to feel my mental health deteriorating.
Ever since October 2017, I’ve been experiencing attacks of what I can only call extreme emotional distress. I don’t want to get into the details of what happened back then, but basically, a particular “event” seems to have somehow released all the emotional pain that I’d been repressing for about twenty-five years.
This has made my life really difficult. I feel like I can be ambushed at any moment and plunged into a pit of grief, despair and rage. Once I’m in there, it’s very hard to climb out again.
After a few weeks of feeling okay, I had another attack yesterday. I felt awful all day, aching chest and head, depressed, constant intrusive, negative thoughts, and it ended with a full on screaming/crying meltdown in the kitchen.
I’ll give myself yesterday, but I really need to get on top of this. The first thing I think I have to do is accept that these feelings aren’t just going to stop or go away, which is what I’ve been hoping. The gaps between attacks do seem to have got longer, but I think that’s more down to me getting better at avoiding the things that trigger the feelings, then any actual healing. When the feelings do come, they are as a strong and overwhelming as ever.
I know could get more proactive about managing my emotional state on a day-to-day basis, but here are some things that I think I could put into place for those times when I do feel myself being dragged into the “pit of despair”.
I’m increasingly interested in how children and young people use stories to create safe places during times of trauma. Here are three powerful perspectives.
Living through death with Harry Potter
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, Batwoman saved my life
Extra life: how I was saved by video games
I’ve decided to bring three years of therapy to a close by the end of August. This is difficult because my therapist doesn’t really agree with the decision. She thinks we should continue and explore some of the more painful issues that I’ve largely avoided bringing into the room. She says she’s concerned that I may be “abandoning myself” by stopping therapy right now.
It’s been a stressful week and I was already feeling fragile when I woke up this morning. Then I went and logged into twitter, saw stuff that made me feel even worse and, by 8.00am, I was in tears #selfcarefail.
Determined not to spend my day off crying, I decided to go out and buy a new kettle because the old one no longer makes good tea. I walked to the supermarket and got the kettle, but I was still crying.
Luckily, we live close to an old cemetery which is also a lovely nature reserve. If there’s one thing that can usually improve my mood, it’s looking for wildlife. This is probably because it puts me back in touch with the happiest times in my childhood. It worked and I came home feeling much better.
Here are a few (not very good) photos from my nature walk.
Common Blue butterfly
So beautiful and even bluer in real life.
There were lots of these guys fluttering around, but they were very difficult to photograph. This was as close as I could get.
I also saw plenty of meadow browns, large and small whites and one small skipper.
Cinnabar moth caterpillars
There were plenty of cinnabar moth caterpillars enjoying the rag wort plants in the cemetery.
I’m trying to deal with a lot of unprocessed grief at the moment and wanted to share a couple of things that I’ve found helpful.
This little video, Why grief is not something you have to get over offers a perspective that really makes sense to me. The counsellor in the video talks about how the therapeutic model for working with grief is shifting, from seeing grief as something that gets less over time, to something that’s always there, but that other aspects of your life can grow around. So, while the grief doesn’t go away, it isn’t so all-consuming. But you can dip back into it at certain times, which brings me to the next point.
@hallygrace posted a long thread on twitter about the concept of re-grieving. Hallygrace makes the point that grief can be a life-long emotional process and you are likely to experience it again and again, especially at significant moments (anniversaries, life milestones etc). Here’s the tough bit, you have to re-process it every time. It’ not a good idea to repress the feelings or shame yourself for having them.
- Visit my mother.
- Shop for food.
- Pick up voicemails from work.
- Look at my bank account online.
- Look at the tax website.
- Phone the energy company
- Attempt to cook.
After my partner had spent about an hour calming me down, she asked me to make this list so that I can look at it the day before my next therapy session.