One of the things that irks me, is people preaching how you or I should be behaving and what is the best recovery. There’s nothing more irritating than someone who hasn’t experienced a mental health crisis telling me how I feel. And like an ex smoker who preaches about how easy it is to give up, telling me how I should be going about my own recovery because it worked for them is equally patronising.
What I don’t mind, however, is suggestions, real stories and support.
So in this blog, I am going to write about what works for me, I am not telling anybody this is the way you should do it, or offering solutions, just suggestions.
When I think about how I cope with my illness, especially in the days before my PMDD rears it’s ugly head and amplifies everything tenfold, there are a few things that I crave and a few coping mechanisms that actually work for me.
Company of friends. I crave company when I feel at my lowest, from my closest friends, because the one thing I don’t want is to allow my irrational thoughts to take hold of me. The last time I was in that place, I remember walking into the kitchen and taking hold and staring at the kitchen knife for a long time. Thinking how it would make my thoughts stop, so I wouldn’t feel the pain anymore. I didn’t do anything, there was still a small part of me in there that didn’t want to die, I didn’t want to leave my mother alone.
28 days out of every month I cope, I have better days, I often feel like I’m on top of the world, sometimes I feel low. But nothing as bad as those few days.
So my number one coping mechanism, is to have strong support from my friends. Physical company works best, but even a text message or a phone call can be enough.
Talking to myself. This may appear highly irregular, but often my thoughts can spiral out of control and context. What looks like a huge trauma to me, may look like something quite minor on the outside. Hearing that I am being a drama queen, or being ridiculous, doesn’t help me, it just makes me feel like I’m even more worthless and pathetic. When I talk out loud to myself, hearing it makes it real, it doesn’t always work, but having that conversation can help me make sense of the situation.
Writing the positive. I find writing therapeutic. Similarly to the talking step, but in a more permanent state, writing helps me to try and understand. Either by writing the hurt out of me, like bile on a page, I can destroy what negativity lives inside of me. Or by making lists. I find it hard to talk positively about myself, for me to say what good qualities I have makes me feel like I am being arrogant or immodest. But it is a great exercise to write all the positive things I’ve heard people say about me and what good things I have achieved or the great things I do.
Focussing on things to be grateful for and positive memories. I was recently given a suggestion by an old school friend, called 30 days of Gratitude. An exercise which sees me listing 5 things every day that I am grateful for. No matter how small, things like the sun being out, the beautiful way the rain makes the leaves glisten, the support of a great friend. It’s another exercise of promoting positive thinking, forcing myself to focus on good memories and good traits. I started a memory jar, the idea was to put a good memory from the day in it every day, and fill it up so that when I was feeling crappy, I could see that it’s not always that way.
Being open about my mental health. This may not always seem like a good idea, but I made a promise with myself after I became a Time To Change Leeds volunteer, that I would never suffer in silence again and I would always be open about myself, so as to encourage others to speak up and to offer a real story that may be relatable. In doing so I have faced stigma from some folk, but I think ultimately the overall reception has been good. I have made contact with ladies I went to school with who have been a positive voice in my social media world, my mother is more understanding and I feel I can talk to her better than I ever did as a young adult, my closest friends don’t judge me and I don’t feel like I am going to be ignored if I open up to them.
Repetitive activity and solid hobbies. Photography, knitting, solitaire, hidden object games, making things, washing up, hoovering, putting things in order, writing, reading, going for walks. Keeping my mind active. Boredom can only be a negative thing, and encouraging boredom is to make myself prone to negative thoughts. If you’ve ever seen me on my phone or iPad, it’s not because I am ignoring you, it’s because I find it relaxing to sometimes repeat the same action over and over again. It keeps my mind active and I don’t have those awful thoughts. Housework also helps me to keep my mind active, it’s strangely therapeutic especially when I am feeling stressed. Going for a walk clears my head, it really can do wonders for my sanity, and nature will always have me in awe.
Photography. As for photography or other crafty activity, being creative and opening my eyes to the world is the best therapy in the world for me. Photography helps me see the world in a different light. Not just a dull overcast rainy day, but patterns on the windows and diluted colours creating beautiful images. Photography helps me to record my world and take beauty from everything I see.
Having things that work for you, to assist recovery is incredibly important, but I do believe that only you know what they are. You can follow suggestions, try things out, have a go, but ultimately you cannot be dictated to on how you facilitate your own recovery.
Originally published on the Time To Change Leeds blog.