Tag Archives: coping

My Mental Health Tool Box

Here it is…a somewhat assorted variety…a mixed bag, if you will, of tools. Tools that have worked for me…and in my professional experience…many others along the way. Others, whom like myself have had to deal with the darkness of depression, the disorienting fears of anxiety and the sometimes relentless battles that are endured when fighting mental illness.  Disclaimer:  Since mental illness is, well…ya know, an illness like any other…many of these tools work brilliantly when dealing with other sometimes chronic illnesses as well!  The list is by no means comprehensive…it is simply some of my “GO TO” tools that I have found to offer hope, distraction and some real life strategies.

Creating a self-care tool box:    To be clear…I have made both the  “metaphorical tool box” and also the real life actual BOX.  It contains reminders of what has worked in the past, touchstones for coping and items to grab on to emotionally and/or physically in times of need. Perfect for when your brain chemistry does not allow you to “access” what seemed like “such a great idea” while on your therapist’s couch last Tuesday!

I didn't make this...but this is one of the ones I use. filled with scraps of papers, thoughts, pains, prayers...

I didn’t make this…but this is one of the one’s I use. It’s filled with scraps of papers, thoughts, pains, prayers…

THE MENTAL HEALTH  “TO DO LIST” (Remember what works for one, does not work for all…take what you like and leave what you don’t) *** or…riddle me this….even if you don’t like it, why not try it anyway, because depression will lie and tell you…”That is stupid, YOU ARE NOT doing that!”  Screw it… Do that shit anyway!!!

While I was in  graduate school in NYC, a quirky, albeit, brilliant professor said to me, “In all my years of practice, I have learned there is NOTHING that breathing can’t make better.”  Is this hyperbolic? Perhaps. (Breathing…while swimming underwater, may not make swimming underwater better…) Outside of that, I have seen this be true time and time and time again…in my practice and certainly in my own life.

imagesMW3A2A5P

So…BREATHE. Learn mindful breathing. The balloon Breath. A Simple inhale through the nose, slow and deep…Hold… release slowly through mouth. Repeat out loud, IN….OUT. Slowly. A nice relaxed pace…(just do it as it feels right for you…no over thinking here)

Stretch….bend, walk around the yard, down the block. Look at the grass, look at the clouds. Pick a flower or a leaf or a rock… and stare/study the details.  Take pictures of flowers or nature or the sky. Your goal might be “do this for five minutes 3x per day” and work up your time intervals and rest when needed.

not me...just a cool yoga/relaxation picture. Does that not look nice?

not me…just a cool yoga/relaxation picture. Does that not look nice?

Get in WATER…A shower, a pool, a garden hose, a sprinkler…an ocean…a lake. Being in water changes your perspective. Also,  DRINK (water!)  A GLASS OF COLD WATER WITH ICE, SLOWLY. CRUNCH THE ICE, SIP THE COLD WATER. FEEL THE WAY IT CHANGES YOUR BODY. Force yourself to stay hydrated. Sounds too simple? Strangely it is often the simple things that work!  **Disclaimer II: If you are feeling acutely suicidal call hotline/911 and stick with just drinking the cold water, hold ice cubes, feel them in your hand…wash your face with cool wash clothes. Call and talk on the hotline, with a friend or your therapist. 

water, water, everywhere

water, water, everywhere

Go on Youtube (or the like there of )…search up guided meditations for “anxiety” depression, anger, fear, love, etc. Listen… Some will suck, but a few will be great…try some.

Read : Read blogs…funny ones, random one, “How To ones” (fill in the blank, mine was learn to loom knit)…. and one’s for support.  Head over to Twitter: Bluelightblue or The bloggess…or Speak Your Truth…or any mental health blogs for support! Watch cute animal videos.  Search funny memes on weird topics…look at the ever popular e-cards. It’s called distraction people! It works.

Support…even online support (especially online sometimes…because it is always there.) I think the right forums, twitter feeds, facebook groups…they can really help!

http://www.bluelightblue.com

http://www.thebloggess.com

http://www.twitter.com/pixeedust72  (MY twitter feed…SPEAKYOURTRUTH)

Literally, make a box. Use an old one to decorate or make one out of wood or a shoe box (whatever works)…decorate it…cut up little pieces of paper and write POSITIVE things (Box of Hope)….Make a box…cut up paper, write what you would like to let go of, painful stuff, things you want gone or healed or feel to heavy for your right now. Give it a name.  Your “wish box”…prayer box…worry box?

Go look for smooth rocks…wash them…feel the earth and watch the dirt wash away. Dry them. Feel the texture.  Get permanent markers or paint…write worries, fears, things you want to let go or even affirmations…pray on it, meditate on it and throw them in water, river, lake, ocean, a damn puddle…preferably the visual is seeing them floating away. You can do one rock at at time…You can also throw them in the woods…far…just make sure NO ONE is in your line of fire. Bury them…Or you can keep them. Possibilities people, possibilities!

these I found, washed and decorated...I did not float these away. I look at them each day.

these I found, washed and decorated…I did not float these away. I look at them each day.

Go somewhere safe (with a trusted friend) …and break stuff…I did this with old crappy plates I got at a garage sale, I went to an old abandoned lot with trusted and emotionally safe friend. Yelling my anger/pain/traumas…with each smashing plate. (Was this the smartest thing? Perhaps not. Did it help release deep rooted pain and childhood wounds? Yes…yes it friggin’ did.  **Disclaimer III: If you break shit that you really wanted or get in trouble with the law, this is just a blog people, I hold no responsibility. Ya know? Free will and what not. 

Physical Activity…This is a tough one…especially with depression giving ya the ol’ serotonin sucker punch…but try something/anything… (why not?) Kick box…chop wood/break sticks…rip paper…power wash shit…mow a lawn. I can’t tell you exactly why, but I can tell you this…power washing dirty stuff clean, it’s healing and cathartic in it’s own weird way. (for me)  Lawn mowing…OMG!!!  Meditative, physical and productive.I have a strange obsession with pool skimming as well… that also helps with anxiety. Sorry people, but this shit has and does personally help me. I skimmed today. Yay!!!!

skimmer therapy!!!

skimmer therapy!!!

Do art journaling….Go on Pinterest and look up art journals. Do composition notebook art. In fact…Just go on Pinterest and start looking shit up. Plan real or imaginary things/trips…(secret magical rooms, gardens, sacred spaces) Start a resource guide for all that ails you. “Natural remedies” “Mental health tools” …whatever…Pin it.

journal is what journal does...be as creative as you like...again. (this is not mine...)

journal is what journal does…be as creative as you like…again. (this is not mine…google image, if it’s your’s claim that beautiful credit!)

Plan vacations…you may or may not go on them…just look up what you might want to do one day. Day dream about it. I like vrbo.com to imagine all the houses I am going to rent, like everywhere.

Make a play list: Add songs you love or find new songs. Ask others what their inspiration songs are. Again…a shout out to http://www.bluelightblue.com (I believe she did an article that included something about what our fight songs are to get us through.) Right now, I am so feeling Lake Street Dive, Alabama Shakes and my own personal obsession of many years… Ani Difranco.

Get Some Art Stuff and Make Shit: Model magic (my favorite/Play dough/ clay etc.) and play with it and make stuff and be a kid, even if you are a grown up!  Get a coloring book and color….YUP from 1 to 110 years old…coloring helps. *put a picture or a tiny creation in your BOX!

I play with model magic and make tiny little creations. It soothes me. And others. Seriously.

I play with model magic and make tiny little creations. It soothes me. And others. Seriously.

Buy a plant or 10…start with one. Take care of it. Learn about that specific plant. What it needs, what it doesn’t.  Take care of it. If it dies (it happens people…go get another plant) Try again.

Herbs from my garden...cut and in water. smell amazing. IF they fade out...I go snip some more. Pretty all around the house. While your at it grow some mint and lemon balm...plant it anywhere outside. It spreads like crazy.

Herbs from my garden…cut and in water. smell amazing. IF they fade out…I go snip some more. Pretty all around the house. While your at it, try growing some mint and lemon balm…plant it anywhere outside. It spreads like crazy.

So there you have it folks… Like I said, this list is far from comprehensive, however, it is comprised of things that have actually worked for people. ( First with me and then as I share ideas with my clients  they often give positive feed back! ) Now…LISTEN. It’s not perfect…it’s not magic. Therapy, Medications, Support Networks…those are important and life saving tools that also may fill our unique tool boxes. If you struggle with the darkness and feel there is no way out…put this in your box and use it! You can call as often as you need.

You can just call and talk...they are there to listen. You are worth every minute.

You can just call and talk…they are there to listen. You are worth every minute.

PLEASE…Feel free to comment on what has helped you and remember…there is always hope, help and light, even on the darkest night…sometimes, we just need a a few tools along the way.

Love, Light and Healing Always….

For Survivors…Some Lessons From A Garden

Lately, I have been spending more time in the evening outside with my garden…my plants, my flowers, the earth. I have a disease that is making it almost impossible right now for me to be in the sunlight.  I have been mourning parts of who I used to be, while fiercely trying to adapt…to acclimate and navigate what I may become. This is new to me and sometimes the grief is heavy.  However…there is a gift that seems to be an integral part of this painful process.  The gift is being alone with my thoughts (but not in a scary way…) I am in solitude, yet feel one with the earth…in my garden, in nature. Not in the sun…but in the quiet hours of dusk, through the stillness…through the quiet, gentle breezes…If I am able to quiet my mind and listen closely…I can sometimes hear the lessons being gently taught.

Lessons from my garden

Upon looking at a flowering bush that was all but  “dead” two springs past… The one I was being encouraged to  chop down and discard, and I ALMOST  conceded to, but did not, because…HOPE! This is what she whispered to me last night…(if you take issue with my plants metaphorically speaking to me, stop reading…like, right now…seriously… I won’t be offended. She had a lot to say! )

So She Spoke…

“Just because I “look” dead…does not mean I am dead!  Give me time. My own time. Not your time. Nor someone else’s ideas and pressures of time. Won’t you help me out a just a bit? I will have to do most of the work, (the really tough inner work)… but perhaps you can help brush away the dead leaves, the ones that are making it hard for me to grow. Might you even trim my branches? Just the ones that you know for a FACT are hurting me…for this will allow my other less fractured ones to grow even stronger. ”

Prior to this…She was hiding…resting…invisible…Branches barren and fractured, looking like there was no hope. In her own time, she became what she was supposed to.

“If it seems someone did not know how to care for me in the past or perhaps even harmed me by planting me in the wrong environment…maybe you can learn about how to help me take root in a new space. A space that might be more suited for what I need to thrive. However…once you help me move, it’s going to take me time to learn, time to learn about this new and healthier space. Perhaps… to even know I have arrived somewhere new. I beg you… Please, give me time to adjust, time for my roots to take hold…I am not used to being in conditions that are well-suited for my heath. I am not used to all of  this potential!”

“Just because It is good for me…and YOU know it’s far better…I will still need time to understand that I am really here…in a place with more favorable conditions for my survival.  In my own time, I may learn that sunlight and water and rich soil that is filled with nutrients, is in fact, better than the darkness I had  so grown so very accustomed to. I didn’t truly understand I was in the darkness, I even learned to like the darkness… don’t you see? I didn’t know my conditions were as unfavorable as they might have been…for they were all that I knew.”

“So my friend, just because YOU know it’s healthy and better….does NOT mean that I don’t deserve plenty of time to adapt and learn, on my own, HOW  and WHY it is better.  So please, PLEASE… don’t over water me just because I never had enough of it in my life. Give it to me little by little.  Don’t keep telling me how wonderful it is on this side…let me come to that on my own. Check on me from time to time, come and sit by my side every now and again.  You just might be surprised that although I may not be perfect (and who amongst us is?) and I may not always use or “appreciate” all of my resources like it seems the others do, Ya know…the ones that have always lived on this side of the garden? Even still…I will still grow. One leaf, one branch, one petal and maybe even one blossom at at time”

“And please remember this…winter will come again. The seasons will change, the ground will shift, the temperature and climate will not always be optimal for me. I will fade. I may be buried and I may even “look” lifeless. But as we know, it seems that things are just as they should be. And when that time comes again…just help me brush off the remains of  seasons past. Perhaps even honor those decaying leaves…for they protected me from the harshest of weather. Maybe, to you, they do not look pretty, but to me… those are the very things that kept me alive and warm through the storms.”

snowone

“Please don’t be discouraged by my reluctant pace or my damaged and misshapen branches or blossoms. Instead…Sit in AWE of my tenacity, my resilience, my remarkable ability to survive all I have. To have survived and still be counted amongst the living!  I am my own unique miracle. So THANK YOU…thank you friend,  for not giving up on me and for giving me the time and the space I needed to grow and to heal. It may not be how others would do it …but it is the way that seems exactly right for me.”

“I do like it here on this side of the garden and believe it or not…I am even teaching the others that were born in just the right place, a thing or two that they may need to better survive these harsh, unpredictable winters.  In return…it seems, they may be showing me a little something…like how to not be so very afraid of such an abundance of all of the things that I had always needed…but didn’t even know I had been missing.”

And That Is What She Said.

So…as you can see…we all have something to learn. Lately,  it is me being the student and nature being the teacher. And that is just fine. As long as we remain teachable and open, you really never quite know, from where the lessons will come from.

beauty

SLENDER LORIS HELPS WOMAN COPE WITH CHRONIC PAIN

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Because sometimes…after having a night where you wake up in pain that is indescribable at 3:46am, tears flowing in your sleep… for the 297th time in a year, Ya just need to open your eyes to this guy.

He is all like “What’s the problem? I am just the cutest f’n 8 month old Slender Loris (that’s it’s proper name).  I personally think we shall call him “Frankie…who you callin’ slender Loris”.

I love him, He makes me happy…Pain sucks hard. Lupus sucks harder…but Frankie, does not suck at all. So If you are going through it today,  whatever that means for you, I know it’s hard. You are not alone. I  promise.

But come on.

Frankie. He’s gotta make things even just a teeny bit better and that’s gotta count for something.

“KEEP CALM AND LOVE A SLENDER LORIS”