Life is a battle, especially when you’re living with a mental illness, so it’s important to be ready for a fight. But what can we do to make sure we’re ready?
WEAPON: Know your coping mechanisms
Coping mechanisms are what we have to fight with, they’re the methods with which we batter away our negative thinking patterns and fight against what our illness tells us to do. I have a diary where I make a note of any negative thoughts and use CBT to question whether they’re reliable. I have a scrapbook with encouraging notes from my friends and family which tell me my true value when life makes me question it. I have a colouring book and crochet to keep my hands busy and mind distracted when I need to keep my badly behaving brain at bay. I have mindfulness exercises and grounding exercises for when I need to gain some control. Medication can also fall into this category, it can help you to live day to day and ward off the worst effects of your illness. Do not be ashamed or afraid to take your medication, it is a weapon.
I advise that when choosing these coping mechanisms we are aware that some can be negative. For example: alcohol is a blocking technique, it can calm us and distract us from the problem at hand… however excessive drinking can have dangerous consequences and it also means we never deal with the core issues which are hurting us. There is a list of some positive (and less so) coping mechanisms here.
SHIELD: Keep your support network tight.
The people around you are your support network: they can be friends, family or even a doctor or nurse who are assigned as your case worker (or whatever they call it). Make sure you talk to friends and family honestly if you can, let them know how you’re feeling and allow them to show you that they care. Keep in touch with doctors etc and do your best to show up to appointments or rearrange if you have to. This way people are keeping an eye on you, if they notice you’re getting a bit tired with the battle they can prop you up a bit and help you to fight. Here is a link to my blog on getting support/supporting someone whose struggling.
MEDIC: Know where to go in a crisis.
Knowing what to do when you’re in the middle of a crisis is really hard. When I reach my lowest possible point I revert to my most natural coping mechanisms (some of which are harmful) but there are ways to lessen the chances of this happening.
Firstly I’d get to know your early warning signs: when I’m on my way to a crisis I withdraw into my room and socialise less, I binge watch shows until I think I’m a character within it, I chain smoke, I stop doing things to help people. These are some of my early warning signs, because I’m so aware of them I’m able to take measures to stop myself from spiralling deeper, and I’m able to let other people know that I’m struggling.
Secondly, think about some of your coping mechanisms. Are there some that work better than others? For me, a fast walk with my headphones in calms me down a lot and can avert the worst bit of a crisis so that I’m able to respond more rationally. Once I’d identified my most effective coping mechanisms I told my family and friends so that if they notice these warning signs they can help me to remember how to cope.
Thirdly, take the number of professionals who can help. I have spoken to the local crisis team a number of times and Samaritans too. Both can really help. Save the numbers in your phone and have them ready at a moment’s notice in case of emergency. You may not think you’re worth helping, but surely it’s worth at least giving someone the chance to try? (Numbers at the bottom of the page
Now we fight!
The battle will not always be easy, no battle is! But to find the most worthwhile things in life we need to fight through the suffering and pain and come out of the other side. No matter how hard it gets – keep fighting! You’re not fighting alone, people all over the place are rooting for you, and I’m one of them. Never give up.