Mental Health Monday – Let’s Make a Coping Skills Toolbox

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I wasn’t able to post while I was out of town on my family emergency, but this gives me the opportunity to remind everyone that suicidal thoughts can come at any time, and having our resources and coping mechanisms in place constantly is a must for those suffering and recovering from them.

Suicidal Awareness and Prevention is an ongoing struggle and our bad days don’t neatly fall within the prescribed awareness month.

We still need to do self check ups and check up on our friends and family who we know are at risk.

Even though this is October, here is the link to a graphic that I found helpful. Original sourcing is included at the link.

REPOST: Coping Skills Toolbox

Mental Health Monday – Belonging Spaces

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Before I talk about belonging spaces, I would like to briefly introduce my philosophy about depression. No matter how many therapy sessions you go to, no matter how many medications you take, depression is always there, just below the surface, trying to control you. You’re job is to control it. We all have different levels of depression, but I do believe that recovering from depression is a continuous recovery. It’s not the twelve steps of alcoholism, but I have a similar philosophy to that, in that I always need to be aware of the ebbs and flows of my mental health, and pay attention to when I need to bring extra coping mechanisms into play.

One of the things that I learned as I began my climb out of severe depression and into depression recovery was that I needed a belonging space. We have a decent sized house for our family, but none of the spaces were solely mine and in the depths of the worst of it, I spent a lot of time sitting in my car. It was quiet and I was alone, but it was also bleh.

I don’t drink coffee, but I do like Starbucks. I could nurse a cup of tea for about an hour and recoup some of my personality there.

During the worst of it, I also found that lists helped me get through the day, and I still  find myself revisiting them.

These are some of my tools that I will talk about later as I post about suicide prevention and prevention awareness.

One of my favorite belonging spaces is somewhere I used to visit during the worse times, but I still go there today for a smile.

Before I began on my depression medication, before I even new there was a problem with my mental health, I was on medication for high blood pressure, so I needed to pick up my meds at my pharmacy every month. When we moved to our house several years ago, I did not want to switch from our small town family run pharmacy to a big box drugstore chain, so I travel about thirty minutes to get there, once a month.

Each month, without fail, I’d travel the thirty minutes, and take a quick tour of the town, our old apartment, downtown to the street that has the post office and city hall, but inevitably, each time, I would find myself at the local natural attraction, the Falls.

I have never liked water, especially big bodies of water, but I have always enjoyed waterfalls, no matter what their size. For some reason, I find them soothing.

Over the years, the surrounding viewing areas of these falls have been built up, and they’ve added two new parks with historical kiosks and benches, and all sorts of floral and fauna. It’s just beautiful.
Instead of spending fifteen minutes sitting in my car in silence, I would get out and walk around the smallest park, sit on a bench, and listen to the water rushing over the side and splashing at the bottom, into the river. I’d close my eyes, and not think about anything. There was usually a cool breeze, and I’d let it blow over me, through my hair and across my closed eyelids. I’d breathe in whatever smells were there. It’s a city park, but it has such appeal. In front of me were the powerful falls, and behind me were the apartments, the former housing units of the nearby mills from the 19th century when these Falls were just as popular then as Niagara Falls is today.

I’d stand as close as I could, which was not very close, and I’d take a picture to post on my Facebook. Sometimes, I’d record the sound of the falls on my phone to listen to later.

This is my belonging space. It is sacred to me, and no matter what else was going on in my life or in my head, this place had, and continues to have a way of calming me, and letting me re-energize myself to go home and continue on until the next month; or at least until the next therapy session.

Before my corner office, before my visits to church, before my writing group, this was my space that held my hand, and squeezed my shoulders.

Try and think of your own belonging spaces that you can use to regroup and move forward. It doesn’t have to be anything fancy or elaborate. I’ve used the corner of the food court at the mall. Give it a thought and be well, and please remember, you are never alone.

Mental Health Monday

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A few years ago, my undiagnosed depression came to a head. For me that was my introduction to suicidal thoughts and ideation. This came as a surprise to me. I had spent my entire life from childhood to parenthood abhoring the idea of death. It terrified me. I think the curious mind sometimes finds itself wondering about the afterlife, and I was no different, but as bad as things may have gotten for me, monetarily or spiritually, I always came back from it because suicide was not an option.

I hadn’t really noticed it change, but one day it just did. I knew there was a problem when I began to think that suicide was actually a good idea and I began to plan how I would do it. Every time it came up as an option, something talked me out of it. I thought I was going crazy, with the lethargy and the mood swings. I didn’t know depression and anxiety reared their ugly heads, but something was pushing me back down and towards the end.

I called a friend on one of these nights to relay that morning’s thoughts, the only thing keeping me alive was that I’d be taking away the only car we had from my family. He said something to me, I don’t remember quite what, but I know that he stopped whatever he was doing, and he spoke very softly, gently bringing me back home.

When I finally went to my doctor, she immediately put me on medication, anti-depressants. I didn’t want meds, but I also didn’t care that I was going to take them. The first batch didn’t work at all; in fact they made things worse. I wasn’t suicidal anymore, but I also wasn’t anything anymore.

We finally hit on a combination of meds, talk therapy, and I began taking a writing workshop, and attending church services. I was Jewish, so this was a bit odd, I suppose, but it worked for me.

That was in 2012. Here it is 2015, and I am finally feeling like a real me. This positivity, where I could feel the change probably began at the end of last year, between Thanksgiving and Christmas of 2014.

It is a long road, and it can get worse before it gets better, but I did get better, and you will too.

There is a path to take; there are ears to listen and shoulders to lean on, and there is hope.

Do not be ashamed or embarrassed. Use all the resources at your disposal. Join a support group; online is equally helpful as in person. Find what works for you. Also find things that you have access to that will help you cope through the bad times. This week, I hope to offer you some of my coping tools, and where I take myself, whether physically or mentally when I’m having a bad day. We all have bad days. I still have bad days, but that is life. Life is up and down, and all around, and if I can get through my clutter, you can get through yours. You are not alone; you are never alone. There will be someone who will surprise you with their generosity of spirit. I have faith in you.

Today’s first resource is the sticky note at the top of the page. Do not rely on me, or anyone to get you through. You need a professional. These are some places that can help you through the most difficult times and on the right path to recovery. I still think of it as recovery. Take your mental pulse every couple of days. Don’t let yourself fall into a hole and forget how to get out.,

I saw a great quotation the other day:

“Not everyone has a mental illness, but everyone has mental health. It’s your responsibility to take care of your mental health.”
– Andrea Nguyen

It’s true; not everyone is mentally ill; not everyone is suicidal. However, everyone has mental health that they need to take care of, just like exercise for your body, you need to stretch and expand your mind to keep it in a healthy place. Think about the ways that rejuvenate you, and move you forward.

We are working towards no stigma about mental illness, and we should be striving for an equal balance between our physical health and our mental health. Get your mental health baseline.
Here’s a good place to start.