Tag Archives: sadness

Why we need coping skills

Effective coping mechanisms are very important to have and implement every day. In my life they have helped reduce stress and reduce the probability of a breakdown or panic attack. They have also helped me come back down from a full-blown crisis. There are millions of ways to cope with uncomfortable feelings and situations. Unfortunately some methods of coping are not only ineffective, but deadly. My go-to coping skills for the majority of my life (before getting on my healing path) were self-injury, writing, drawing (and for a few years) abusing drugs. Two of those were great. They were positive, effective and did not take away from the quality of my life. Two of those were very dangerous and at times nearly fatal.

 

One important thing to know about coping skills is to never rely on one. Branch out, brainstorm, look them up online, talking to other people. It is very good to make a list of as many as you can and have several copies of the list around the house. If you can, have one at work too! Many times I find myself in a position where I can’t use a coping skill I often rely on or suddenly, for that particular situation the usuals don’t work.

 

During one of my many hospitalizations all of my art and writing supplies were taken from me. The nurses said they were doing this to keep me safe from myself. Of course, I flipped the Hell out. Writing my stories and drawing are my strongest, most effective coping skills. I also don’t respond well to being controlled by anyone. I got very upset and I shut down. I ended up harming myself that night. The next day my doctor had the occupational therapist come to the unit and speak with me. Both the doctor and the OT disagreed with the unit nurses about taking the tools necessary for me to vent, cope and move on.

 

The occupational therapist gave me several sheets of printer paper and a blue crayon. (I still have these sheets of paper). She told me if I could come up with 50-100 better ways to cope with my feelings than self-harm they would give me all of my art/writing supplies back. I came up with over 300. This exercise not only helped me earn back my things, but it taught me a very valuable lesson. There are millions of other ways to cope than the ways you are used to.

 

Not all coping skills help every person. Not every person benefits from drawing like I do just like I don’t benefit from running (as a coping skill) as others do. It is good to keep them in mind though. Like I said earlier, for one reason or another sometimes you may find yourself in a position where you need to try others.

 

Just off the top of my head, here is a great list of coping skills I use.

 

  1. Drawing

  2. Painting

  3. Creative writing

  4. Journaling

  5. Writing an angry letter then disposing of it in one way or another (Grace also talked about this in her blog for me)

  6. Crying

  7. Screaming

  8. Venting to another person (but don’t turn it into obsessing about the problem)

  9. Watching a funny or calming movie or television show

  10. Listening to music (do watch out though for the effect sad music can have…please be very careful with this. Sad music is great, but it is also very powerful. It actually aided me in relapsing a few times).

  11. Meditation

  12. Praying to your higher power

  13. Holding and petting an animal

  14. Calling your therapist. (This can also be a great exercise in overcoming feelings of inadequacy. If you are in an emotional crisis you deserve to talk to someone and if you have a good therapist they won’t mind you are calling. And if they do…you may want to look into firing them and getting a good one)

  15. Exercise (swimming, fencing, football, hockey, running, martial arts, etc)

  16. Tai Chi (OMG this is a fav of mine. One psychiatric hospital-the Veterans Affairs psych unit in Battle Creek, Michigan offered this for us several times a week)

  17. Playing an instrument-this includes singing!

  18. Writing lyrics

  19. Cooking or baking

  20. Eating. (Again, be careful you aren’t overeating. Overeating and undereating are not positive. Both of them can harm you physically as well as emotionally, but if you are hungry…feed your body. If you are not well nourished you are in no shape to be fighting emotionally. You DESERVE to eat.)

  21. Sleeping. (yet another function of our body that we need. If you are tired, make sure you get some sleep.)

  22. Laugh. (Seriously…look up funny stuff. I do this almost every day. Look up jokes, look up funny pictures…something to make you laugh your ass off.)

  23. Positive affirmations (especially in the mirror. Look at your reflection and reciete these positive statements OUT LOUD. They do help very much as long as you do them very often. The more you hear yourself say them while looking at yourself, the more you believe them)

  24. Go to church (whatever form suits you whether it’s a Christian church or a Buddhist temple. If it works for you and helps you get closer to your higher power do it).

  25. Read spiritual material

  26. Play a game

  27. Go to a 12 step or support meeting of some kind (This has literally saved my life more times than I can count. There are online meetings if you absolutely can’t leave your house at http://www.stepchat.com/ )

  28. Go to a meeting or gathering (www.meetup.com offers some great ones in many different areas and usually your local library and recreational centers have them as well)

  29. Color in a coloring book. (For me this is very similar to playing with a zen garden. It helps me view life a little simpler. It often reduces my anxiety a great deal. It is also wonderful if you have DID and have “littles” **littles are child alters**)

  30. Self soothe. (Engage in activities that appeal to your senses)

You are wonderful and you deserve to feel good and love yourself. I know it’s not easy and that it can take years to believe…but it is okay to love yourself. This is not selfish or wrong. Loving yourself is the key to having a happy, healthy and successful life. If you love yourself then you can start dressing the way you want to, asserting yourself, not settling, expressing yourself the way you want to and so much more. Sometimes I still have days where I struggle with loving myself, but overall I am doing 300 times better than I was just two years ago. I can tell you that the quality of my life has gone from: fuck this bullshit to I can’t wait to experience more. Be gentle with yourself and realize this stuff takes time and that is okay! You didn’t fall into this blackhole of crap in a night (it’s usually a process of things spiraling)…you aren’t going to heal overnight. Try to remember that everyday, every hour, every minute you are making progress so long as you don’t give up.

 

I hope these suggestions helped! If not, that’s okay! There are SO many more out there. Here are some great websites: http://www.yourlifeyourvoice.org/DiscoverIt/Articles/Pages/99-Coping-Skills.aspx

http://awarenessadventures.blogspot.com/2013/03/100-coping-skills.html

http://www.suzannewelstead.com/resources/SafeCopingSkills.pdf

 

What are some of your coping skills? Do you have any inspirational stories on how implementing your coping skills saved your life? Feel free to share!

 

 

 

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The night I ended my life.

Please know that all of my blog posts are potentially triggering, and please know that this post is highly triggering before you continue on. I want to talk to you about my numerous suicide attempts, and more importantly, the night that I was successful.

I was still active duty in the Marine Corps at the time, living in Pensacola, Florida. I had been raped by a Sergeant in my class and was having a very hard time picking up the pieces and moving on. Every day it was a battle to eat, get out of bed, do what was expected of me and even breathe. I hated myself, felt dirty and unworthy of living and was fearful. I was afraid to talk to anyone about what had happened to me. I feared no one would believe me or would think I was a disgusting whore. I did my best to act like nothing was wrong with me, but after a while I didn’t even have the energy for that. My addiction to self-harm was strong, I had quickly moved from scissors to straight razors and felt the need to cut myself even when we were “sleeves up”. Sleeves up meant that every Marine was ordered to roll their sleeves up, which obviously meant everyone could see what I had been doing to myself. Cutting because a nervous compulsion, a drug, a necessity to keep living. A lot of people started finding out that I was a “cutter” really fast. I’m sure some people thought I was doing it for attention because we were sleeves up, but the truth was I felt I needed to do it to keep going so intensely that I didn’t give a fuck anyone who knew.

I felt as if I was in this perpetual time warp of Hell. I wasn’t being given any tasks to do that made me feel like a Marine anymore and yet I wasn’t being discharged. It was limbo, which only made my feelings of fear and worthlessness grow and fester like a deep, open wound. The details of this suicide attempt in particular are pretty muddy in some areas because now it is apparent to me that one of my alters, Kristina had been the one to try to take our life. Some time before this suicide attempt I had been hospitalized at West Florida hospital’s Pavillion which was a psychiatric ward. During that particular stay my psychiatrist had tried me on an atypical antipsychotic drug to diminish the voices in my head. Needless to say the drug did me no good and had my blood pressure down to 60/30. If anyone reading this doesn’t know, a blood pressure that low is extremely dangerous. I was very ill and was confined to my bed until the doctor decided to take me off of the drug. I was furious that it took the doctors more than an hour to decide to discontinue the medication, in my mind they should have been in some sort of trouble for that.

At some point during the later part of the day I had switched and become Kristina. I did not know that I had Dissociative identity disorder back then, all I knew what that I heard voices and occasionally saw things that other people claimed to not be able to see. This was dangerous only because I had an alter (Kristina) who did not want the body/host (me) to be alive anymore. Because I was not aware of her, I was unable to stop her attempts at ending our life. None of my alters or myself are stupid, and contrary to what our abusers tried to beat into our head over the years. Kristina knew that this medication was deadly to us and she had found we still had a completely full bottle of it in our barracks room. During the time Kristina was in control, she downed the entire bottle. Sometime after this occurred I came to in the emergency room at the naval hospital. All I remember is that my heart was racing faster than I had ever felt it before, I was extremely dizzy, disoriented, sick to my stomach and absolutely terrified. I remember suddenly feeling it was becoming very difficult to breathe, and when I did breathe I could feel air wasn’t doing me much good.

My vision became more and more blurry and dim. This is when I realized that I was dying. I kept thinking to myself, My God, I did it…I’m going to die and I won’t be able to say goodbye to my Mom. I realized that I wanted to call my mom to tell her I was sorry, I loved her and goodbye but I couldn’t find the strength to ask anyone to call her for me. Then I remember not breathing and everything going black.

I’m still not sure how much time had passed after that, but when I came to I was in the ICU and a nurse had been sitting beside my bed holding my hand. The first thing I felt when I woke up was the warmth of her skin on mine. I clung to it as if I was terrified letting go of her would allow me to slip back into the darkness. She was so happy when I woke up and took care of me. Yet again, I am not sure how long I stayed in the ICU, I have very little memory of it other than the nurse and being hooked up to an IV, a heart monitor, blood pressure and pulse oximetry. I don’t remember what else. After my time in the ICU I spent anywhere from a week to a week and a half (still not entirely sure) in the hospital. The entire time I was not allowed to get out of bed because every time I stood up my heart rate would skyrocket. They had special socks on my legs that would inflate every fifteen minutes to prevent blood clots from forming and that damn heart monitor stayed on the me the whole time. After a good chunk of my time there a nurse would periodically help me to walk around the unit to get me used to walking again.

The repercussions of my overdose were immediately apparent to me. I still don’t know exactly what I did because my medical records are still not with me, but I did damage to my heart. To this day I still have issues with my heart rate and heart rhythm. I’ve always had frequent PVC’s (premature ventricular contractions) of my heart, but now they are worse, more frequent and a few times they have caused me to faint. I wish that I could have stopped Kristina from the overdose, but it’s in the past now.

I am telling this for two reasons. One, it’s part of my journey and therefore must be told in order for me to heal, but two, it’s important that people hurting have some insight to a suicide attempt that actually worked. I am very lucky to be alive…I shouldn’t be here, but I am. I may have been very deeply depressed back then and yes, there were many days where all I could think about was how much I wanted to die. But the moment that I realized I was dying I was scared absolutely shitless. The feeling of the life seeping out of my body with each sad attempted to draw air into my lungs was terrifying and painful. I am very thankful that the medical staff there saved my life and that I am alive today.

Please, if you are hurting (or know someone who is) don’t ignore that pain, and don’t believe the lies your pain tells you. You do deserve to be here, your loved ones will NOT be better off without you (they will actually suffer intensely for the rest of their lives over your death), and yes your pain may stop…but you’ll be dead, so what the fuck is the point? And for those of you who say suicide is selfish and condemn people who sadly do it…please realize that people who commit suicide are not able to think logically, their pain has them in such a sad, delusional state they truly believe they are being selfless…not selfish. The definition of selfish is as follows: A person, action or motive lacking the consideration of others. Like I mentioned before, most people who commit suicide truly and honestly believe that their loved ones are hurt over them being alive and killing themselves will remove a burden from their loved ones. It’s very sad that this happens, but it does.

Like I always say, be gentle with yourself and be gentle with others (especially those who are hurting). If you’re contemplating suicide, please…I beseech you to read this and to trust me. It is estimated that 1 out of 25 people who attempt suicide actually succeed, and most of the survivors will tell you that they were sure they wanted to die until they realized they were about to succeed. I can say that I am one of those people. Please live, please fight, I promise you, if you want your life back (happiness, no more pain, etc) you CAN have it! It will be hard at times, it will hurt at times, but it will pass and you will be free.

Please

Please

Please

Live.

Know that you are loved. And if you believe no one else does, know that I do. I love you.

Dandi