May 18, 2017
I started a new kind of blog post theme today. I have one called “To Whom It Concerns” that I think people like; I mean, it makes me laugh. But I’ve been having trouble writing and I really want to start writing again because if you don’t use it you lose it, and I love this gift of mine. I thought if I started by writing just for myself it might be easier. I call this one “Dear Diary” because I talk to myself more than anyone else. I’m often the only one listening anyway, so it kind of makes sense. Writing to “Dear Diary” helps decrease the feeling of performance anxiety when I’m trying to think of what to say here. This way it’s just between us, but I can still say I’m a writer.
My favorite psychiatrist once told me when I’d seen her just after a dissociative episode that no one is coming to save me. I have to save myself. At the time I was really mad at her. I did not feel strong enough to complete this seemingly Sisyphean task. I still do not, but I’ve gained enough wisdom to know she was right and I’m stubborn enough to keep trying.
As part of my recovery and boring self care I’ve been trying to make myself do more, move more, be more independent. It’s hard and it’s scary. I’m not used to active living because I’ve just shut down and isolated myself for so long. I’ve been thinking a lot about what I want to do. I’m really good at the thinking part but not so good with the doing part; I’m not used to being a self-starter. I came up with a huge list of things I’d like to have as part of my recovery, things that will enrich my life and help me grow and progress. These aren’t physical items per se, they are habits and experiences and relationships, all the things that make up the act of living. It’s just that next step part that I haven’t seemed to master. Persistence, consistence, motivation; these are things in short supply when you live with mental illness. It’s discouraging when something as simple as getting gas in your car causes a meltdown. It makes you not want to try. The intense feelings of failure, disappointment, and splitting are hard to overcome.
Recently my friend got herself new strings for her guitar as a birthday gift. I’ve wanted to play guitar for years but never felt like I could afford a guitar or lessons. Luckily, I find myself in possession of Mom’s guitar, and since the internet is a thing I am now able to find guitar lessons online for free! I spent some time tuning it the other day and in the interest of not being a liar when I tell people that I’m teaching myself to play the guitar, I have made an appointment with myself every day after watching my morning show for Guitar Lessons. I won’t know if I’m a success for awhile, but I’m giving it a try and hoping for the best.
Well, that’s all for now Dear Diary. Thanks for being a good vehicle to get the writing juices flowing again.
It’s always some kind of awareness month or day, and May is marked for Mental Health. I’ve given myself the title of Peer Advocate in the Mental Health community because I’m proud of the progress I’ve made in my life; and though I’m far from perfect, I consider myself a positive role model for myself, and I share my journey so others who struggle with their mental health will know they’re not alone.
A key tool for success in the life of anyone is good self care. It’s essential no matter what your mental health status. For generally mentally healthy people, this mostly looks fluffy and fun because they bounce back pretty quickly from life’s stresses. When your mental health is sketchy at best and catastrophic at worst, self care becomes a bit more boring and a lot more like the difference between life and death – depending on how severe your current mental state. I mostly talk about the fluffy kind of self care, but today I’d like to talk about the more boring and mundane aspects of self care that are just as essential as the “fun” ones.
Boring Self Care includes:
- TAKE YOUR MEDS. Be diligent. Use calendars. Set alarms. Make sure you arrange for refills in advance so you can avoid the compounding stress of the last minute refill on a scrip that needs Dr. re-authorization and they’re out of town for a week so now you’ve got to hope they can reach the covering doc.
- Good hygiene. Anhedonia is what it’s called when you have depression and you can’t feel pleasure from normal daily activities, like taking care of your body. This is something I have struggled with, and why I find particular pleasure in indulging in luxurious shower products. I feel like I have spent so much money on something so basic, you bet I’m gonna use it!
- Make and keep appointments. This can be visits with your therapist, visits to the dentist, the eye doctor, whatever your body is in need of care for. When you live with depression and anxiety, it can feel really scary to force yourself out of the house, all the way to the doctor’s office, the long wait in the waiting room, and the stress of a visit; even though these are all things to help you. But making and keeping appointments is HUGE and should be celebrated with fluffy self care!
- Distress tolerance. Distress tolerance is the mental version of an inoculation to stress. My completely non-professional definition of distress tolerance is: By participating in an activity that causes you stress in small amounts and in a controlled environment, you learn to sit with the feeling and your ability to tolerate the stress can be greatly reduced, and even eliminated over time.
- You are what you eat. God, what a privileged thing to say, right? But it’s true. No judgement and no guilt though! You do the best you can, and that’s all anyone can do. NOBODY IS PERFECT!
These are just a few examples of the boring self care that I practice. I’m going to make an effort to post about it more on my social media accounts, because self care is important in ALL its forms, not just the fun ones! What are some of the ways you practice boring self care?
In my family we have a tradition called “Stinko de Mayo”. It’s our tribute to Mexican culture and it started when we were kids between my mom and her brother. Like Cinco de Mayo, it falls on May 5th every year. Our celebration lasts only for 10 minutes, and the goal is to be the first person to call another family member up at some ungodly hour of the night (or more inappropriately, morning!) and trill, shout, and in other ways loudly carry on the merriment at the top of your lungs in your best Spanish about how happy you are that you “got” someone before they got you!
Then, you laugh hysterically while your family member cusses at you on the other end of the call because they didn’t get you first, and say goodnight until next year. I have tried to carry it forward in my own family as an adult, but I worry now that Mom is gone no one else will want to play. We’ll see…. heh heh heh