Self-help is critical in my management of my symptoms. Without me leading the charge nothing else will work. As much as I would like to put it completely into a professional’s or a member of my support network’s hands, I can’t. As much as I would like to take a moment to completely relax and let my guard down, I can’t. Although my symptoms fluctuate from low to extreme they are never gone and The Dragon is always waiting to exploit any weaknesses I may expose.
So, I fight.
It feels like I can’t scratch the surface of all the self-help techniques that I’ve put into my toolbelt. To really get a feel for it all you should keep track of this blog. As I try new things you’ll see new posts.
The biggest and most obvious self-help item that I’ve come up with is this blog. It took a bit of a blind-leap to get started and to get into the rhythm, but this has been a great outlet for me. More than anything else, in my stints in treatment, I learned that writing about my issues and then reading them was incredibly helpful. But when I no longer was inpatient with someone forcing me to do it those habits fell off. Now I have you, my readers, as I visualize, expecting me to write more. There is a big gratification every time I see someone has commented on here or where I share my posts on reddit.com and other sites. Days, like the last three, where I can see quite a few people have been on the site fuel me. The writing is therapeutic and you motivate me simply by being here.
I wish that I could have a regular meditation as part of a practice, but I just can’t. The Dragon lives in the quiet places in my mind. I’ve been to meditation classes and have had therapists coach me. Sitting and breathing and thinking is just a recipe for evil. When I try to calm the waters all I find is maelstrom.
But what I have found that works, and I know you’ll tell me that this is meditation too, is to instead try and laser-focus my senses. Instead of trying to empty my mind I try to utterly fill it with a single sense. I’ll focus on one and try and use it as hard as I can.
For instance, the other day, laying on the beach near LAX while the kids played in the sand, I closed my eyes and tried to listen to the jets for as long as possible no matter how hard it became. It was incredibly relaxing even though it did leave me a little sunburnt. After each jet I cheated and opened my eyes to see its physical location in relation to where my ears said it was.
I’ll also do things like try and separate the different blues in a clear sky and try to find the points in which one blue turns into another. It’s impossible but can be a more than a little engrossing for me.
When trying to focus on touch I try to figure out which hair on my arm can feel the breeze the best. Another impossible drill, I think I’m finding a theme here. But if the questions can be answered then the exercise becomes too finite to be of use. Resolution would be unsatisfying.
I need to do these things more often. They are fantastic at distraction and have pulled me back from numerous panic attacks without having to take a pill (I’ll talk about those little buggers when I get to my medication pillar).
I also take time to fully escape too. TV sort of works but only if really engrossing. Video games though, if I need a real mental break, work perfect for me. This is a dangerous one for me though because I can fall into long periods of time on games. I try to keep it to an hour or two. I may have a borderline addictive relationship with Final Fantasy XIV. If you play, look me up: I’m Wicked Awesome on the Famfrit server. On occasion, I can get into a book that grabs me. I’m trying to read more but have noticed that just as my disease has advanced my reading speed has decreased. Maybe that’s just coincidence.
A little mental affirmation goes a long way. I’m not talking about mental self-talk, but actual actions. I try to remind myself every day that I remain capable and functional by recognizing where I’ve been successful. I’m still capable of independent and unassisted living. Even though I was just informed that the doctors view my disability as total, I can rise above that.
I find blogs by other sufferers and read those, try and see what they do. https://survivalisatalent.com/ is one of my favorites. I look on reddit.com for the good news stories. I try and post something helpful to some random stranger on there everyday.
Finally – and like video games this can cross into unhealthy areas: I try and solve complex problems with massive spreadsheets. I’m a Microsoft Excel junky. I take it to disgusting levels at times. Granted, this is something I use often in work (in the past) and in school (finally, so close to in the past).
Also, at times I fully engage my OCD overdrive. I’m not using OCD in the hip-way of describing yourself. I have a legitimate case. I’ll post about this at some point. But when I need pulled out of some negative rumination or help pushing The Dragon back, I can focus on the O’s and the C’s and find some relief. I’m guessing anyone that knows what they were talking about wouldn’t recommend distracting yourself from one disorder by firmly engaging in another. But if looking for spirals everywhere you go or measuring proportions mentally brings you comfort too, then, by all means, do it.
But a self-help ninja I am not. Self-help is only one of my five pillars. If I could do this on my own, then there wouldn’t be other ones. I need professionals. I need medications. I need a healthy lifestyle. And, above all, I need a support network. When I need these tricks, it seems like I forget what they are or I just can’t settle-down enough to do it.
This has been a pretty incomplete list and I’ll blog more about what I try and succeed at and what I fail at. I’ve been all over the place writing here and I congratulate you on making it to this final paragraph. So, take a moment and feed my gratification. Post a comment or take some time and look at some of my other posts. I want to know what does and doesn’t work for you. We should be here for each other.