Getting Through Challenging Times

This past week has been a difficult one for me. There was another episode with the dad, one that left me feeling terrified and paranoid for days. My body and senses on high alert.

The current state and chaos going on in the country and the world didn’t help with the paranoia. As the lockdown continues and so much uncertainty remains, each week that goes by seems to get more and more challenging. It seems harder to find and hold onto hope and positivity. To keep going strong.

I can’t control what’s happening in the world. In my country. But I can control my actions. And once again I’ve allowed myself to become absorbed in, and consumed by the negativity taking place on social media. I know the effect it has on me, and I also know that there’s a lot of misinformation out there. When I’m already feeling angry and anxious, reading certain posts, the comments, and commenting myself, increases that ten-fold. I should know better, yet I allowed myself to ignore the warnings. That’s on me. And so, yet again, I’m making the decision to step back.

The breakthrough came in, and after, my therapy session. Leaving the house and driving to my appointment filled me with anxiety. The thoughts that I was being watched, followed, and would be pulled over and hurt, felt overwhelming. The thoughts and feelings followed me into my therapists office.

After a while I started feeling more contained. I’m so fortunate and extremely grateful that I get to see my therapist in person and have that safe space to go to each week. It’s been my saving grace so many times. So has she. Therapist has a calming effect on me, and I really needed that this week. She basically reiterated that I need to do what makes me feel contained, safe, and regulated, no matter how “weird” it may seem to myself and others.

So I’ve doubled down on my self-care and using my coping and emotion regulation tools. I’ve let go of all the expectations and pressure I’ve been putting on myself. There’s a time and place for that, and now is not that time. Thankfully the paranoia I’ve been experiencing has slowly faded.

What really helps through all of this is the connection I have (and feel) with my therapist. Physical distancing is hard on all of us, but knowing that there are people who care, even if it’s just one person, goes a long way. I had a lovely dream about my previous therapist, and sent her a message to tell her about it. And as usual, she replied. It’s so nice, and healing, to know that our connection is still there. That she’s still around, still cares, and hasn’t forgotten me.

This is such a challenging time. But we are resilient and can weather the storm. We’ve got this. ❤

A Different Hierarchy of Needs

A few weeks ago my therapist sent me this image, which she said reminded her of me, and it “hit the nail on the head”. It follows the same format as Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, which I found quite cool.

I’ve taken this “Enneagram” personality test before and my results pinned me as a nine, so this image was even more interesting to me. I never take personality tests seriously, as there isn’t any scientific validity to the majority of them, but they’re fun to do anyway.

My Self-Care/Self-Soothe/Sensory Kit

I thought I would share a list of those things that help me regulate and provide comfort.

– Weighted Blanket. Best investment ever!
– Weighted lap pad which I use while driving and working/studying. It helps me focus a little better, and provides some comfort and deep pressure stimulation.
– The Rose Quartz stone my therapist gave me.
– Therapy/Exercise Ball. Sitting and bouncing on this is soothing, especially when I’m overwhelmed and anxious.
– Aroma dough. It’s like play-dough for adults, with the added benefit of healing essential oils. 😉 (Website: http://aromadough.co.za)
– Hot Chocolate sachets.
– Pillow Mist (Lavender & Patchouli oils).
– Cuddly (soft toy).
– Baby blanket.
– A set of candles in beautiful crimson and azure blue glass containers.
– A pair of thick, fluffy socks.
– Lavender and vanilla hand lotion.
– A book of pictures of cute puppies.
– Vanilla soft-lips lip balm.
– Photo’s, letters and notes from those I love and care about.
– Essential oils and a diffuser: Peppermint, Lavender, Jasmine, Chamomile, Rosemary, Ylang Ylang. Will use one of these or a combination for specific purposes.
– USB drive with a couple of my favourite movies.
– Various fidget toys. I have the habit of playing with my hair, which isn’t a problem, but my dad used to yell at me when I do it around them, he hates it, so that’s where the fidget toys come in handy. Skin picking, chewing my fingers, etc… These toys all help. Wish I had had these while growing up.
– Noise cancelling headphones. I never leave the house without this.
– Chew toys (eg. Chewigem). I have a habit of chewing the inside of my cheeks and my lips, so I’ve found this helps when I feel the urge, or find myself unconsciously started. For some reason chewing gum doesn’t really work, as I still find myself chewing my mouth with the gum. I try to stay away from chewy sweets as the sugar, just like caffeine, makes me more worked up.
– Rainbow bubbles. These are awesome; they have this beautiful shimmer and different colours depending on the light and direction.
– Bullet Journal and favourite stationary. I started a bullet journal earlier this year, and it’s been so much fun and very helpful. I use it to keep track of my moods, habits, sleep, books, series, movies, favourite quotes, daily reflections, pre-therapy and post-therapy notes etc. If you don’t know what a bullet journal is and would like to learn more, here’s a nice link: https://littlecoffeefox.com/ultimate-bullet-journal-cheat-sheet/

So, these are some of my favourite things that help me cope with life and the world around me. What are yours?

Getting There

Yesterday was a better day.

This roller coaster I’ve been on seems to be slowing down. I’m not off the ride just yet, but the slower speed is a relief.

I’m proud of myself for one thing at least. Instead of doing what I would usually do, which is self-medicate with my benzo’s (more than what’s prescribed), I used the DBT Distress Tolerance skill of Urge Surfing and Riding The Wave. Just allowing myself to fully experience the urges for self-harm, medication, and alcohol, and feel the emotions that I so desperately wanted to numb.

I managed to cope with those intense feelings and urges by doing some physical activity right in my room, such as push ups. Something I find really soothing is lying stomach down on my fitness/exercise ball and slowly rolling back and forth, stopping for about 30 seconds every now and then to just breathe and feel the pressure and support against my stomach and upper body. It may sound weird, but it helps. I had to use a lot of my coping skills and tools, and I realized again just how important it is to have those.

Another urge I’ve had is to quit therapy (next session and the first of this year is next week Wednesday). Not because of my therapist, but because I’ve been wondering whether therapy in general is still worth it for me. Feeling like I’m sick of doing the work and still having these bad mental health days, to this extent. But I managed to avoid sending those emails and messages.

My main goal during times like these is to get through these moments in less destructive ways as far as possible. And I think I’ve managed that quite well so far.

Daydreaming: My Saving Grace

Growing up, daydreaming was my favourite escape. It was my way of coping. Of surviving.

In my daydreams I could enter a world where everything made sense. Where bad things didn’t happen, or even if they did, it was over quickly, I would be comforted, and everything turned out well.

I would sometimes daydream about a specific person. Most of the time it was a character on TV that would be my mother-figure or loving person in my life. It felt so safe. And you know why? Because in my fantasy world that person would never abandon me. They didn’t hurt me. If I saw a movie or read a book that involved a loving parental figure, I would play that story line out in my mind, inserting myself as the character that had that relationship with that person.

The downside of all of this was that sometimes when I would snap out of daydreaming mode, I would feel an incredible sadness because I knew it would/could never be real. But for me, the good side of daydreaming far outweighed the negative.

These days I don’t daydream nearly as much. Not because I’ve grown out of it (I don’t think we ever really do), but because I just don’t have the time anymore. Sometimes though the only way to calm myself down and stop feelings overwhelming me completely is to escape. Back into daydream mode. Where no one ever purposely hurts me. Where there’s plenty of love, genuine acceptance and affection. Where rejection and abandonment don’t exist. Over the past couple of weeks I’ve been tuning into my own world a lot more often.

They say we need to be mindful. Be connected to reality. But sometimes, reality sucks, and the only way through it is to lose yourself in a world of your own making. Personally, I don’t think that being in a constant state of mindful awareness is even healthy. When I’m out in the world my nervous system is on high alert and I’m zoomed in on everything around me (unless I’m in a dissociative state) and it’s exhausting. So I see it as a form of self-care to allow myself to just drift a little bit when I’m at home and in need of some rest. Daydreaming helped me the most through my childhood and teen years, and it’s still a valuable coping tool today.