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?

But I’m Not Like You

Two Thursday’s ago I went out for dinner with my best friends’ Megan and Ethan. We had a lovely time. Ethan invited me to a pizza evening that Saturday, and Megan, knowing me really well by now, told him that it might be too much for me. There were going to be 4 other people there. People I’ve never met. But I told them I’d let them know, and decided on the Saturday morning that I was going to be brave and go for it. After all, I don’t see them very often as they live quite far away.

I don’t like driving that way. The area they live in is scary, and the last 15 minutes of that road is anxiety-inducing, especially with the traffic lights every 500m or so. I always make sure I have my taser within easy reach and ready to go. Thankfully I got there safely, relieved but still on high alert. I made sure to get there an hour before everyone else was due to arrive so I could prepare mentally and relax a little with my friends. I had to sleep over as Ethan wouldn’t let me drive that road at night.

It was an insane evening, and the instant I met Megan’s cousin, I didn’t like her one bit. The rest of the evening only intensified that dislike. Megan doesn’t like having her around either (she saw her last 2 years ago). This girl was out of control, over-the-top, obnoxious and vulgar, and way too loud. Throughout the evening I disappeared for 20-30 minutes to the room with my noise-cancelling headphones. I had come prepared, although in hindsight I should have followed my instincts that morning and not gone at all. But the thing with me is I’m never sure what’s instinct and what’s just plain fear or anxiety.

By 1:30am I just couldn’t take it anymore and decided to go to bed. All I actually wanted to do was go home. Megan had also had enough by then and we sat in the room chatting. She was regretting the whole evening and also wanted it to be over. We both went to bed. But the music and people continued on. I would just doze off and then wake with a start.

The party was still going on by 5am. I realized I wasn’t going to get any sleep and went to make coffee. Megan came out of her room as well, and told a very drunk Ethan that it’s time to end the party and go to sleep. Ethan is a teddy bear even when drunk out of his mind (which is something he’s only been twice before – we’ve known him for over 20 years now).

With total silence now, but my body still buzzing on the inside (I hate this feeling), I sat in bed reading for about 30 minutes and then figured it was safe to try to sleep again. As I was dozing off, my room door opened, and in walked Ethan, with a “it’s okay Meg, go back to sleep” and stumbled over to the bed. He crashed down next to me, proceeding to pull all the blankets away from me. I lay there in shock for a few seconds. Then came the snoring. That was me. Done. I jumped up and decided that it was time for me to go. There was no way I would be getting any sleep with a snoring guy next to me, thinking I’m Megan. I wasn’t irritated, but more amused at what had just happened. Ethan was very embarrassed and apologetic when I told him this, but now we can laugh about it.

When I got home I only managed a 3 hour nap. But it was something at least. Since then, I’ve still been trying to recover. Yes, it’s taking a long time. The biggest reason for this is that I haven’t given myself the rest I need. Sure, I’ve slept 8+ hours for most nights, with a few exceptions thanks to nightmares, but the problem is during the day. My way of recuperating from social, sensory, physical and emotional/mental overload and tiredness is to hide from the world for a while.

That’s something a lot of people don’t understand. I’ve been struggling with depression for a while now, and it only seemed to get worse the days after the party. M (the lady I stay with) knows how I’ve been feeling, and encourages me to go out and do things. For example, wants to take me out for coffee or says I should go to the library or bookstores (both places I like). She believes that spending too much time at home makes depression worse. And it does. For her. But not for me. Not when I feel overwhelmed. When I feel overwhelmed and I leave the house, things don’t go well for me. When I’m already overwhelmed, it doesn’t take much to push me over the edge. In other words, panic attacks/meltdowns/breakdowns. I need quiet, and as little sensory stimuli and socializing as possible, or my depression gets worse.

There have been so many times in my life where I didn’t leave the house for days, and emerged feeling refreshed and so much better. That’s how I cope with life and the world. When I was still living with my dad, I would sometimes take an entire week “away from the world”. They would often argue with me that it’s not healthy. Well, it’s not healthy for me to always be going out and doing things. It’s the same with M. Her friend came over the one day, it was almost 12pm and I was still in bed (reading). She told me “up, up, you can’t stay in bed all day, that’s why you’re not feeling well”. Just for the record, I don’t stay in bed all day. I still do things like washing my dishes, cleaning my room (if I’m up to the task that day), having a cup of coffee in the morning with M, but I just don’t want to go anywhere.

I understand that for a lot of people going out with friends and doing things help them fight their depression. And I know those telling me to do these things have good intentions, but it doesn’t help me. I feel like yelling “but I’m not like you!” I feel this pressure to conform, scared to upset anyone. But much more than that, scared to be seen as “lazy”.

I’ve told M how I recover and start feeling better, and she says she understands, but I don’t think she truly gets it. After all, we’re individuals with different experiences and views of the world. Can we ever truly understand someone else?

No One To Take Care Of But Myself

It’s been such a relaxing day, and I’m feeling pretty good.

On Thursday I felt stressed because it looked like it was going to be a busy weekend. I had plans to meet up with my business partner friend on Friday, go to the dog shelter on Saturday morning, meet up with a lady from group afterward (not the other lady that I’ve vowed never to meet up with again), and spend time with Jasmine on Sunday. But I made a decision on Saturday morning. Jasmine could wait a week, and I would rather go to the shelter on Monday after work when it’s quiet (most people volunteer over the weekend).

I’m so glad I made that decision, because when I do too much over a weekend, especially socializing, I’m left feeling exhausted and am overwhelmed at the thought of work on Monday. My week then starts with me already feeling irritable. So this was a form of self-care.

Yesterday was a good day as well. I met up with M from group, and had a nice time. She’s absolutely lovely. She’s 75 years old (but looks 10 years younger), and had a daughter who shared my name, who sadly passed away a year ago. Yet, M is such a ray of light. She’s calm and positive (not annoyingly so). We spent almost two hours together and I left feeling relaxed and content. She’s definitely someone I want to make time for and keep in my life.

I slept in this morning, which was glorious, and have been feeling peaceful and relaxed the whole day, doing little things I enjoy. I’m content being on my own, and love being in my room the whole day without having to go anywhere. I don’t really get bored. I realized on Friday that I don’t have anyone to take care of anymore. It was never really my responsibility to take care of anyone, but it was a drive I had. It still feels a little strange only having myself as a responsibility, but it’s starting to feel okay.

As I’ve discovered, managing my time, social interactions and activities is so important to my well-being, and I feel like I did a great job with that this weekend. I’m grateful that I get to learn and practice taking better care of myself now and getting my own needs met. I still believe in kindness toward others of course, and helping where I’m able to, but I’m done neglecting myself in order to do this. I matter too. We all do.

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Fine, Then Not

It’s been a busy, but good week. I took the whole of today to myself for some rest and relaxation. Yet, I feel depressed. I felt fine this morning and afternoon. But somewhere along the way that changed.

It seems that after a busy period, once I allow myself some time to recuperate, I hit a low. Even if it was a good kind of busy. I had to force myself today to not do any work, even though I felt the urge to. Did some work last night so that I could have a break today.

Maybe if I had done some work today I wouldn’t be feeling this way right now. But I also know that I tend to burn out pretty quickly, so need to prioritize self-care. I have a meeting with a client tomorrow and the week is going to be another busy one. So I have to learn to balance my life, which isn’t an easy thing to do.

I hate feeling this way. Of just wanting to disappear. Of wanting life to end. Especially when there doesn’t seem to be a logical explanation for experiencing this depression. But I guess it’s never logical anyway.

A Sense Of Loss

Things have felt strange for a while now. I’ve been a bit detached, but not to the point of dissociation or complete isolation.

My days have been filled with work, both the work I do for the dad and stepmom, and my own design business. When I’m not working, I’m doing things for myself. Things I enjoy. Like losing myself in a book. I’m currently reading three books (it’s a regular thing for me). A memoir, self-help book, and a crime thriller. I never read more than one book of the same genre at a time. I haven’t read this much since I was a teenager and my days outside of school hours were spent reading. I’m relishing it.

I’m also doing Yoga a few times a week, and make sure to engage in at least one mindful activity a day (those adult colouring-in books are a gem). When I’m working, reading, or doing any activity that consumes my mind, I’m right there, in it. But as soon as I just sit and do nothing, drive somewhere, or do anything else that doesn’t occupy my mind, I feel detached. I don’t quite feel like me. The me I knew at least.

I had a session with my new therapist, C, yesterday and told her this. I also told her that I have no desire to go out with friends or see people, but it’s not that I feel I don’t want to spend time with them. I just don’t mind whether I see them or not, and aren’t making plans to see them. If they contact me though and ask to meet up, I’m up for it. I’m enjoying my me-time. I feel content alone.

At the same time, I have this sense of loss hanging over me, but not a feeling. I don’t know how this makes sense, yet it does.

A few weeks ago I told Elizabeth that even though we agreed to stay friends, I need some time without any contact. When I think about her, I don’t feel much at all. Just that sense of loss again. I’m not consciously pushing any feelings down. My emotions just seem to be very muted. They’re there, but not with the intensity I’m used to. Which is maybe part of why I don’t quite feel like myself.

I have gone out with friends since I left the clinic. The most recent being on Saturday. Jasmine and I are friends again, and we met up for a few hours. I had a lovely time. I had just as nice a time when I was alone again afterward though.

Therapy with C is going well. It all still feels new though. C said that even though I know it’s a safe space, it’s still an adjustment, and will take time. I’m still getting to know her and dealing with the fact that I’m not seeing A for therapy anymore, so it’s normal that I’m feeling a bit detached. I do find it easy to open up to her (even though it’s slow going), so that’s good at least.

Let’s see what happens. Right now I’m just taking things as they come.