Last night and this morning, I put some good attempts into working on the logo. I don’t have the original line art from my tattoo, but I do have some good photographs. I just can’t seem to get anything accomplished though. Every time I’d draw a line, it just didn’t seem right. I’d start, hate it. Erase. Start again, still hate it. Erase again. At some point, you just have to realize that you can’t force it so I put the project down.
I’ve had long bouts of artists’ block in the past, but every since my Dad passed last Fall, it’s been plaguing me constantly. I haven’t exactly figured out why. It’s frustrating and I’m still attempting to separate myself from the idea that my art is part of my identity.
In the past, my artistic phases really coincided with my mania. Any time I would slide into my manic phase, I’d be able to do all of the things. I’d stay up all night, completing drawings for people. Or I’d be super hyper focused during tabletop games, so much so that I’d have pages of illustrations showing what we did during that day’s session. A sad part of me really misses the energy and powerful feeling that you gain while you are manic. I can understand why some people will go off their Bipolar medications.
That’s not an option I’m ever willing to take. I don’t like the lack of control that happens while I’m manic. Illusions of grandeur are nice, but frightening. Eventually you will come down from those lofty feelings and the crash after an emotional high is probably the worst thing I’ve ever experienced. I’m usually strongly at risk for a suicide attempt when I’m sliding from a Manic phase into a Depressive state.
Some lucid part of my brain wants to fight the change and is terrified that I’ll never have another good thought again. Logically I know that’s not true, but when you slip into depression, it seems like time slows down. Every day is longer and the end never seems to be within reach. I’ve learned now to prepare ahead. (DBT calls it build mastery, coping ahead.)
The facility that I currently receive mental health care from has us setup a safety plan with our therapist. It’s a lot easier to write one of these when you’re doing well as opposed to during a low phase.
Step 1: Warning Signs. Which pretty much means, any thoughts, images, moods, situations, or behaviors that might be a blue that a crisis might be developing. I know personally, my own self-care usually starts to suffer when I start to get lower. I don’t feel as if I deserve upkeep. I’ll avoid showering because I loathe the way my body looks. I won’t eat because it seems like too much effort or trouble. Pretty soon, your mind starts to fall apart as well.
You have to be mindful of this. It’s easy to lose yourself. A good cope ahead for this situation involves giving yourself some helpful tools. Even if you can’t bring yourself to brush your teeth, get a bottle of mouthwash and use that. If you can’t bring yourself to shower, buy yourself a can of dry shampoo. Or in some cases, biting the bullet and just taking a shower. I have a work around for being disgusted with myself. Showering in the dark. Having trouble with preparing yourself a meal? Not even a sandwich? I think my mind was blown the day my therapist told me just to eat the ingredients. And I’ve done it. I’ve just sat down with a few pieces of deli meat, a hunk of cheese, and some nuts. You do what you can.
Step 2: Internal Coping Strategies. These are the things you can do to take your mind off your problems without contacting another person. This includes relaxation techniques, physical activities, and etc. These honestly don’t seem hard to list or come up with when you’re in a good mood, but become extensively harder when you hit full depression mode.
I love to read. Absolutely adore books so much. But when I’m really low, I’ve come to realize that my attention span is not the same. I can’t focus. The effort put into reading can be on par with running a marathon. Sometimes I’ll just marathon watching a television show that I’ve seen before, because the comfort of watching something familiar is all I can muster. More recently, I’ve gotten back into using my local library, which clued me into this game changer: you can use your local library card and Overdrive to access digital books. Or more importantly, audiobooks. I can’t tell you how relaxing it is to listen to your favorite novel. Sometimes I’ll even read along if I have the book. That really helps my brain stay focused on reading and distracting me from my problems.
Step 3: People and Social settings that provide distraction. This one has been complicated since COVID. I have a few friends that are on Discord and Facebook that I can speak to at least, so we’ve tried to stay in each other’s lives throughout the pandemic. Video calling has been a lifesaver.
Step 4: People to ask for help. This list got smaller when my dad passed away. A few years ago, I accidentally did a Facebook post about my last suicide attempt and remembrances concerning it. I did NOT filter that post like I normally do. And shockingly my dad called me right away. He didn’t shy away from the subject and told me that I could call him any time or day if I needed an ear. It was probably one of the most relieving moments in my life. Now that he’s gone, it’s been a lot more difficult.
Step 5: Professionals or agencies to contact during a crisis. I hear people always saying they can’t reach out to professionals. They’re afraid they’ll get locked in an asylum or they’re afraid the police will show up at their front door. There are a lot of resources that will not do that. I’m partial to the Crisis Text Line, because I hate using the telephone to talk. The Crisis Text Line also covers a lot of different subjects beyond suicide, so it’s definitely a resource to put on your safety plan.
The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is also good. You can never have too many resources. If you aren’t in the United States, please be sure to check Open Counseling. There’s an extensive list of numbers on their page. Please, PLEASE, just remember that ending your life takes away your ability to improve your situation. I’ve always hated when people told me suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem. Depression doesn’t feel like it’s a temporary problem especially when you’re in the deepest depths of sorrow. I’ve found that I have to word it differently for my own state of mind. Do what you need to do, do what’s best for you.
Step 6: Make the environment safe. Remove anything that might tempt you. Whether this be sharp objects, guns, drugs, or alcohol. Designate someone in your life to help you do this. Do whatever you need to do.
The last part, isn’t really a step, but it’s a very important part of your plan. What is the one thing that is most important to you and worth living for? Even if you aren’t willing to live for yourself, what in your life gives you enough drive to not leave? I’ve learned to be more selfish now and I know that I want to continue existing because I want to enjoy my life, but when I’m feeling my lowest, I remember that I have a wonderful SO that would mourn me. A step daughter that would never be able to understand why I was gone. And even the most mundane realizations, who is going to feed my rabbit if I’m dead?
Wow, okay. So I hadn’t really planned such a long post. The safety plan stuff sort of jumped out at me, but I’m hoping that it helps someone out there. I’m honestly just throwing as many things out there as I know, since it’s impossible to tell what might stick for certain people. Everyone’s different and how you approach your mental health care will have to cater to your needs and desires.
Today is Thursday! So “The Journey” DBT Podcast will be happening live on Elektra’s Twitch at 5pm EST. She’ll post it later to her Youtube, if you can’t be there for the live version. Also, if you’re interested in joining the DBT Discord, please feel free! We’re still fairly small. Under 50 members right now, but still growing!
I got distracted by the safety plan, but for good reasons. Step 2, internal coping strategies. I used that yesterday and today to distract me from my lack of artistic abilities. Sometimes, you’d think that you’d want to go in the opposite direction of what is troubling you. I decided against that and instead picked something that helped me express my art without needing too much creativity.
Remembering my dad has been an important part of my grieving. I’m afraid of forgetting the sound of his voice, the way he looked, or the impact he had on my life. Recently, while looking for some yarn at the local craft store, I noticed they had a sale on wood pieces. I picked out this boat piece because my dad loved fishing. I’m probably going to go back to the store soon and buy one of the fishing poles they had in the miniature department.
After some internal debate, and asking my SO’s opinion, I decided to paint the boat white with red trim accents. It’s really simple, but I think it worked out well. The task of painting the wooden boat was really easy. It gave me a sense of accomplishment. I might not have been able to get the logo done, but I did make something. I’ve still got a few more details to add to the memorial, but check it out!
My dad was a devote Christian, so the nail cross is in memory of that. The duck actually came from his collection. Each one of my siblings and I were allowed to take one. I picked a smaller one, which fits very well in this little boat. I’m planning on putting the coin collection my dad passed onto it in the drawer. It’s not actually a coin collection per say, but coins he picked up throughout his travels over the world. Once I get the memorial setup in its final spot, I’ll post more pictures.
Once again, thank you so much for reading my blog!