Writing, publishing, geekdom, and errata.

Some of my coping mechanisms for dealing with depression and suicidal thoughts

Over the rest of the week, I'm going to talk about both my own state and the fallout of me talking candidly about my suicidal feelings.

Coping mechanisms

First, let me say that there's one big "positive": my weight has plummeted.  The graph very clearly starts dropping with the initial stimulus of my depression, and the two peaks are when I thought (wrongly) that things were going better.

It's a "positive" in that I'm still simply nauseated by the whole thought of things most of the time.  I force myself to eat - and since I now only manage that once a day, it means I eat high-calorie-density items (because I'm not entirely stupid).  But hey, unlike most people, I lost weight over the holidays.  

Yeah, not worth it. 

By and large, the way that I have dealt with (and continue to deal with) my suicidal thoughts and feelings have been to approach it the way that you successfully approach any other chronic medical condition. You recognize its impact on your life, try to minimize high-risk situations, and make sure you have backup plans if something falls through.

For example, I've been making sure that I'm getting out every day, and definitely on weekends. I took a weekend trip to visit old friends I hadn't seen in a decade or more. I make sure that I have plenty of things to do at home so that I stay busy.

And when I know that there's something that is going to be high-risk, I make sure I'm in a safe place. The last story I sold has, as its emotional core, the situation I am currently going through. I know that I'm going to have to eventually read it aloud, so I did so - but after making sure I was with a good friend who understood that I might not make it through, and would be there for support if needed.

But the biggest help has really been making sure that I have obligations and things to do. For example, I'm investing a lot of energy into helping with a family whose house burnt down. I've helped a co-worker with her resume, and actually helped other people with their own relationship advice.

Helping people is something that actively gives me a reason to go on. And so I keep doing it in ways that work for me.

The key, when you find yourself in this kind of situation, is to change your focus to the short term, and focus on what works for you. I first focused on things that I would feel guilty if I left them undone. And that, along with knowing how devastating it would be for my son if I killed myself just before (or while) he was here (much like this Moth story) got me from day to day.

When you've found yourself with an imaginary number of spoons, what have you found to be good coping mechanisms?

And if you haven't already, see if you can contribute anything to help a Navy Vet and his family who recently lost everything in a fire: 



Sofie Bird said...

I've find keeping mental health is kinda like keeping sobriety. Even when you've been clean for years, you have to keep the habits up, keep the self-care up, or you risk a relapse.

I've been through this mill a few times, now. My three main priorities become sleep, exercise and eating, because all three go out the window when I'm depressed.

I make some things 'non-negotiable'. Some food must be eaten that day. I must shower. Some kind of exercise, even if I just do laps of the apartment. I don't bother with cajoling or arguing or reasons why it should be done: I try to make them as much a fact as possible, and borrow my mother's phrase of "you don't have to like it, you just have to do it".

I've found the non-negotiable thing incredibly useful, but I don't really know how to explain how I do it it to others. I managed to finish my masters' degrees in the depths of one of my worst depressions, because I made everything to do with my degree non-negotiable. I did the same for my business last year: my billable work was non-negotiable. It's not discipline so much as removing the possibility for arguing from your brain. It's just not an option for this to not get done, the way it's not an option to stop gravity. The fact that I don't have to spend mental energy "convincing" myself to do it makes things that much easier, but it's a weird little find-the-lady brain-game. The closest I can get to an explanation is just turning off the part of your brain that would debate not doing it.

I reread my CBT and ACT books to remind myself of the tools that I've learned to help the symptoms. I put little safety plans in place, with objective-as-possible triggers: "if it gets so bad that [I start worrying my brain will think me to death] I will do THIS." Having those plans in place helps me panic less about how bad things might get.

I journal the day's thoughts to myself. It helps me see a little where my depression is not making sense, just making me think that it does. I find it really important to recognise daily that this is an illness I currently have: it helps me not panic (and to feel less broken and hopeless) about the fact that I don't care one iota about any of the things I normally care about. Making it okay to not be okay right now is something I find very helpful, helps me not beat myself up over not being better yet.

I try to put visual art and living things in my life more--daily, if possible. I make things, I reorganise my craft supplies, I sort my bookshelves, I go buy a cactus, I go hang out with somebody's cat and cuddle it. And I'm very, very careful of what art I consume.

Steven Saus said...

Good stuff. And yes, the being careful of what art you consume is a big deal. I'm having to be very careful about what I listen to right now because of this whole thing.