There are now three songs I enjoy with the theme of ‘alive’:
- Goo Goo Dolls – So Alive
- Sia – Alive
- Shinedown – I’m Alive
The first two are particularly striking, although I’ll be discussing Sia’s song the most here. If you’ve never heard it, legasp, here is the link:
There are times where I listen to Sia’s song and appreciate that I have survived my darkest days regarding mental health issues. There are times where I listen to her song and smile at the strength I’ve used to get through those difficult times, and marvel at how I managed to make it through them, when I was so convinced I never would.
Recovery is a process in which I include my dark days. The days where I wasn’t sure I wanted to recover or get better or see the next day. That’s where the beginning of my recovery started–in the abyss, the vortex, the black hole, the white out. In the nothingness, still, there was something. There was me. And I made it through.
Now, there are still days where I wish I hadn’t. I call those moments Resentful Raquel. However, I also have days of Recovery Raquel, in which I’m proud to have survived and to be here, on the better side of days, where I can still achieve my dreams and my hopes and my wishes. Where I can still listen to awesome music and interact with a blessed, amazing community here on our little rock of the Internet. Where I can expand my sense of self and who I wish to love. It’s exciting, really, and I think sometimes it can be easy to forget that.
Especially if you have a dark cloud of mental illness shrouding over you.
So, you may ask, how did I make it through my crises?
A combination of tactics, is my best answer.
First, medication was necessary in my case. I was reluctant to go on medications, I can likely attribute that to the controversy and stigma surrounding medications to treat mental health issues. However, I was in my first hospitalization at the end of January 2015 and the start of February 2015 when I was convinced by a nurse on the unit to try out medications. The worst was already upon me, and not being on medications wasn’t helping my scenario (as I was in the hospital), and if it could help, why would I not try them? That’s the best of what I can remember her telling me. It had enough of an impact, regardless if I can’t remember her exact words, for me to drop my reluctance and go on medications, and for me to tell you about it now.
So I tried meds. And they didn’t help for a while, they may have made things worse actually, but I don’t know for sure. So I tried another brand of meds. And those helped. And then there were a few other trials, but eventually I got on the two medications I’m on today.
And, what I’ve been told repeatedly through the mental health community of professionals, is that medications are an aid to help me do the work I need to do with psychotherapy. Without medications, I’d continue to be emotionally dysregulated and going through several crises–which isn’t a cohesive environment for me to make gains in recovery. So, again, for myself, medications played an important role.
What else helped?
I’ve said it before, and I’ll continue to say it again: Finding something to hold onto. Whether it was physical (a stuffed animal) or metaphorical (my dreams for the future), I found things to hold on to. Reasons to live another day.
My suggestion would be to come up with reasons to live for yourself. They can be ANYthing – I had listed food and activities and friendships and more. In fact, I’ll likely share them with you guys in another post one day.
Also, writing positive things about your day in a journal can be helpful, too. Bonus points if you come up with different things each day, so it gets your brain thinking and you notice all the little stuff that makes you happy, even when life’s a bitch. 🙂
Doing IOS (ink on skin) helped me a LOT, too. Drawing or writing on myself with pen really, really helped to get my attention focused back in the present moment, to distract me, to feel the touch and smell of the ink, to create something beautiful rather than something destructive or painful. To create something out of nothing. 🙂
Time. Getting better requires time to pass. It sucks, I know, and for a good few months I didn’t notice change in my outlook on life, but it was brewing, through the small steps. My dark days lasted for 3 months definitively and 6 months overall (including those first 3 months). But Recovery was brewing in my system from March 2015 on. That’s why I think and say my dark days were encompassed by my Recovery. They fit inside each other like those Russian doll sets. Each moment I could use to try one other positive coping mechanism rather than scratching myself was a victory. Each moment I could get through alive meant another day under my belt of survival.
And again, I didn’t think I’d actually make it through alive. I got through those first dark 3 months with the complete belief that I was going to kill myself at any moment in time. I was always planning my suicide and looking for “opportunities”. And the snow days killed me more inside as I kept missing therapy appointments–which I didn’t completely mind since it gave me more of a chance to die.
And while I may have been scratching myself during those three months, and while I did get two hospitalizations out of that time, I wasn’t always acting on my suicidal thoughts. Mainly because I felt there were problems with my plans or chances I’d be interrupted.
My point is, while I didn’t think I’d make it out alive, time continued to pass, and as it did my crises would too.
You see, a crisis is time limited. The more time you can buy yourself within that crisis, the better the chance you’ll make it through it unharmed (or at least, not dead). Another way to think about it is: Feelings are temporary.
When I couldn’t stand the thought of making it alive through another week, I thought about it as getting by the next hour, the next minute, the next few seconds. And working with seconds, that’s pretty good because seconds go by quick, and if I could hold on for a few seconds, I could make it to a few minutes, hours, days. It was a way of breaking down the complexity in a simpler fashion to something I could genuinely handle and cope with.
And so days turned into more days and then weeks and months. And through that, I kept getting better.
Hospitalizations were also very helpful for me. I’d go through a good range of emotions beforehand but I’m grateful to myself that I used the time in the hospital as best as I could, regardless if I was annoyed or depressed through it. I kept myself going to groups and trying to ask for help, and a lot of that experience now I use in my teachable moments series. Resentful Raquel has turned into Resourceful Raquel 😉
I remember when my crises would be so, so very frequent, in those first three months. It was such a struggle to cope, because the smallest thing would set me off into a suicidal spiral. I often found myself sobbing on campus, sitting alone some place, incapable of moving, wanting to die. I was skipping classes left and right because I physically got stuck any time I stopped moving. I was calling crisis hotlines to talk to someone so I wouldn’t be finding myself in nearby bathroom stalls scratching myself or going through suicide rehearsals.
And yet, through the combination of steps I covered above, I made it through those hard times. My crises began tapering off by the summer of 2015, and one time when I texted my friend and my Mom that I was having a hard time and was going to take a bath, they freaked out because they thought I was going to kill myself–when in my mind, I was only going to take a bath and had NO thoughts about killing myself through that bathtub. It wasn’t even on my radar, AT ALL.
Another time, I went out of the house to the store to meet up with that same friend. My Mom was concerned that I’d crash my car and die, and again, I was like, “What? No. I’m just going to the store. I hadn’t even thought about that.”
These were signs that I was moving away from the identity I had crafted about myself being a suicidal blob.
Implementing positive coping strategies and proper self-expression through art aided me in the process of my recovery. Particularly, implementing positive coping strategies when I was feeling WELL, was a HUGE important note. As I was told in my third hospitalization that the key to using positive coping alternatives is to use them when you’re doing well, so that when you feel bad, you’re more likely to think of the positive coping alternatives you do when you’re well and turn to them. Because many of us may know that when we’re feeling bad, we have a harder time of thinking clearly and doing what may be more beneficial to us rather than getting a quick, temporary ‘fix’.
Another moment in July 2015, whenever I had heard stigmatizing comments about the OCD back in the spring of ’15, I would want to correct the person and then go kill myself. Well, in July I had heard a stigmatizing comment and wanted to go off and self-harm or do away with myself (but I didn’t).
And at another point in my recovery, months later, I would get angry at the comment, and NOT want to go kill myself. Fucking IMPROVEMENTS!
Kinda like when I was triggered on WP back in May this year from a comment and I only wanted to self-harm rather than kill myself, which again, is improvement.
Additionally, I’m far more capable of working through my more baby crises now than ever before. I tell myself I’ll go inpatient after I make it through X and Y appointments, and by the time those appointments are over, guess who’s all good again? So I tell myself the same comforting thought as I get ready for the next set of appointments.
Also, blogging and having this as an outlet and a busying task has been huge as well. Keeping myself busy and not allowing time for the OCD has been a great tool. As well as reading and implementing good coping skills into my life.
Lastly, I will end with a self-care card I’ve made for myself, at least that I wrote in that is.
This could be another suggestion for you to do, and I have done similar in the past. When you are feeling well, write yourself a note to when you are feeling unwell. And work on looking at that note each day, so that when you’re unwell, you can find it and read it. A caring self’s words to a hurting self.
My notes above. Card #1 out of seven or six, I think.
The most important thing to remember is that you can and will make it out alive through your crises. And if you EVER have ANY doubt, reach out to someone. You are loved. You are cared for–more deeply than you realize. I care about you, and I believe that you, too, will get better.
Stay safe, ❤ ❤ ❤