Photograph & article by: Raquel Lyons
Trigger Warning: Mentions of suicide and self-harm
“Help me, it’s like the walls are caving in…Laying on the bathroom floor, feeling nothing; I’m overwhelmed and insecure… Keep telling me that it gets better. Does it ever?…Afraid to be alone again, I hate this. I need somebody now. Someone to help me out. Sometimes I feel like giving up, but I just can’t: it isn’t in my blood” – Song lyrics from Shawn Mendes’ “In My Blood.”
In this article, I’d like to explore the notion of creating and actively accumulating preventative measures against problematic behaviors. Namely, my own problematic behaviors because I’m an expert in my own experience and can only truly speak from that lived experience to what I want to discuss here, and for what I hope can also be applied to other general situations.
I’ve included the song lyrics from Shawn Mendes at the start of this article because it fits with the message I want to convey within these strung lines. I want to discuss how accumulating preventative measures against self-harm and suicidal thoughts have helped me greatly in the past, present and hopefully the future as well.
I believe I’ve mentioned it before, possibly as long as two years ago, but I have always personally found safety contracts hugely impactful in my recovery. For some people I know it can be a bit hit or miss, and for me it has done wonders. For me now, I have acquired enough barriers between myself and any action steps I could take with my intrusive thoughts and images that are utterly life-changing and life-saving, as it were.
The main one is that I signed a piece of paper saying I would not engage in self-harm or attempt/complete suicide while at the Dialectical Behavior Therapy-Intensive program. The DBT-I at my current day program–a day program I’ve been in for the last seven months and been in Intensive since May–lasts for six to eight months. That means six to eight months between me wanting to act on an urge now and by the end of eight months, no longer wanting to act on my thoughts because the crisis by then has disappeared.
It’s kind of ingenious, in a way, if you think about it. What it buys me, is time. Time to think of the ‘what if’s.’ Time to pause and breathe (even though that’s the last thing I want to be doing) and to tolerate my emotions and let go of my thoughts, ultimately take a mindfulness approach and just return to Earth as gradually as I can. It gives me time to call someone at a hotline, time to interact with another fellow human being, or time to write an article about my preventative measures. Time is a valuable, valuable thing when someone is undergoing a crisis. To have access to time, to allow the thoughts to come and go as they will naturally do is so, so critical. Because the crisis will fade, the crisis will not last forever and the cruel thoughts being slung around your brain will cease to exist again. They may return, and they very well may do so, and by then, you’ll be stronger.
You will be strong enough to say ‘no’ to them. You will be strong enough to choose to live.
It doesn’t matter what BS images my brain shows me, because in reality none of them have actually happened. I may be sitting alone on a bench crying in public, and that may not be entirely effective in the long-term, but it beats being somewhere alone where things could turn the corner in the worst way possible.
To me, accumulating preventative measures means remembering what if’s–what if my next round of treatment would have made the difference? What if I tell someone how I’m feeling and they respond with compassion? What if I don’t act on my thoughts and feel better again soon?
Another thing I find about accumulating preventative measures is using a lot of skills all at once: change my self-talk by finding encouraging or inspirational quotes, check the facts about what situation triggered me, reading over letters friends have given me, seeking out ways to help the community around me, or even watching some of my old YouTube videos.
The biggest thing I’ve learned from program is that acting on my harm thoughts really isn’t in line with my values at all. I have built an army of reasons not to act harmfully, including: the awareness of the safety contract, listening to new music that comes out, watching a sunset, creating more art, seeing the next Avengers movie, graduating, feeling happiness.
And although this article has ended, the journey has not. It’s ever changing, ever flowing and so very, very worth it.
Article written September 11.2018
This was a post-crisis work through article that has been polished up and is ready for submission (I’ve already sent it out, actually). I decided to add my sunset photograph to this piece, and have a few more photos related to articles to be published soon. 🙂 It’s similar to the process of acceptance, it’s on-going and will wax and wane in progress.
I hope that you enjoy this article! Leave me your thoughts down below on what some of your own preventative measures are! 🙂
❤ ❤ ❤
PS If my after-thoughts don’t make as much sense, I’m trying to avoid a ruminative process right now (Sat evening) so that may explain things. I also didn’t read over this article so that might have something to do with it, too. 😛