Accumulating Preventative Measures | Article F18

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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.

 

Stay safe.


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! 🙂

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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. 😛

Bringing Light to the Shadows | Article F18

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Photographer & Contributing Writer: Raquel Lyons


Trigger Warning: Depression, suicidal themes

 

“I’ve got no excuses for all of these goodbyes; call me when it’s over, ’cause I’m dying inside. Call me when it’s over and myself has reappeared. I don’t know, I don’t know, I don’t know why, I do it every time. It’s only when I’m lonely. Sometimes I just want to cave and I don’t want to fight; I try and I try and I try and I try… Momma, I’m so sorry I’m not sober anymore. To the ones who never left me, we’ve been down this road before. I’m so sorry; I’m not sober anymore…I want to be a role model, but I’m only human…I’m sorry that I’m here again, I promise I’ll get help. It wasn’t my intention, I’m sorry to myself.” – Lyrics from Demi Lovato’s song “Sober.”

 

In the aftermath of “Stable, Until Triggered” I listened to this song from my iPod as I stared up at my ceiling, not completely seeing the masked face that I pieced together out of the white shapes and swirls, but instead saw the overpowering thoughts and felt the immense sadness that clung to my shoulders like shadows slowly eating away at my flesh.

 

It was safe to say that I accidentally triggered myself with epiphanies about my place in recovery.

 

Stabilization had given me a sense of pride and absolute happiness which makes the darkness that much more painful. In the hours after, I felt knocked off my pedestal that rose ten feet above the ground, which I have been in so solidly for over six months, and had landed squarely and roughly on my bum to ground zero. In the process of this article’s first draft, I cried profusely, something I hadn’t done in months.

 

I felt a mixture of having been lied to and being lied to continuously from an entity, so to speak, within my skull. There’s the feeling of how easily my happiness and restored identity can be taken away so unexpectedly. It almost feels like the depression is showing me the biggest middle finger and taunting me with its lies. I suppose it’s improvement for me to recognize that what it’s saying isn’t factual, it’s not true. It just feels so very, very convincing.

 

I could tell in the moment that I was judging my judgments. I know that this feeling will go away, albeit a lot slower if I did nothing, so instead I chose to do different actions, or what is known as opposite action, to the harm and death flickering and weaving through my brain. The best way I can describe intrusive images is getting as close to hallucinating without actually hallucinating. At its worst, it’s like being aware that the physical world is around me while being distracted by intense, intrusive images overlaying true reality.

I feel like it’s as if I’ve been kidnapped and am being held hostage, tied to a chair with my eyes opened wide, forced to watch a screen that shows me all these horrible, terrible, painful actions I’m doing to myself, except all of this is happening in my mind and in reality I’m just staring blankly into space. There’s something uniquely disturbing about being forced to mentally watch myself die and be maimed over and over again when in reality, none of it has actually happened. It’s so utterly mind-boggling and it *feels* emotionally like it’s happened, even though it hasn’t at all. (An instance in which checking the facts and mindfulness practices would help.)

 

At the same time, while those images are playing I can also notice my brain trying to convince me that life isn’t worth living if I have to experience these moments which triggers hopelessness of having to experience these crises in the future; the progress I’ve made deceptively being unraveled; the powerlessness I have over being forced to watch the tape and hear the BS; the notion that my suicide is inevitable and that every success I’ve made is meant to be undone by invisible forces.

 

To sum up: mental health conditions are impolite, ruthless, cruel, soul-crushing, seemingly all-consuming forces that have poop stains inherent to their hazy figures because of all their BS. Basically, they suck…a lot.

 

The real sustenance in the face of these matters is how we choose to overcome them–which are an article series I plan to uncover this semester. Maybe it’s not about being knocked from ten feet high to zero; maybe the fact that I got out of bed and wrote this article means something after all. Maybe within the darkness we can find the light again–not to eliminate the shadows but to co-exist within them.

 

And, maybe that’s enough.

 

Stay as safe as you can out there, ride the waves of pain and seek extra support when you need it. You’re doing the best you can.


Written August 29.2018

Originally titled “Surviving Trips in Hell”. I had to edit this one quite a bit, taking out certain things, changing tenses and the like. It was (and still is, in ways) more like a journal entry than a pure article, but I like that I set the pavement down to where I want to explore treatment options in a new and upcoming series. So, in the end, it works out all right. 🙂

Hope you enjoy this read! Let me know what you’ve thought of it in the comments down below. I’ll try to be more active soon–school’s began and I’ve run into technical problems with my coursework (which is so aggravating). Just stressed out, strung out and exhausted in more ways than one. Let’s hope the weekend fixes this up!

Much love,

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