Keeping with my mental health theme, I wanted to share some of the coping mechanisms I’ve learned that help me through my bad days. It’s important to remember that just because something worked for me doesn’t mean it’s for everyone. Also I’m not a medical professional nor do I work in the mental health field, so this isn’t medical advice. These are just some things I’ve picked up on.
After I was released from inpatient treatment, I stayed with family friends for about a month. I didn’t have a great living environment at my college apartment but I also wanted to keep some independence. Living with them allowed me to slowly ease my way back into my life and I had a safe space to go at night. We could have candid conversations together, which is something I was lacking in my life before. To be open about my feelings and have a strong support system really helped me feel “normal” and feel better.
The combination of a great therapist and the right antidepressants changed my life. Without that, I wouldn’t be here today. When I first started therapy, I didn’t realize the importance of having a therapist who did more than just let me talk. When I left inpatient, I started with a new therapist who listened to my struggles and helped me find things to aid me during bad depression spells. I’ve met people who are against therapy and taking antidepressants, and I was that way, too. But I thought of it in the sense that if you go to a doctor and take medication when your body isn’t feeling well, why wouldn’t you do the same when it’s your mind? That helped me warm up to the idea of taking medication, but I know it’s not for everyone.
I have a “self care” playlist. It’s full of songs that give me a little boost but also allow me to feel my emotions. The songs range from a pop song from my teenage years that makes me want to dance to a country song that makes me want to cry. The playlist is already made and updated when I’m in a good mindset to give my future depressed self something easy to use as a mood boost.
Along those lines, I have a “busy box.” It’s an old shoe box filled with things to distract me in an effort to cope with a bad depression spell. It has pictures of my favorite people to remind me I’m loved and wanted. It has a luxurious face mask and some bath salts to pamper myself. There’s a book, magazine, Play-Doh, a list of things I love about myself and cards that friends and family sent me. Also, I have a bottle of tea tree oil. For some reason that smell helps ease my anxiety (other people say lavender helps them).
If I’m in a place where it’s OK for me to sit inside alone, I’ll watch a few episodes of my favorite TV shows. Season 3, episode 10 of Parks and Recreation (“Soulmates,” where Leslie and Tom match on an online dating site) is always a go-to. Others include season 5 episode 14 of The Office (“Stress Relief, Part 1,” where Dwight arranges a fire drill and things don’t go as planned) and season 10, episode 2 of Friends (“The one where Ross is fine,” where Ross says he’s fine with Rachel and Joey dating, but clearly isn’t.)
If all else fails, I almost always feel better after a hot shower. Depression makes it hard to do everyday tasks, so even just getting out of bed and putting on clean clothes can help me.
On a separate note, I’ve been blown away with all of the kind messages and comments I received in response to my last column. Thank you, and I hope you all continue to speak out about these issues. If you have an idea for an article related to mental health, please contact me at 814-274-2240.