12 September 2017

Escapism isn't necessarily bad, mmkay?

I would like to take a moment to talk about mental health.

Regardless if you suffer from mental illness (like yours truly), or if you don't, we ALL need to take a moment (or few) to have some down time.  There is absolutely nothing wrong with saying, "I'm not going to people today.  No, today I am going to cat (or whatever animal floats your boat, I just happen to choose cat because with my own experience with my cats, they tend to just laze about all day, staring off into space, napping, eating, more staring off into space....)."  My partner likes to unwind by playing video games or reading funny stuff aloud to me from a group he's a member on for Veterans and Active Duty Military.  I love the stuff he shares because of the fact that a) it's beyond funny, and b) having been around a number of military personnel in my life, I do understand most of the humour.  There's been a tiny handful of times I've needed him to clarify a comment or story, but that's it.  :)  He's also an avid reader like myself.

Now, for me, personally, being a writer I like to do things that afford me a level of escape.  Being overly-sensitive and prone to panic attacks and the like, I cannot handle being over-stimulated because that's when one of two things happens.  Either I a) Lash out, or b) break down into a crying fit that takes a good while to come out of.  Trust me, lashing out tends to be the more common of the two.  If you see me crying (and I am more a 'sufferer in silence' type), then that's when you know things just got real in a hurry.

I was clearing out my e-mail the other night, and I noticed I'd received a few from Pinterest (yeah....  Shawn may or may not have an intervention coming up for me about that website... I may be a TINY bit addicted....), those 'hey, we thought you'd like these pins, Rea!  Check 'em out!'  I saw this one about self-care that caught my attention.  It was about something to do with an emergency care box.  I open the pin, and this beautiful article from someone's Tumblr post came up.  I start reading, and I'm instantly blown away by the cleverness of this.  Why had I not done something like this AGES ago for myself?  Good grief, this could've saved me a LOT of troubles that were thrown in my path!  Well, that's alright, that was then, this is now.  Now I am wised up to this beautiful thing, and you KNOW I had to put one together for myself.

Even though yes, I do have pets, and yes, most of the time I'm only in the company of my partner and our pets, and we don't have visitors very often (and this is more than fine by me, because people are exhausting, and some just downright SUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUCK), life can get a bit.... difficult for me.  I have what's called Complex Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, or C-PTSD.  Translation:  My brain functions like an onion (or an artichoke, if you will), and each layer has its own set of ........ difficulties.  It just depends on which layer (or ruffle ha ha) you mess with, depends on my reaction.  Most of the time, I can (and do) shake things off pretty well, but there are certain times when the right sequence of emotional buttons are pressed that I have trouble.  BIG trouble.

I want to clarify something right quick, in case the barrage of questions begins to flood my e-mail in-box: Yes, I'm aggressively working on this with my treatment team.  Yes, I'm aggressively working through my treatment plan of taking medications as I'm supposed to, talking things out with my counselour (because I rarely talk about things with much else beyond her or my partner, and even then, I have to REALLY trust someone to do that, and I really don't trust too many people outside of those two individuals).  Yes, I am working on keeping myself afloat as best I can (and so far, have been pretty damn successful with it!), but sometimes medication and talking only just go so far.  Sometimes, a girl's gotta have a bit of personal time (no, not like that, shush!) to get her head back on right.  So, tonight, I decided yes, this needs to be a thing I need to put together for myself.  There are a couple things I need to still add, of course, but those going to have to wait until I get a few bucks to pick them up from the store.  In the meantime, though, I've got the bulk of things put the way I want, and I'm going to work on putting together a 'travel' one for when I have to endure being out and about with other humans.  You know, in the real world.  Beyond my four walls and habitat.  NOOOOO!!!  Just kidding.  Kinda.  Not really.

At any rate, here's what I've come up with!  

Now, I want to be clear:  your kit doesn't have to be anything big or fancy.  Mine just happens to be in a plastic tote I had laying around because I refuse to use a cardboard box.  The tote size I used is one of those 28qt boxes, the kind that slides under a bed.  I have two of them, one I was using for my Wii equipment and one that's empty.  Figured it couldn't hurt to put it to good use!

Inside, there's a whole mess of random things that I found would keep me back here on Planet Earth, and not off in The Outer Reaches of "What the Hell is Going On!"  

Each kit is going to be different.  I mean, no two people are EXACTLY IDENTICAL in what does and does not work to soothe them and make them feel better again.  What may be true for me to work may not necessarily work for someone else.  What may work for Joe Snuffy down the road may not work for Jimbob Stevens at the local library.  You see what I'm saying?  Personally, I'm a very kinesthetic type person.  I'm also a very visual person.  I'm quite in touch (sometimes a little TOO in touch) with my senses (sight, smell, taste, touch, hearing, you get the point........).  There are a few people I read about this kit thing, what they did with theirs, and I figured there's no real wrong way to do this.  You can tailor it to you.  

So, here's what I did for mine.  Each item has a specific purpose.

Now, when you open the lid and flip it over, there's names and numbers of people I've called my Tribe.  These are people outside of Shawn that I feel most comfortable speaking with and I know can ground me again.  These individuals aren't the type to coddle me (ew ew ew), sugarcoat their words (seriously, I HATE that!), or give some bullshit clingy sentiment of "hugs!!" every other sentence (GAG!!!!!).  If I want a hug, I will ask for one, do not force it on me.  I am not two.  Now,  in this photo, you can't see whose numbers I scrawled in the underside, because I have blackened them out.  This is simply because you don't need to know all that.  I will say that there is the mental health number that I've been relying on for many years now, as well as my counselour's number, as well as a select few people as previously stated, are my Tribe.  My recommendation to you, if you plan on having a list of phone numbers outside your obvious medical treatment people, is making sure to pre-coordinate with your chosen individuals BEFORE a crisis is needing to be intervened, so they know you're going to probably tap them on the shoulder and say, "I need you."  This way both you and your chosen person(s) know what's what.  

In the top of the box, there's a soft blanket (for cuddles with my dog, because she's my companion, my soul mate, my support when words are too much and all I want and need in that moment is floppy ears and a bunch of slobbery kisses.  She knows how to look out for her Mommy!).

Removing the blanket, you will encounter a bunch of random little things that I've tossed in for soothing mechanisms, distraction tools, reminders, and tactile things for when I need physically reminded when and where and what and how and why.  Totally planning on getting some Dove chocolate, but that's expensive and Mama ain't made of money (totally reminds me, I need to share how I got out-logic'ed by a 6-year-old yesterday! I'll share that in my next post. It's pretty funny).  Ha.  So that's going to be stored in here for 'in case of emergency ONLY' type thing.  ;)  

Picking the items out of the box, there are some really important (to me) items that I didn't dare exclude.  One of such items is a journal that my fellow Journal Clubbers made for me and sent me from all the way in England!  My theme I chose was 'self-care' and these wonderful friends put together quotes, encouragement notes in tiny envelopes, pictures, all sorts of amazing things to look through when I need some 'me' time.  There's also this sort of a handbook, I guess, that I received during my last hospital stay (thankfully which was almost 5 years ago, I've not had to go back since then, so I must be doing SOMETHING right, right?).  

I also tossed in a few bits for the senses of taste, scent, and some stuff to make me feel a little more relaxed and myself again:

A Rosary that a friend of mine gave me (psst! She's also the nice lady that gave me the soft blanket I included in my kit…. My dog sorta claimed it for hers, so I'm merely...borrowing it back. Ha.)

The metal tin I keep the Rosary beads in when I'm not using them

My Pieta prayer book

A miniature stuffie of the dog, Buddy, from The Secret Life of Pets.  My favourite munchkins gave it to me because they said it reminded them of Emily and they wanted me to have it.

A self-care manual I made about a year ago

A journal for writing that Shawn gave me

A journal with parchment pages in it that Shawn got me for my 40th birthday (he'd bought me two, one's going to be for the at-home kit, one's for the 'travel' kit), I use these for doodling.

Copies of three of my favourite sermons from my old Church, Pastor Torry did, and the messages got me right where my hurt was the most guarded.  Only downside to these is I'd have to use my laptop to listen to them.  Note to self:  Get a portable CD player.  Ha.  I've not owned one of those in a hot minute!  haha

A handmade sugar scrub and mask that my friend down in Oklahoma made and sent me, also some of her handmade vanilla lotion

A handmade lavender lotion stick my Mom sent me

Yellow hair scrunchie for my hair.  I HATE having my hair on my neck (my hair, for the curious, is down to my waist. This is the longest it's been in about 32 years. While yes, I love having long hair again, on the same token, it's a right pain in the ass on the upkeep!), especially when I'm already aggravated, to begin with.  I've got a small horde of these in the bathroom, but I chose yellow for two reasons:  1) I figure pastel yellow is calming-ish without being institutional. 2) I don't wear this one very often, b/c I just....do.  :)  Might as well give it a purpose, right?

Some Salonpas patches ( I mean, when one's had a serious crying fit or panic attack, one tends to get a headache because one's blood pressure has skyrocketed!)

Hand lotion that's vanilla-scented (okay, I know y'all are noticing a theme here... I love vanilla!)

A Zentangle book

A package of tissues (to mop up tears and snot lol) cleverly packaged with Spiderman on the wrapper, because Spiderman reminds me that though I may PHYSICALLY be limited, my IMAGINATION ISN'T!

A box of salted caramel tea (because salted caramel is of course amazing)

A small tin of cinnamon Altoids (SO good)

A fidget spinner

A squishy ship (like a stress ball, but it's a ship!)

A vanilla candle (which I've got a lighter here somewhere, but I didn't want to stash it in the box, in case it's needed elsewhere!)

Stickers - because when I'm having to carefully peel back the sticker off its backing, it gives me a reason to focus on something other than the brain monsters trying to beat me down.

A mood ring (I bought this thing from Avon about 5 1/2 years ago.  Its stone is in the shape of a heart, and it's really heavy.  I was also tickled to find that I still have the paper that has the colour codes for it!)

My two favourite pens and a package of multicoloured pens from my favourite brand of pens

A cat's collar (it smells like some sort of spice I can't quite identify, but it was on one of the cats that I'd had a hand in rescuing not long ago, so this is to remind me that I'm needed beyond just the usual humans bugging me for their mundane bullshit.  There are defenseless creatures out there I was called to help!)

A teddy bear a friend of mine gave me (he's my favourite colour) for when Emily has decided she's no longer going to slobber up my nose (yes, seriously) and has moved on to cuddling with me under the blanket

A few favourite quotes to remind me that I'm not the weird (negative) person my brain monsters insist I am

A small smooth stone that has the word 'FAITH' engraved on one side

Some colouring pages

A speaker to plug into my phone and turn on some relaxing music on my Spotify app

On the outside of the container, on the sides and even the bottom, I decided to write some stuff to just kind of jazz up the outer sides, as a way to not only make it MINE, but to also add a few additional reminders when I need them.

For example, "YOU ARE SAFE!" Sometimes, I don't feel safe.  This is largely when my C-PTSD is triggered (and I'm still learning what those buttons are so as to be able to put up caution signs).  

"YOU ARE HERE!"  Just a reminder to focus on the here and now.  Live in the moment, so to speak.

"YOU ARE WORTHY!"  Growing up in the household I did, I was CONSTANTLY told that I really wasn't going to amount to much because I was 'ugly' and 'fat' and 'no one's going to want someone who looks like you!'  This statement, right here, is probably the HARDEST one for me.  I need this glaringly obvious statement in my face for when I want to argue and deny my worthiness for anything better than ridicule and scorn.

You ever have those days when you feel like NO ONE cares?  Like not even the bacteria in the air gives a shit about you?  Yeah, welcome to my world 85% of the time.  LOL  Yes, seriously.  Most of the time, I know better, but there are those moments when I question if even my own shadow cares about me.  This is another glaringly obvious reminder for myself to show me that, "Yo, bonehead, YES, YOU ARE LOVED!"

"YOU ARE WANTED, YOU ARE NEEDED, YOU BELONG!"  This is scrawled on the bottom of the container.  I need to be reminded that I'm not an imposition, I'm not in the way.  Again, not something I was told growing up, that I belong.  I was always made to feel like an outsider (and I still feel that way, pretty much all the time, I guess that's why I am happiest alone with my pets and my books most of the time because at least then I know I'm not bothering anyone).  It's hard for me to openly admit this (yay for raw honesty for the third time in less than 24 hours!  GO ME!), but I do have a hard time relating to people.  Regadless of the topic.  Some topics are harder than others, sure, as I'm sure people do face from time to time and this is normal human experience.  HOWEVER.  It is especially hard when I'm standing there talking to someone about something that I know I can relate to them on some level, some sort of commonality, but I always have that voice screeching in the back of my head, spewing sentiments otherwise.  It's very frustrating.

So, that's pretty much it for my emergency downtime kit.  I hope you are able to read this and find some inspiration for putting one together for your own personal use.  I'm going to be getting one together, like I mentioned earlier, for when I have to be out and about, but I've basically (sorta) got that one already started.  It's just going to be little stuff like a portable charger, a book (or couple), some pens, a blank notebook, my bullet journal, that sort of thing.

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