For the Q: What are my coping skills?

When I was a kid and growing up, I often seemed to almost drown in this question. They’ll ask you in therapy or hospitals, “What are your coping skills?” “How do you cope?” and for me, the answers were ambiguous and nearly unreachable.

“I write,” I’d say, “but it hurts to write. I love art, but art hurts.”

I focused on this one subject so much: Something I value above most other things–creative expression–and how much it hurts to commit to but how much it hurts not to. Art and I have always had a tumultuous relationship. It has saved a lot of people, but truthfully it has only complicated and added weight to my life. It’s okay. I love it. And I feel great sacrifice often comes with great commitments.

So what are my coping skills? Some hospitals will give you print-outs of suggestions that I often found sometimes silly or counterintuitive–holding ice cubes in your hand or snapping rubber bands against your wrist, (which in itself is still self-harm.) I’ve known from an early age that different things work for different people, but nothing seemed to work at me.

I cried a lot. I still cry a lot. Many times it’s worse than crying. It’s that shrieking that accompanies a lot of internal violence and darkness, throwing oneself at a wall and the floor. But crying doesn’t help much, either. In fact it literally physically hurts and ties me too tightly with my pain.

But I have become much more self aware since I was 7, 12, 15, et cetera and have realized I’ve had a really high standard for coping skills. Many people, even professionals, like to act as if coping skills are “it.” They’re “survival things;” “things that make you feel better.” I didn’t really understand this concept, because I felt nothing really helped and that I’d just have to wade the pain out.

Then I started looking at three major elements:

1.) What are my instinctual responses to negative feelings and/or situations and why?
2.) What is something healthful I should try? and probably most helpfully:
3.) Is what I’m doing now something that will bring negative repercussions?

I struggled with self-hatred for a long time and still sometimes do–or, nowadays, low self-worth I guess. Self-hatred is something I feel I had to absolutely shut down some years ago, and I’ve worked really hard to do that. But, speaking of it then, many of my urges to were to act on negative or harmful behaviors that more often than not had negative consequences and added more stress. E.g. although self-harm made me feel calmer, it was something I was obligated to report to my doctor or my mother would see it or I’d have to wear long sleeves in summer to cover it up or et cetera, and truthfully, just pragmatically, it was more trouble than it was worth.

Let’s look at #2 now. We’ve more or less covered #1 and #3, so two is, again: “What is something healthful I should try?” Trying is a key thing in not just therapy but progress and development. It’s important–always–to keep going and to keep trying. If something doesn’t work, then it doesn’t work. Move on. Go to something new, something healthful and helpful. I prefer coping skills that work things “out.” They’re rare. I don’t count “venting” because honestly, for me, talking about the thing directly sometimes stresses me out further. And as I’ve said, writing’s not tremendously healthy for me in these situations.

There is something about art I didn’t factor in though–until I tried painting with an OSP (Open Studio Process) therapist. More on the process itself later, but painting was something I had never truly done much of. But when I tried it–awesome. I was 19 and in this therapy session, I was basically asked to use any colors I felt I “jived” with and paint anything I “felt” like painting. OSP helped me to be non-critical of myself and considering it is not a major art of mine, I quickly unlearned the pressure to be good. I bought some acrylic paints, cheap canvasses, cheap brushes, and then realized how freeing it was to paint with my hands. I further connected to the canvas and to my “inner eye” and now in hard times, it is my best coping skill. I can use it to express the pain, to work some of it out. It’s creative, which is something I appreciate and flourish with. So it’s great. And things that have come into play also have been warm showers, although with body image and PTSD that has taken a while to develop into a coping skill; taking walks; adding things to a “beautiful things” list which I suppose is my equivalent of a gratitude journal, etc.

Many of the people I have talked to in the past have gone right along with my old mindset and have said, “Well, nothing works.” But I’ve learned: something’s gotta work. Something. And it doesn’t always have to carry negativity with it. Something positive has got to work. But you have to keep trying and thinking outside the box. With depression, it’s something that is often very hard to do. But you’ll find something if you keep trying. It’s not as unreachable as you might think it is!


Quick thought tip!

Yesterday was hard for me. I had a lot of bad crashes and cried a lot. Today I was faring better until some intrusive negative thoughts began and started me on a downward spiral again–but then I stopped that spiral, crumpled it up, and threw it away.

It takes a lot of practice to manage your thinking, especially since most of our thoughts are automatic. And considering a single thought can change your entire mood and demeanor, that’s pretty scary and overwhelming. It can ruin your motivation and hope, and even when temporary, it’s still dangerous.

So let’s start fighting together today. I challenge you to try to be self-aware and for the love of all that is good in the world, routinely practice telling yourself:
“I am worthy of good things,”
“I get stronger every day,”
“I survive to make tomorrow better,” and possibly most importantly,
“I am more powerful and more significant than this negativity.”

If suffering from a mental illness–and truthfully, even if not–you are awesome for getting this far. Surviving is hard. I imagine it will always be hard for me, and it may be for you too. But we have a lot more control over our lives than we think.

So take it.

And make living better.

Love and strength to you always.



Intro (updated 08/04/2018)

How familiar are you with sleepless nights? I sometimes feel like they’re inside me already, waiting perched with their talons hooked into my heart. The nighttime birds open their eyes when I make the realization I may not sleep, and I soon find myself staring at the walls with the eyes of owls.

It is two hours until midnight, which might not sound late to you. It is for me. One conscious Vital Change I’ve made for myself is setting early “curfews.” I am more active by dawn than dusk, and that in itself took me almost two decades to learn.

While encouraging myself to sleep would be wiser, I will introduce myself instead. I am an INFJ. I love to read and find books to be great messengers of important perspectives. I love artistic expression, and I constantly break down with and fear the human experience. But it is something I try to cherish every day. The most important thing about me at this time in my life is that I am currently struggling with Complex Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and two physical illnesses: fibromyalgia and a working Dx of endometriosis. My C-PTSD (diagnosed as PTSD) has mimicked other disorders with additional symptoms throughout my life, but ultimately, PTSD is my only consistent diagnosis. I have been chronically suicidal for most of my life, which meant for me that every day was “my” day to die. Suicidal urges and suicidal thinking destroyed what little left I had of a childhood and adolescence. It was an obsession that took my life before I had the chance to. I’ve got quite an inpatient rapport and a lot of scars. But there are times now in which I feel hopeful and even excited for the future. Those times increase in duration and power all the time, and I am learning how to live my life.

I believe we create our own purposes. They don’t, in a big sense, “call” to us. We are drawn to them, but I strongly believe we have to act on them before we can establish them. I am a strong believer in experiences and development. There are always circumstances outside of us, but we control our own selves, and I believe that counts for more than people believe.

I have been in therapy for fifteen years now, in and out of hospitals and partial-hospitalization programs. It wasn’t until April 2016 that I realized what I want to do. I realized at that point that what I want to do with my life is what I want my life’s work to be: Making the world a better place for others and myself.

This blog will be a testament to that endeavor.

As I said, for fifteen years, I have been in/out of therapists’ offices, inpatient bedrooms, and partial classrooms. Very little worked for me. As a teen, I was angry and stubborn and the suicidality was too severe for me to imagine myself growing to adulthood. However, that doesn’t change the fact that a lot of the worksheets and quotes and recycled ideas that were given to me would’ve not been of much use otherwise anyway. I’m picky and heavily a seeker of knowledge and more specifically of understanding; both a student and teacher. The field of psychology is terribly generalized, and people have to remember that every diagnosis belongs to a human being and not vice versa. But the mental healthcare field is so crowded with demand and gives too little in supply and it’s already complex enough that tailored therapies are not possible. So instead, you have CBT, DBT, etc. I find that for me, blends of therapies with a strong focus on CBT works best, and I’ve also found that the worksheets I design on my own are usually my best tools. So I want to share.

Everyone is different. Everyone experiences pain differently. So add this website as another resource, another safe place, if it helps, which it may not. (But try it!)

I am not a licensed therapist or psychiatrist. I’m the “coucher” in this situation who has lived lifetimes of madness. Proceed at your own pace and at your own risk. I will mark intense triggers if they come up and of course everyone has a different idea of “intense.” So please be aware of this.

I hope your day is enriching and positive. Sending love out to all, and may we share this incredible journey forward.