Coping skills for living with a mental illness varies so much from person to person. So I’m just going to focus on my positive coping skills and what helps me when I’m struggling.
Art is something that I have always been passionate about. Whether it’s drawing, painting, writing stories or poetry. I love anything that involves creativity. When I was first put into hospital a few years ago I was in an extremely bad place. I couldn’t talk to people without my entire body shaking or feeling like my heart was about to explode out of my chest. Eye contact was even difficult in the beginning. So I kept myself to myself generally in the corner of the same room. I began to watch the other patients drawing and sketching and it instantly made me want to do it too. I got myself a set of pencils and a sketch pad and began to draw and write poetry. I kept my art very private as I was convinced it was all shit.
But it allowed me to escape.
It allowed me to leave and get away without having to physically disappear. I craved it! It seemed to give me some joy and purpose (no matter how small in the beginning).
Now I still draw and write a lot. I even show some people. But when I have my dark times it takes so much effort to even get out of bed let alone plan time to sit and be creative but I know it is one of the few things that help. So I force myself. Sometimes it takes an hour or more of talking myself into it but I do it because I need it! I’ve since got other friends who have mental issues into drawing, painting and writing and they agree it does help hugely!
One thing to remember about art is that you don’t have to show anyone and it can be anything that you want it to be. As long as it helps you that’s all that matters.
Another positive coping skill for me would be talking.
Yes as simple as that, talking.
Now again I fully understand how terrifyingly difficult it is to talk to anyone when you have a mental health issue. Especially when you are experiencing a dark episode. I have only just, in the last 9 months starting doing it myself. And not even properly at first but now a lot of the time you can’t shut me up!
I know I’m stating the obvious but just so we’re on the same page, when I say talking I don’t mean about the weather or Eastenders!
Talk about YOU!
When someone asks how are you? Be honest! I’m here to say that I have always been the worlds worst at this. “I’m fine thanks” became my safety blanket. Regardless of how much pain I was in or how much I was struggling “I’m fine” was all I would ever say. I did this for a few reasons but mainly because I didn’t want to bother people. I didn’t want to drag them down or be a burden. But I have learnt that the people who love you will never think this. I have since been told by friends that, they ask how I am for a reason – they want to know!! They don’t want to be lied to. They want to help. Now my ‘ill’ brain would then fight back “Yeah right they are just saying that to be nice. They don’t really care.” It takes super human strength to fight against these thoughts but do it. Try it. Say “You know what I’m really struggling today” you might very well be surprised by the response.
Another positive coping skill I find helpful is time for me. ‘Me’ time can be anything from a bath, a walk, reading a book, painting my nails or even something simple like having a cup of tea and something to eat. I,m not talking hours and hours here. It can be as little as 15 minutes. Out of all of my coping skills this is always the most difficult for me to carry out.
Depending on what kind of mood I am in depends how inventive I am when it comes to ‘Me’ time. When I was very ill ‘Me’ time was non existent. I was convinced I was a selfish cow by already being ill so how could I possible then start spending more time concentrating on me!
I had many an argument with Psychiatrists and therapists about this and to be honest it’s still something I do battle with. I have to give myself a good talking too but I remember something my friends and husband said to me “How can you look after your little boy if you’re not looking after yourself” and they are right. My little boy has been and will always be my number 1 priority. But if I’m I’m exhausted and run down with little or no energy, how can I possibly look after him well enough?
Another few things I know I have found useful and other friends of mine have too;
* Colouring books – I LOVE these and have a big collection!
* Reading – I am with OBSESSED with reading! I love how they take you to another place or even world!
* Writing a diary/journal – Bullet journal, daily or weekly diary entries the possibilities are endless
* Volunteering – I used to volunteer at a dog and cat re-homing centre – it was so rewarding.
* Playing sport – I used be a dancer and have recently started to get back into Ballet.
* Keeping fit – This is one I do need to careful with, as too much can lead to a slippery slope but all in all keeping fit and healthy is proven to help with mild depression.
* Gardening – I don’t personally do gardening but I have several friends who love it and it has definitely helped them through their recovery.
The ideas are endless but you need to what is right for you. Even if your first step is a cup of tea and a flick through a magazine. It’s the first step in the right direction and that’s what’s important.
Now believe me those bad thoughts/episodes still rear there ugly heads but it just means I can handle them slightly better.
Stay strong and keep fighting.
Lots of love