The Care and Feeding of Your Self: A Troubleshooter’s Guide with FAQ

December 29, 2013

I’m working on a troubleshooting guide for my mental states and any emergencies that might come up. So far, the FAQ contains questions such as:

1. “I’m panicking. How do I stop?
2. “Help! I don’t know what to do in this situation!
3. “I’ve done something really stupid and I’m going to be in trouble and people are going to be disappointed/unhappy/angry. Help!
4. “My days have gone all haywire- I’m sleeping crazy hours, not eating often, spending a long time sunken into my head, stories, sleep or the internet at the expense of my other patterns, and when I’m out of it I’m half-hearted and groggy and fitfully passive. How do I restructure my habits?

I’m really enjoying sorting this out, at the moment. It’s analytical, systematic, psychological problem-solving tailored to my own mental landscape- arguably the subject I know best- prepared while I’m mentally coherent, so I can walk myself through issues when I don’t have the capacity to handle either them or logical thinking.

It’s not a new concept, by any shot- it’s a lot like those medical ID wristbands some people wear, so that when you’re going into anaphylactic shock or an epileptic fit or whatever makes you incapable of communicating, medical staff can figure out this is happening because you’re diabetic or epileptic or deathly allergic to peanuts and thus really need an EpiPen right now, or CPR, or a defibrillator. Only of course, in this circumstance the person you’re giving details to and walking through your emergency recovery/stabilisation treatment is yourself.

It’s not even a new concept in the psychological issues arena. For one thing, the internet is full of suggestions on the Preparation for Emergencies/Disasters/Bad Days front- coping banks where you pre-fill jars with healthy coping alternatives when the wallpaper is being particularly nasty and you’re having problems remembering what sanity looks like, plus lists of grounding techniques, comfort boxes, panic and anxiety workbooks (all found here on this lovely master list, thank you Esther). There’s also friendly advice-givers like Boggle the Owl and the calming manatee to read, both rather soothing on a bad day (Boggle especially).

<3

Boggle is worried about you! Boggle is also an owl.

 

And on the medical front, one of the many ‘how to handle depression/anxiety/whatever’ pamphlets I picked up once had a list at the back of questions to answer and put in a safe place, for when you needed it, either to show someone else or walk yourself through, to give yourself some measure of control in a difficult state. Things like what makes you feel safe? (e.g. being with trusted people, or being in the physical presence of books) and what are some things that make you feel unsafe? What are some things that may trigger this state? and what soothes you?, or what are some warning signs that you are approaching a bad place? or even when you are feeling bad, what are things you will need help with? (e.g. please bring me cups of tea and make me eat because I won’t even have the emotional energy to get out of bed).

This is just a more comprehensive version of that, and tailored very specifically to my issues. This way I get to walk myself step-by-step through deconstructing what’s going on, why this is happening and options for dealing with why this is happening, equipping myself with backstory, pertinent details and ways to navigate the situation when I’m not in a place where I can remember how to. It gives me back a measure of control, some clarity, something to get my bearings with in a difficult landscape. It’s really a whole lot like handing myself a very detailed map and a torch for the next time I get lost.* Or an instruction manual. Or a mission briefing.

 

… I’m just imagining myself as a spy dropped in hostile territory with a packet of top-secret instructions, now. It actually kinda works as a metaphor.

 

 

 

*(Bonus benefit: the process of making this very detailed map means that I’m exploring the landscape in the first place, which is definitely another way of solving the problem while you’re in it. See the first paragraph, last question.)
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