This weekend got me thinking about my negative copers.
It was a busy weekend; bowling on Friday, out with boyfriend and his mum on Saturday day, crafting props for photo shoot on Saturday eve, friend’s birthday party on Saturday night, and then shooting the whole day yesterday (nice 12 hour day). Over the last year I have slowly started closeting myself away, I don’t like going out much and am often too tired or anxious if I do go out. When I’m on my own I also have my own mind to contend with which makes me just as tired and anxious. So either way I use a lot of copers, mostly negative, and I’m trying to identify all of these and replace them. Luckily my hypnotherapist is helping me with this and I have 3 stays in state clinics which also gave me some alternatives. Putting them into practice however isn’t always easy as I get so caught up in my own head and often times the ‘voices’ of my mental illness are bloody stubborn. And because I disassociate I may also simply forget.
Anyway, I like lists so am going to list the negative copers I am aware of so far and then list the positive copers I am putting in place instead. Maybe, whoever reads this might find it helpful. It’s always interesting to look at how we cope with illness in our lives, be it mental or physical.
- Not eating. Makes me feel like I have control when all else feels like it’s spiralling out. Also fed up of IBS symptoms so put my foot down and said, “fine, body, if you will see all food as poison I will simply not feed you!”…means I have next to no IBS symptoms.
- Eating junk. This makes me feel out of control but unfortunately chocolate or other certain foods give a “high” and I tend to nibble junk when and if I do eat because of this. I am completely addicted to chocolate.
- Smoking. It’s weird but when my eating disordered mind takes over I often stop smoking. I don’t know why but am actually forcing myself to smoke at the moment. Maybe it’s just another form of self harm? It makes me feel like my body is dirty and toxic. Most of the time I don’t notice this but being hyper aware of what I am putting in my body makes me hyper aware of how poisonous smoking is.
- Hot water bottle. I didn’t even know this was self harming behaviour until I was banned from using my hot water bottle in the clinic. I use a hot water bottle to ease my IBS pain and also the hotness of it makes me feel…grounded? Safe? Definitely less anxious. I dunno. Anyway, I have burn marks all over my stomach and upper thighs. I also like my showers or baths scalding hot. It makes me FEEL my body, if that makes any sense.
- Staying inside. I don’t go out much, I avoid work, people, places. Most social situations make me super anxious. If things get a little busy work-wise I go into a complete flap and want to hide. Life in general scares the crap out of me to be honest. I like it safe and warm in bed with my laptop, or at my boyfriends place safe in his arms watching a movie.
- Being needy of those I am really close to. I rely too much upon my mum, gran, boyfriend and close friends (I only have like 3 really close friends anyway). When I feel panicked it’s almost like I turn into a little child and I compulsively message for reassurance that I will be okay. I tend to use these people as therapists and then scold and berate myself for doing so for ages afterwards.
- Picking at my skin. I scratch and pick at my skin. Recently, after being put on a new contraceptive pill to try combat the ovarian cyst pain, I broke out in acne. I am off this pill but my skin is still all bumpy and so I pick and scratch. My skin is a horrid mess. There is also a patch on my left thumb,, an old childhood scar, that becomes incredibly itchy when I’m stressed and I scratch at it mostly without even knowing I’m doing it till I see my thumb is all red and feels sore.
- OCD. This is obsessively washing my hands so that I don’t get sick (emetophobia). My hands are often very dry from all the washing. I hate dirt and germs. I also have little rituals that make me feel safer; eating my food in teeny bites, using a hot water bottle, avoiding certain places or foods. I’m not so bad that I count my steps or have to turn around 3 times before entering a room or anything, but it’s there and I will often feel stressed if I cannot do what I need to.
- Escaping through technology. Avoiding real life is easy when I can just hide behind my laptop, phone, or watch a movie/series. I don’t have to really face anyone or anything, and especially pc games (Sims is the BEST) or movies/series because then I don’t think about real life at all. In social situations I often sit on my phone to avoid talking as I either feel I have nothing of importance to contribute or I don’t want to hear about how functional everyone else is as it just reminds me how dysfunctional I am. Also having BPD makes it difficult because social norms are not obvious to me and I’ve often been called weird. I was bullied terribly in school for being weird, over emotional, ugly, etc. so I don’t really like human beings most of the time. I believe all people have this horrible side to them and eventually it comes out. My best friend of ten years recently abandoned me and hasn’t even given me a reason why she just stopped contacting me, and it’s not the first time this has happened. SO, I have issues and people don’t like issues and I get judged, so I never let people see too much of who I really am. Wow I’ve totally gone off on a tangent, lol. Next.
- Medication. I often get all sorts of meds prescribed and my favourite is Mitil. It’s an anti nausea pill that acts on the brain signals and in large doses is used to treat schizophrenia. I only take one for nausea but it also has calming properties. I also have sleeping tablets and anti anxiety meds which I only take when needed, but sometimes that need is simply one of pure exhaustion with the world and I just want to sleep. I only take them at night now though. I used to be horribly hooked on adco-alzam and even went home from work once or twice because it zonked me out so much. Oh, now though my mum has to keep the bulk of my medications due to an overdose situation in 2012 and so I don’t abuse them.
That’s what I can think of. A lot of my copers are self-harming type things. I used to be a cutter but the last time I cut was in 2012 and I ended up with stitches plus I still have the awful scars from years of cutting before that. I started when I was 14 so my arms are pretty messy and it keeps me from the temptation of doing it again. Perhaps this is why I have developed all these other copers.
Positive replacement copers:
- The Elastic Band. When I was in the clinic in 2012 I did DBT (Dialectical Behavioural Therapy) for the first time and the one thing that always stuck with me was the elastic band coper. Instead of self harming with cutting etc. we were told to wear one elastic band around our wrist or on both wrists, whenever we felt incredibly overwhelmed or felt like self harming we could sit and snap the elastic band. It sounds so silly and simple but it works. Obviously don’t go putting tons of elastics on and snapping till your arms are raw because that kind of defeats the purpose. I was a heavy cutter and I found just snapping the one elastic really helped me.
- Mindfulness. Most people will say breathe in for 4, hold for 4, breathe out for 4, or something along those lines. Whilst this is helpful I often find my mind wandering whilst I count. Anxiety comes from not living in the present moment so mindfulness helps bring you fully into the NOW. Focus on your natural breathing and how it feels: the temperature, how it feels going in and out of your lungs, can you feel it go all the way down, did you breathe longer that time and shorter the next, etc. Just focus on each sensation and focus on your natural rhythm, don’t try control it.
- The STOP method. My hypnotherapist taught me this last Monday and it really works! We all have those negative thoughts and the more we have them the more our brain accepts them as the truth. So the trick to this is, when you find yourself running through one of those monologues of negative thoughts (I am not good enough/I hate myself/I am fat/omg I am going to die [panic attack], etc.) all you do is say STOP (I say it in my head so I don’t look like a total loon) and then say: “It isn’t true because…” and then say something stupidly obvious like “STOP. It’s not true because I am wearing shoes.” The reasoning behind this is that the brain cannot deny you are wearing shoes and so the rewiring process begins. Instead of accepting the negative thought your brain accepts the more obvious truthful statement. It’s genius. I’ve done “because I am…driving a car/holding a mug/wearing glasses/standing naked in the shower/washing the dishes.” and so many more. You can even make it silly so that you have a little laugh, I often find myself chuckling at the silly but very obvious statements I come up with.
- EFT/Emotional Freedom Technique. I’m not going to explain this one as it is a long process but look it up on google, watch some Youtube vids. It’s pretty cool and when my hypnotherapist did it it worked amazingly. I am still battling to do this one on my own though and then I get anxious because it isn’t working and berate myself for not being able to do it, lol.
- Exercise. I hope you sighed as much as I did when I heard this…AGAIN. I hate exercise most of the time, modern exercise generally consists of a gym or other boring, monotonous things like cycling, hiking, whatever. I enjoy things that are fun or dual purpose like yoga, dancing, tai chi. Recently however I have had the urge to go running, like just full on freedom of running. Perhaps it’s because I am in a 24/7 sate of fight or flight but it’s never appealed to me more than it does now. You need some kind of exercise to get rid of all the adrenaline if you suffer from anxiety and also we’ve all heard a gazillion times about the endorphins and health benefits and blah blah blah. Even just go for a little walk or do star jumps in your lounge. Anyway, I plan on taking up running. Although it’ll definitely only be very fast walking at first. Watch this space because if I can do it, anyone can!
- Writing. It’s not for everyone but writing has always been my outlet. I wrote my first song at the age of about 12 and since then have written poetry, short stories, books and books of diary entries, sheets of paper with random words, blogs, I even tried my hand at a short novel when I was 15. Writing it all down gets it out of my head and helps me make sense of stuff. At the moment I have only been writing in my diary/journal and I don’t put pressure on myself to write in it either. I’ve had the same journal for 2 years and I only write when I want to or feel the need to. I sometimes get so depressed or anxious that I don’t want to write and if that is the case I sometimes just try write a little, a bit like starting this blog. It’s to get me to do something I enjoy and to get me out of my head.
- Being creative. I am incredibly creative and if I am not being creative I actually get more depressed. However the more depressed I get the less I want to do, so as above, sometimes I have to push myself to get started but once I do I lose myself in whatever I am creating and normally hours later I look up and realise I feel a bit better and I’ve kept myself busy and productive for so long without even realising. I paint, sketch, craft, create, crochet, knit, sing, play keyboard, whatever helps me release the pent up energy.
Okay, that’s all I’ve got for now. I’m still very much a work in progress but every day I practice at least one if not two of these. At the moment they are in conjunction with the negative copers but I am hoping to fade those out completely one day. My biggest issue is food and I don’t have any positive copers for that. Short of force feeding me again I don’t know how I am going to fix it. I am hoping that as other things fall in to place so will my eating. Hope is all that’s keeping me going right now one day at a time.