(Quick! Take a 4-question quiz to let me know how you feel!)
It starts out scary and uncomfortable. I didn’t want to go to the psychiatric hospital. I didn’t want to be there. I was already suicidal, and here I was voluntarily giving up every comforting thing I had in my life: people, places, and things, in order to commit myself to not dying.
Fuck. I should have killed myself, this is going to be unbearable. My soul is on fire and we haven’t even completed the intake interview. Yes, I am suicidal. Yes, I do have a plan. No, I’m not on any medication. Please make my mother my emergency contact. Yes, I understand that I will not be released until the doctor determines that I am no longer in danger.
I’m on the ward itself, and I hurt all over. I’m in a mixed-state episode: irritable, hopeless, suicidal, full of energy, thoughts racing, sad beyond measure. I’ve never felt these things before; it’s one of my first mixed state episodes and I have zero in terms of coping skills, as well as zero self-knowledge of what is happening to me. I pace the hallway for a while, splash my face in the bathroom, spy at other patients from my bedroom door, lay on the bed, try to read a book my mom brought for me. My soul is still on fire.
I’ve been here for three hours, and I’m in agony. I can’t take one more minute of this. I have to get out. NOW. I take my phone charger, tie it as tight as I can around my neck, making sure I can’t breathe, get up on a chair next to the tall bathroom door and wrap the other end of the charger around the hinge. I kick the chair out from under me. Continue reading
This article is by a guest writer, Katrina Greenawalt, who has been trained informally in mindful traditions. For those of you who want to delve deeper into mindfulness, this article is a wonderful place to start your journey. I cannot stress this enough: this kind of thinking has saved and continues to save my life.
By Katrina Greenawalt
Ok. So, mindfulness: I’m supposed to focus on “the now.” I’m supposed to focus on “the now” so that I can get more out of my life, be stress-free and see the beauty all around me- and all that is happening in “the now.” Ok, let’s give it a try: so, right now I’m getting ready for work. I’m about to heat up some water so I can make some tea, then I’m going to grab some cereal and pop a couple of waffles into the toaster and- wait. Does this count? I mean, am I being mindful? I haven’t technically grabbed the cereal or waffles yet. I’ve just barely poured the water for my tea and I’m headed to the microwave now. That’s really close to the present moment though. I mean, I can’t literally stay focused on the very second I’m in. How would I know where I was going in the next second and the second after that? How would I plan my day? Pay my bills? That doesn’t sound less stressful. That sounds like it just doesn’t make any sense. Wait. Dangit. I’m supposed to be focusing on “the now” and I’ve already grabbed the cereal and I don’t even remember pouring the milk!
“You only lose that which you cling to”
I’m not ordained. I’m not even formally trained but when I was 8 years old I Continue reading
I’ve learned a few small, quick actions that help me during extreme anxiety, panic attacks, and episodes. They don’t cure, but they help.
- Splash your face. Cold water on your face jolts your system and tries to reset your body to a calmer mode. It also gives you a chance to be by yourself for a minute if you’re in a public situation and need to calm down.
- Take a mindful shower. Trying to tap into the reality of the present moment is the most powerful tool (outside of medicine and professional help) that I’ve found so far. Finding the present moment is an ancient Buddhist practice that western civilization has appropriated and renamed “mindfulness”. To take a mindful shower, do everything in slow motion and take time to notice everything you see, smell, and feel. Do not rush. Try to be as aware as you can that you are in a moment that leads into the next moment, and the next after that. In those present moments in your shower, the water is a certain temperature and it’s falling onto your skin. Your skin is soft and soapy. The soap has a pleasant smell. You are in the forward flow of time. The moment really can be enough to inspire wonder and ease anxiety.
- Read. If your mind is racing, reading will slow you down to one word at a time. This doesn’t always work for me, but if I’m manic I at least try reading before writing it off. When I’m manic I’m soaking up information at half the speed of light, and I’m actually pretty easily engrossed in whatever I read, even though most of the time I can’t concentrate well enough to read for long.
- Fidget toys. Play dough, dice, rubber bands, and anything small and tactile is good for fidgeting. Having something to do with your hands helps ease anxiety. My favorite fidget toy is called a Tangle, and you can find one here.
- Coloring. I had a friend recommend coloring to me, and I immediately wrote it off as childish and boring. I may have been right about childish, but coloring is very calming, and I’m not above doing something childish to make myself feel better. I recommend buying an adult coloring book and some nice colored pencils, just to have this tool in your arsenal.
Anything that can help me lessen the pain caused by bipolar I will try. I wholeheartedly encourage you to try lots of tactics to help ease your anxiety or pain, and when you find something that helps, keep that thing in mind the next time you feel bad. You are going to be the most help to you.
By Emily Harrington, The Goldfish Painter
I am not a doctor or any sort of mental health professional. I am a psychiatric patient with multiple mental illnesses that I have survived for 12 years now. My secondhand knowledge comes from doctors, psychologists, therapists, books, college courses in psychology, and the internet. My firsthand knowledge comes from the feelings, experiences, thoughts, symptoms, problems, and solutions that I have lived through. I know myself well, but again, I am not a professional. The information on this site is not a replacement for getting an actual diagnosis or professional help. Coping skills are fantastic, and I hope you learn some here and that they help you, but please seek and continue real medical treatment if you are struggling with mental illness. I wish you the best. You can do hard things.