A little bit of background. I have been through decades of various therapies; learning what works and what doesn't and gathering tools to improve my quality of life.
I had a list of coping skills.
I had a list of social support people.
I had a safety plan.
I have used them all before, to varying levels of success. I was prepared and ready for whatever life dealt me...
or so I thought.
A couple weeks ago I pushed my limits to accomplish some things I thought were important, planning downtime to recover after. I came home to news that my disability was denied after I thought it was about to go through just in time to save me from becoming homeless. It triggered panic attacks, some PTSD issues, various anxiety disorders I have, and I started having some symptoms of depression.
So I noted all the red flags, and went through my coping skills. And I tried to do what needed done and make a new plan. My therapist was out of town, but I would see her next week. I just had to be careful.
The next day, my son contacted me. with happy but stressful and shocking news. The baby they were expecting is actually identical twins. Cue worry, fear, along with joy.
And then he let me know that an old friend lost his battle with depression and took his own life.
My world tilted.
It was just too much. Within a few hours I knew I was in big trouble. I pulled out my safety plan.
I called the first person on my list to find the number no longer in service. I later realized I hadn't updated it when she got her new phone. I called the second person- straight to voice mail. Waited an hour, again straight to voice mail. I found out later she hadn't been able to pay her phone bill and it had been turned off the day before. I called the third, and due to her current circumstances, she ended up saying the wrong things and invalidating me and then dumped her own problems on me. I cried.
Trying to get a grip on myself, I went through the rest of my safety plan. What I found was that I hadn't updated it in a while. A lot of my go-to soothers were having to do with my companion pet, Missybaby, who passed away this past spring. Just reading them brought a fresh wash of grief over her.
Another section was all about doing art, but my old friend was an artist. It triggered me instead of helping.
Crafts? No supplies and no money to buy any.
Listen to music? I no longer had a way to play my CDs, and my ex has my mp3 player. I tried listening to the radio, but too many sad songs.
And that was it. No more prepared options.
So what did I do?
I kept the suicide hotline number at the ready, and I got online. I sent out a call for help on twitter to a group of strangers who all deal with mental health issues, and have been known to be there for anyone waving a surrender flag. And there were answers. I was not alone. I searched and found more online support. I found personal stories proving it gets better. I forced myself to open up at my weekly NAMI meeting and got some support. I searched and found uncommon coping skills lists, and found a few more to try. I got a free month of Amazon Prime and got music and movies and tv shows to encourage and uplift my mood.
I let things go that weren't essential. I was gentle with myself, only doing what I needed to do without judging my choices. I worked on a plan of action over the things I could control. And I made it to my next appointment where we started revamping my safety plan.
I was lucky.
In the past, it hasn't worked out that well for me. There have been many times my safety plan just wasn't good enough to keep me out of the hospital. There have been times I waited too long to try, and later was told there is no logical reason why I survived. I don't think those times were worse than this one. It could have easily gone that way again.
The difference was perhaps experience. Or that I didn't give up. Or that I stumbled on impromptu support. Or a combination of those.
I learned that I need to make a backup plan for when my go-to stuff doesn't work. I learned how to carefully seek support without increasing my vulnerability or grasping toxic people out of desperation.
And I am still here.