Aboard the Ship Self-Help 3: Coping Stones

A little heap of small stones tumbling out of a bag. Writing on one of them is visible and reads, paint or draw.

Well, the self-help journey has lasted for three blog posts, which can’t be said for some of my previous endeavours! First I’ll take a quick look back at my last post and what I assigned myself as homework:

“What I want to do next is to have a serious think about what I’m going to do when things go wrong. When, perhaps, I feel even worse than I do now. What will I do? And how will I make sure I remember to do it?”

This is kind of an ongoing task, but I feel like I’ve made a good start nevertheless. I know that when things are bad, I won’t go digging around my computer to find some document where I’ve listed coping methods. I might not even think of it. I need something that I can go to in a second, that I can access easily, almost without effort.

What I’ve decided to do is to make what I like to call Coping Stones. I bought some stones; I’d rather use ones I’ve found but that’s not an option. They’re smallish, so I can easily pick them up and move them, and on each one I’ve written a different idea to help me to cope. The idea is that I can pull one out of a bag when I need to do something different to help myself get through a bad moment. I’ll let you know how it goes!

And now, on to what I’ve done since then, which is to read a page and a half of the DBT self-help workbook. It was the section called ‘distract your thoughts’ and it’s about, well, distracting your thoughts. With other thoughts, though, which is different from the other distraction techniques the book has talked about so far. I like this section. Because of the whole moderate-to-severe chronic illness thing, doing actual activities isn’t always easy or possible. Having ways to distract my thoughts using other thoughts seems like a really useful skill – though also possibly one requiring a certain amount of discipline!

The idea is that it’s actually really hard to stop thinking about something, especially something that’s obsessing you a bit. Or a lot. I mostly avoid having thoughts at the moment. When I do, they’ve a tendency to spiral incredibly quickly, sometimes within a minute or two. Part of the problem is that I have no way of processing my darker thoughts and feelings. I don’t have a therapist, or the energy or skills to do it by myself, so I avoid. I’m hoping that all of what I’m doing at the moment might help a little bit, but in the shorter term, distraction is very necessary.

There are various ideas they talk about in this section. One that particularly intrigued me was to imagine myself as a hero, correcting some past or future event in my life and what would happen around that. It’s rather odd to think of correcting some future event, since I don’t know what mistakes I’ll make in the future! I’m honestly not sure what they mean by that. I don’t much like thinking about the past, though, so an imagined future might work better for me.

Most of the suggestions revolve around imagining various scenarios: recreating past events, creating sexual scenarios that excite you, imagining your wildest fantasy coming true. There are one or two that aren’t, like making minute observations of the world around you, or reciting a poem. I’ve always enjoyed learning poetry, so that might be another good one for me to try.

I think these more imaginative skills are something I’m going to have to practise. I have a highly active imagination, but using it at a specific time for a specific purpose in a specific way is something I’ve rarely bothered with! Still, I think it could be a really useful skill, so I’m going to at least give it a try.

As for taking action, I would like to try some of these ideas for distracting my thoughts. I’ll try to set some time aside in the next few weeks to do that, and if it works out that’ll be another Coping Stone or two to go in my little bag.

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