I realized yesterday that I hadn’t blogged in awhile, so I decided to remedy that today. We’re in the middle of Snowpocolypse 2011 here, and aside from spending two hours shoveling my car out this morning, I’ve been confined to my apartment all week. It’s given me some time to catch up on course reading for both the courses I’m taking and the courses I’m teaching and get ahead a teeney little bit in my course prep for the two classes I’m teaching. Mainly, I’ve had a blast watching my one cat repeatedly run smack into the floor-length window in a vain attempt to catch the snowflakes on the other side.
Probably the reason that I haven’t written is that I haven’t been feeling that great and could think of nothing to say that would be the least bit inspiring or encouraging to anyone. Physically I am fine, for the most part, save one heart episode on Monday, but the depression . . . well, it’s been a bitch and a half lately. The fact that I went to all my classes last week absolutely amazes me. The fact that my campus is shut down this week due to the blizzard thrills me beyond belief. I am dreading having to step back on that campus and well, be a functioning, responsible, and social adult again. My bed is much more enticing. I was supposed to have ECT again yesterday, but the blizzard kind of prevented that from taking place. I keep telling myself that things will start turning around, that I haven’t done enough ECT sessions to notice a change yet. I keep reminding myself that ECT always helps and that I trust this psychiatrist more than any other psychiatrist I have ever worked with. Ever. And that says a lot since I have a general distrust for that profession. (long story)
My therapist is a DBT therapist. And one of our goals is, of course, to “create a life worth living.” Right now that involves using a set of DBT skills that have always been particularly difficult for me: Self-Soothe. It has always been much easier to deny myself, punish myself, and push myself. But with this depression and the anxiety that seems to tag along with it, I’ve been creating a list of self-soothing activities. For those of you unfamiliar with this concept, Self-Soothe is the set of skills where you use each of the five senses to–yup, you guessed it–soothe yourself. This is something a lot of us with eating disorder histories never really practiced all that much, for a lot of reasons. But I challenge you to start your own list. A list with lots of options since we aren’t always in a physical position to use certain skills (as much as hot chocolate is a very soothing drink, I cannot get up in the middle of a three-hour class to go get some if I start to feel anxious during class. nor would my professor appreciate it if I took out my iPod and started listening to my favorite relaxing music).
Here are some of my favorites:
Taste - tea (and I like the whole process of making tea in a tea pot and smelling it and holding the warm mug), chocolate (specifically a heath bar), coffee, grapefruit
Smell- lilacs, lavendar, vanilla, incense, candles, coffee
Hearing- Gemma Hayes, Haley Bonar, Beth Orton, A Fine Frenzy, Brandi Carlile, Chopin, Elgar, Jacqueline DuPre,
Touch- petting my cats, holding my stuffed bear, wrapping up in one of my soft blankets, a hot bath, body lotion, massaging sore muscles, brushing my hair, knitting or crocheting
Sight- I have this book of ballet photos, I love the Griffin & Sabine books, re-reading letters from friends, looking at pictures of my niece and nephew and friends
These are just some of the things on my list. I know taste may be difficult for some people, and if you find it triggering, don’t push it. But also remember that you should not feel guilty if something makes you feel better. If the only thing you have that comforts you is food, then there’s a problem, and you should talk to someone about emotional eating. And if you binge as a way of comfort, that is also dangerous. It took me a good couple years of recovery to let myself enjoy food and use it appropriately in times of distress. I no longer feel guilty when I curl up with a blanket, my cats, a movie, and a dish of ice cream after a long week of classes. But it took time to get there. Do not push yourself in that direction. You will know when you are ready.
But all those other senses–learn what works for you. Everyone is different. Know yourself, and know that you have the ability to help yourself.