Let's be real here — sometimes essential oils and acknowledging all five senses (touch, see, hear, smell, taste) just don't cut it when you need to cope. It's those days when you have so much rage that you don't even know what to do with yourself, or those days when you physically cannot stop crying because of the most suffocating sadness, or all those other days when you are craving healthy coping mechanisms that actually work.
But before I let you in, we need to continue being real. I hope you are comforted with the knowledge that before I uncovered (or, even wanted to uncover) healthy mechanisms, I also went through my drought of horrible coping mechanisms. I have, and sometimes continue, to fall short of genuinely trying to help myself. It takes a lot of courage, and energy, to genuinely try and help yourself.
I know, I know. Your therapist has told you a million times to try journaling. And I know, you don't want to freaking journal. But let me fill you in on a secret – writing can actually help!
If you were one of the 900 people in the Kirby Arts Center at The Lawrenceville School last fall, you might recall me saying the reason I was so vulnerably sharing my experience with mental health in front of the entire school community because it might encourage even one person struggling in that audience to seek help. While that statement still stands, I wasn't completely truthful. If I am being completely honest with myself, putting my struggle on display is just as helpful to my wellbeing as it may be to someone else's. Writing – and then sharing my writing – is like finally finding a way to take the suffocating elephant off my chest. Writing lets you try and put the experience of this inexplainable illness into words. But more than just that, writing allows you to edit those words, and then edit them again, and again. Writing helps you better enunciate the feelings that can never fully be encapsulated by words, and it can be really f*cking helpful.
2. Get away from people and do something
I hope you all have discovered that sitting alone behind your closed door, or in my experience, laying alone in my shower will send you down a path that I wish no one in this entire universe would ever have to experience in their lifetime. Sometimes, the best days for a person struggling with their mental health are the days that are so jampacked busy that you can't physically fit any other plans into the box.
Sometimes exactly what you may need to do to finally escape those emotions, even if only for a few hours. I do not think being alone in your room is a healthy coping style, it sure as hell isn't for me at least.
Instead, go on a hike or a long walk. Don't think about your feelings, at least for the first 30-60 minutes. Just enjoy your surroundings, be in the moment, and take in the fresh air. Turn your phone on do not disturb, and LEAVE THE APPLE WATCH AT HOME. The only reason we are bringing the phone is for safety and music. But seriously, now is not the time to even talk to your biggest supporters. This is alone time.
3. Let yourself feel emotions
One of the most admirable qualities is being able to take a step back and feel your emotions. Although they may feel debilitating, actively acknowledging them is pretty damn powerful. Think about how far you have come if you are able to take a step back and just observe how you are feeling.
In my earlier stages of navigating this illness, I was never able to truly let myself feel my emotions. I was so petrified of the emotions that I constantly fought them. Or if I wasn't fighting them, I was constantly trying to run away from them, to hide from them and trying never to come back. But, now, acknowledging them is just another reminder to myself of how far I have come. It's pretty awesome.
4. Kill it at the gym
Where do you go if you're in this position with self-harm? Transfer it into something effective. Go to the gym! Go to the rack and put on enough weight (that you can reasonably lift without hurting yourself) and grind it out. Feel your muscles contract and scream in agony. Feel the soreness already building up before you even leave the gym (that's the best kind of sore). Feel an amazing power that your body has.
Not into lifting? Go sprint instead. Run until your legs can't move any faster. Run until your chest is wailing in pain. Run until you physically cannot anymore. I don't care what you do in the gym, just by all means be safe and smart about it.
5. Talk to someone
It can be scary, it can be daunting, and it can feel burdening. But just do it, okay? Even if you don't know what you want to say or what you even want to get out of it, just send the first text. You might be scared to take the first step because, well, what are you even supposed to say to make it known you are not okay, right? Um, say exactly that.
I can promise you, it really doesn't matter what you say. Just say it. Let your friends surprise you with how supportive they can be.