Chronically Coping

By bellsie rowe

Content Warning: Self Harm

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I’ve always been good in a crisis, coping with things in a calm and collected fashion. When things hit the fan, I was the one who would think of practical solutions and get things done when everyone else was flapping around.

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Then a couple of years ago things changed. One day I became very distressed and self harmed for the very first time. It calmed me instantly, I felt the stress drain from my body and it quickly became my first line coping technique. At first it was relatively superficial, small scratches or bruises, but it soon progressed to cutting myself and needing stitches.

When I was admitted to the hospital, one of the first things they wanted to work on was finding other coping strategies. Together with the nurses I created a list of different ways that I could face the distress – from hot showers and long walks to mindful cups of tea and drawing on my thighs instead of cutting them.

I’ve also found ways of coping with hallucinations – paradoxically I find listening to spoken word on my iPod when in a crowd (especially the supermarket which is a real trigger) helpful, whereas although I used to go to sleep listening to podcasts, I found that they made the voices worse at night. I’ve found that listening to quiet music is better (I’m currently obsessed with the album Diamond Mine by King Creosote and John Hopkins).

Touch has been a big help too – at the hospital I have learnt to self-massage, and even just holding someone’s hand can be enough to calm me. Then there’s more practical things – colouring was a lifesaver when stuck in hospital, watching an episode of your favourite sitcom or baking cookies for hungry brothers… there are myriad ways to cope that don’t involve hurting yourself.

There are lots of lists of practical coping strategies out there but I particularly like this one.

Obsessively compulsively yours,

Bellsie