Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Becoming Well: Techniques for Taming My Mental Illness



I didn't even know embryonic was a word but apparently it is because all the other ladies were laying on the floor, legs and arms wiggling in the air, acting like babies in the womb. Ok then.

I was at the end of my Nia Dance class at The Marsh and to cool down we were being babies. I was fine with this, though, because I had already spent an hour doing hip gyrations and warrior kicks. And making cloud arms. I like doing the cloud arms.

For the past 10 days since returning from Israel I've been working really hard on my mental health. It has not been easy, and a few times I've felt the dread of what the hell am I doing. But coming out to the Internet has helped because people reach out to me and cheer me on. People confide in me about their own struggles and that makes me feel less alone.

I don't have a job right now, so I am able to take advantage of things like daytime dance classes and self-directed art projects. Today in the middle of adding glitter to one of my drawings, I realized that a lot of what I learned in DayBridge is true: If you can distract your mind with something active, you can help decrease your mental suffering. 

While dancing in class I've tried to ruminate but I can't cause I have to keep up with the steps. While coloring in my Adult Coloring book I've crept into grandiose thoughts but the lines keep me grounded. 

Every adult should own a coloring book.

One of the things I learned from my Occupational Therapist (my hero) at Regions Hospital is that 

Sometimes, your body and mind are "seeking" some type of stimulation from one of the five senses - you want to see, touch, hear, smell, or taste something. 

While I was at DayBridge I made my own "OT Clinic Bag." OT clinic is the (best) part of hospitalization where you get to do arts n' crafts activities.

Some items from my OT clinic bag...Play-Doh, stones and Anxious Al the puppet. Oh, and, that's Josie my stand in therapy dog.

Anytime you start to feel anxious or depressed or panicky or manic you take out your bag and engage in some sort of sensory activity. I even have a mini OT clinic bag that I keep in my purse.

Items from my mini OT clinic bag that goes in my purse...aromatherapy oils, a tactile cross (I squeeze it between my fingers when I get super anxious), my 'Courage' rock from DayBridge graduation, a scented squishy heart from The Marsh, a 'Truth' rock from Park Nicollet and they all go inside this kickass camel zipper pouch from Jordan.

One of the tough things when you come home from the hospital is that you lose your team. 

You lose your Occupational Therapist, your Music Therapist, your Psychiatric Nurse, your Social Worker, your Psychologist, your Yoga Therapist, your Chaplin and, most importantly, your Psychiatrist. You lose all of them and you are just alone with a bunch of worksheets and some phone numbers from your fellow inmates. It's so hard, losing all of that support. It's like when a funeral is over and all the people go home and then you are just alone with your grief. It was so hard for me last month losing my wonderful DayBridge team that I simply felt like giving up. 

Glitter is always a good idea. Always. 

I kept trying to reread the Mindfullness worksheets, squeezing my eyes shut and pretending I was a flake on the lake floating to the bottom. But, it wasn't working. My spinning thoughts kept barging in and I felt like I had no control over them.

My OT therapist had advised me to go to a craft store and pick up items that I could use for art projects. I never did this until it was almost too late. Last week I sulked around and threw random stuff in my cart, not knowing how I would use it but oh well, I had a coupon.

Sparkles!!! Swarovski crystals make me feel better just LOOKING at them.

All week I have been doing the same pattern: Go workout at the Marsh, come home and do art projects. Despite moments of boredom or sadness or spazziness or just blankness, I think that the art projects and the workouts are helping. 

Sometimes I criticize myself and think how I will never be able to handle "normal life" again but then I try to remind myself that I am fabulous. That's something I try to keep saying to myself...fabulous, fabulous, fabulous. You are fabulous, darling. And YOU are too. We are all just fabulous, embryonic adults running around with our arms and legs flailing.

Now, back to gluing on more glitter...


  1. Mollie (Stemper) SpaldingFebruary 10, 2016 at 1:26 PM

    I've really loved reading your story over the past few weeks Susan. I think that you are very brave with sharing such a personal part of yourself and you do so with such eloquence and humor and honesty and self-reflection. I'm keeping you in my thoughts as you fight your dragon.

  2. Your blog sure is heart felt & honest. So glad you're using some of the things you learned at daybridge to help in your daily life. I like the little pouch with the items in it for self soothing. I think adult coloring is fabulous. And I think you're fabulous too! You are creative, you are artistic, you're loving & you are caring!! I think the exercise regime too is helpful. The basics of sleeping well, eating well and exercise Are so important in maintaining ones self. I think a lot of people forget about them. DBT is a great form of therapy that gives you self soothing tools, communication skills & other coping techniques to help in the day-to-day living coping with a mental illness. Hang in there!! 😊 Hugs! 💚💜