By: Dani Kessel
I am going through a really hard and emotional time right now. There are difficult things going on in my life. I feel like I am cracking inside. I had a really dark day recently. My anxiety was through the roof. Very irrational, destructive, and painful thoughts kept bouncing around in my skull. Unfortunately I cannot afford therapy right now, but I managed to use healthy coping mechanisms. I am doing mildly better, yet still struggling.
In order to be productive and helpful for others in my shoes, I want to share the things that help when I come upon my darkest moments.
1. Reach out to friends.
Sometimes my friends are the only people who can talk to me through the worst moments. They can reach me when I’m spiraling and all logic fails. They may not be capable of stopping my anxiety or PTSD or depressive episodes (nobody can do that), but friends can walk me back from the edge of a crisis. They can also remind me to do things like eat, drink water, and take my medicine. Those things can make the difference between having a panic attack and not. I may not have a large amount of friends; the friends I do have are unbelievably amazing though.
2. Talk to a support group.
I am a part of a great online support group for people with Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. There are moments when I need to be brutally honest about my traumas to people who understand the experiences firsthand. They provide me with insight. They validate my truths. They give me coping mechanisms that I may not have thought of on my own. Finding a support group makes a huge impact on my mental health/mental state.
3. Write out thoughts.
Maybe it’s silly, but there’s something cathartic about writing out my worst thoughts. I’ll purge everything onto a piece of paper. When I read it back, I often find clarity. My brain realizes what is rooted in truth versus what is a product of my mental illnesses. It changes things seeing them on a page. The degree of distance from my thoughts can kickstart my mental faculties. Then, after I have read it, I rip up the paper and throw it away. There’s something beyond empowering in that action.
4. Listen to music.
I have a music playlist on my phone, computer, and YouTube for each mood that I have. If I need a pick-me-up, there is something for that. If I’m angry and need to fume for awhile, I have that playlist on hand. Music reaches me when my own brain can’t. That’s why I’ll almost always have earbuds on hand. Plus, listening to music helps me tune out the stupid people.
5. Read or watch Harry Potter.
Harry Potter literally saved my life many times over. It got me through terrible bullying. It helped me cope with bad personal/family situations. Everytime that all else felt hopeless, it pulled me out of the deepest pits and worst suicidal mentalities. That series taught me unconditional love, self-acceptance, bravery, compassion, strength, and how to keep going when things are bleak. Hogwarts feels like a home which is what I need in my darkest times. And I may not like Rowling anymore (down with TERFs!), but I can always count on the Harry Potter community to rally around those of us struggling and vulnerable.
6. Practice self-care.
I might not have the spoons or mental ability to do all of the daily self-care maintenance, but I always try to use self-care techniques on hard days. I’ll wipe myself down with wet wipes. I’ll spray dry shampoo in my hair. I’ll eat the simplest healthy foods that I can put together, sometimes eating on a paper plate so that I won’t have to do the dishes later. I’ll stand in front of the mirror and list 3 things I like about myself (out loud so that I can hear it). I’ll stand up and do a lap or two around the house just to get my blood circulating. These may seem like small things, but they are doable when I can’t manage larger self-care tasks. More than that, they can keep me going when things get tough.
I am tired of people telling others to toughen up or making them feel bad for having emotions. It isn’t healthy to suppress emotions. That can actually cause psychological damage in the long run. Cry. I cry in my darkest moments because it is better to cry than to bottle everything up and melt down later. My crying isn’t a sign of weakness. Your crying isn’t a flaw of weakness. Crying isn’t a flaw. And, I cry more than I’d like to admit to anyone. It really does help though.
8. Watch ASMR videos.
ASMR (short for autonomous sensory meridian response, an enjoyable tingling sensation in your scalp and neck) has become a tool which helps ease my anxiety. As it’s become more popular, there are many videos tailored towards providing viewers with this sensation. I had to filter through different ASMR triggers before I found what works best for me. Now, I have compiled a YouTube playlist of videos to help calm me when life feels chaotic.
9. Log off of social media.
When I’m on social media, I feel this unconscious need to compare myself to everyone else. This of course is flawed because we all only put what we want others to see online. There is no way to discern between reality and facades. Regardless of this, my brain tells me that everyone else is happier and more functional than me. I’ll tell myself that others are further ahead in their lives. When I’m going through a really dark period, it is best for me to log off or at least seriously limit my social media. This gives me less to stress over and time to sort through my own thoughts before worrying about everyone else.
If you’re also struggling through things which are difficult to handle, I hope that some of these coping mechanisms can help you. Should you have the money and opportunity, please consider reaching out to a therapist. There is nothing wrong with getting help. Either way, it may not feel like it right now (trust me I understand), but you will get through this. Things will get better.