Information, experience, and opinions from a mental health professional navigating the mental health system. Discussion and comments are encouraged, but abuse will not be tolerated. This blog is a safe space.
Sunday, July 10, 2016
Having a self care plan will be an ongoing topic here at Inside Outside In. For my own mental health, I have two. The first, I use when things are starting to go wrong. Some examples of when I’ve used it are to deal with a panic attack, when my Cerebral Palsy is making me feel bad physically, or when I know I haven’t had enough sleep. My plan reminds me of safe things I can do to change the way I’m feeling. I can go sit outside where I live, and I know that this is something that helps me. Sometimes I feel better if I draw something. At the very top of my plan are the words “WATER FOOD MEDS.” This is to remind me that there may be a physiological reason for the way I feel. It is a cue for me to think about how much water I’ve had that day, what and how much I’ve eaten, and whether I’ve taken all of my meds. My plan also has a list of safe people I can call or text. Depression thrives in isolation, and shrinks in company. My safe people know about my diagnosis, and I can be honest with them about my symptoms. Right now, there are about 12 things on my plan. It’s important to make the plan when you are doing well. It’s also good to revisit it from time to time, and make sure the things you have listed still apply. If you have a friend listed as a support person and then the two of you have a falling out, when you’re feeling bad is probably not the best time to be reminded of it!
Here’s where it gets a little trickier, but just as important
Next up is the crisis plan. This is what I use when things have really broken down, and I know I need more help than what I can do for myself. My spouse knows where it is. It clearly outlines how they will know that I need outside help. Some of the these are, “I state that I’m suicidal.” “I refuse more than 1 meal per day.” “I skip two classes in a row.” These are observable things with no ambiguity. I either eat 2 meals per day, or I don’t. I state that I’m suicidal, or I don’t (I always say that I am, when I am. If you don’t, then it’s not appropriate for your plan!). Next up is what I want my spouse to do, and how to do it. I have phone numbers listed, and what to tell that person. Examples of useful numbers may be your physician, therapist, or psychiatrist. Maybe you’re really close to your step-mom, and want her to know immediately if something is wrong. It’s totally up to you. Just as important are the people you don’t want called. It doesn’t necessarily mean they can’t help in the future, it just means this is not a call to be made during the crisis. The next item on my plan is where it’s okay to take me. There is a hospital in my area I will not go to. There are a couple of other facilities where I feel comfortable, and would want to be taken. This is all spelled out in my plan. I have a list of what I need to bring with me (sweat pants, t-shirts, underwear, my box of medications, my favorite book, etc). Now, here’s a biggie: at the top of my crisis plan, I have written: “IF (my name) REFUSES TO FOLLOW THE CRISIS PLAN, I GIVE PERMISSION FOR EMERGENCY INTERVENTION.” I’ve signed it at the bottom. So, there it is. It’s out of my hands, and my spouse’s. It’s spelled out very clearly what to do when. Yes, this is a modified version of published material. I’m writing about what I’ve found helpful.
TLDR: The three most important points are: 1) Have a plan for when things start to go wrong, 2) Have a crisis plan, 3) Share the crisis plan with someone you trust.