My recent posts have focused on the tools I have acquired to help me combat Major Depressive Disorder. I wrote about my Wellness Toolbox, describing for you the items I keep in it and why they are included. I wrote about my Crisis Plan, showing how each progressive step is to be used to assist me in safely responding to a mental health crisis. I also have a third regime in place, one that operates independent of me. This post is about this third tool.
Let me first give you some context. One of the signs of a depressive episode is a loss of interest in daily activities. The sufferer shows no interest in former hobbies, pastimes, social activities, or sex. He or she has lost the ability to feel joy and pleasure. Things that once were a source of enjoyment can no longer instill that same feeling.
It is this effect of a depressive episode that is the target of my third coping tool.
The hobbies in which I take pleasure are, for the most part, solitary ones: reading, writing, colouring, painting, meditating, walking, etc. But they are also therapeutic. For example, writing, colouring and painting are very mindful exercises. When engaged in them, I am totally in that moment, fully aware of my writing, or colouring, or painting, absent of the concerns of the day. I am not ruminating on the past or fretting about the future. I am simply writing, or colouring, or painting.
But my writing, and my painting, are not exclusively solitary. I share them via my blogs and my tweets. It is because I do this that my third tool exists.
So what is this tool? It is a request that I made of friends to monitor my public presence and then contact me should there be a period of silence or another sign of distress. My public presence is easily measurable – people can very quickly see if I have made a new blog post, or not, or check my Twitter timeline and see how active, or inactive, I have been. Yes, there may be non-critical reasons for my inactivity, but it may be about my mental health. As a result, I have asked some friends to reach out if they notice a period of silence and ask about it. I explained that any diminishing of a hobby is a sign that I may have stopped using the tools of my recovery and might be in regression. With this understanding in mind, they readily agreed to my request.
Moreover, it helps protect me from myself. My most recent bout of Major Depressive Disorder was nearly fatal. I learned that my silence is unsafe. So I adopted a method to allow others to inquire into my silence.
There’s nothing groundbreaking about any of this, you might be thinking, and you’re correct. It’s a simple tool, a simple request that operates when I am silent. In this simplicity, it complements my Wellness Toolbox and Crisis Plan, each of which is also quite simple. As a unit, these three tools give me, and those who care about me, a comprehensive methodology to help me, and them, deal with any mental health crisis I may experience. To my mind, this is just another example of good self-care!
About John Dickson
A lifelong battle with Major Depressive Disorder resulted in a suicide attempt. That attempt taught me the danger of being silent about my personal struggles with mental health. I've had to learn to be more open about my struggle. I now choose to reach out with the hope that someone will be inspired and end his/her own silence. I'm a dad, a blogger and a new convert to the power of social media.