Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Coping Strategies

For most of my life I have been troubled by a conflict between an optimistic heart and a nature that tends towards despair. I tend to see the best in the others while seeing the worst in myself. I know many others with similar world views and to greater and lesser degrees we deal with these conflicts by simply surviving them. For me, I'm lucky in that I see more blue sky than gray clouds.

I have a few little tricks that I do when things go suddenly dark. I teach people with disabilities coping strategies for a variety of issues, I decided that I needed coping strategies for my life as well. So, here's what I do ...

Beside my computer (and I know I'm taking a risk in telling you all this) I have a teeny tiny music box, about the size of a match box, with a tiny handle that turns a spindle inside. It gently plays 'Somewhere Over The Rainbow' by plucking out tiny notes. It's a thing that gives me much pleasure and a very simple kind of peace. I play it when I'm writing something difficult, when I'm working through a problem and when I'm feeling like having a slice of doom cake. It has been playing a fair bit the last couple of days.

I went for a long walk up Yonge Street stopping to look in windows. Just south of us there is a shop that has a thousand and one broaches that cover the bottom part of an old style wedding dress. The settings are all wildly eccentric. High heeled shoes. Martini glasses. Dragonflys. I like to stop and admire them but never do, except, on days where my mood seems to need a bit of decoration. I would never buy one of them, even so, I feel like Tiny Tim looking longingly into the toy shop window, an image that always, oddly, lifts my spirits.

Should these two things not work, I need to do something much more drastic. I need oatmeal. With a bit of milk and brown sugar. Real brown sugar. I need to simply enjoy the feeling of absolute bliss that this brings me. I reserve oatmeal to use as a PRN for days when bitter overtakes the sweet. Joe knows that when I ask for oatmeal that it's a bleak time for me. He makes me a bowl of oatmeal, not instant, and brings it to me with just the right amount of sugar, just the right dribble of milk. I can't imagine a wound on my soul that porridge can't make feel just a little bit better.

So, I'm curious. What do you do when you wake up with the icks? What are your strategies? I've shared mine ... your turn.

32 comments:

Kate said...

Those are all good ones and if they worked for me well I'd be pretty happy, I mean if such simple things could do it, but then again we're all different and different things do it for us.

I try to immerse myself in routine first and ignore the thoughts. I used to eat everything sugary. Drown my sorrow in cookies. Lots of them. Anything chocolate. I can't do that now for health reasons and I'm a bit at a loss as what to replace it with.

I used to take long walks. I just moved to a city where I can't hardly breathe the air. That doesn't work.

I usesd to write. Can't focus on thatmuch anymore .

So what DOES that leave? I don't know. I've gotten into cooking lately. That helps. I talk on the phone to friends a lot. That helps a little. I try to delude myself that things are better. That's about all I can do.

Kate

Eileen said...

I have a photo of my three kids - taken some time ago - which I carry in my wallet. We were having a tough time when it was taken so it carries bitter sweet memories, but those three young faces smile up at me whenever I look at it, and I know I can get through.

I also re-visit emails from my sister who works mostly in Africa - most recently Darfur. She's able to find beauty and positivity in even the most difficult situations, and I find that can be a bit contageous.

Hope the porridge works for you dave and that your spirits lift. God bless

Glee said...

My garden does the trick for me. I love the sound of the brooch dress Dave. I love looking at trays of old jewelery in antique shops too.

ivanova said...

When things go dark and I feel self-loathing, there are a few things that make me feel better. I take a long bath, with epsom salts or whatever else I've got lying around that looks like it could go in a bath. Or I go swimming. (Yes, okay, I really like water. It's the complete sensory experience.) Or, I'm not sure if I should mention this, I hope it's okay to say that sometimes a good shag makes me feel better? The problem with these last two is that if I'm feeling really miserable then I don't have the get-up-and-go for swimming or shagging. Sometimes I listen to music. The best thing for me is chocolate. I know that a day may come when that won't be a good idea, and I am not looking forward to that. My girlfriend can't eat chocolate, but she actually keeps some hidden away in a secret place just so that she can give me some if I am in despair.
If I am being very down on myself, I try to reverse this. I tell myself there is no double standard, and I get to be judged by the same tolerant, accepting standards that I mostly use for other people.
I hope the icks go away soon, but if you do need oatmeal today, I hope it's yummy!

Heike said...

I'm off to the bush, that always does it for me. And i keep reminding myself that if i was a woman in Afganistan, i would wonder what on earth i worry about... Sounds a bit sick, that one, but it always does the trick for me. And of course, there is always vanilla ice cream with chocolate sprinkles.

rickismom said...

It used to be overeating. Now I use either music (listening) or looking at pictures of my favorite rocky Mountains. (Walking in the Rockies would be better, but they are a bit far most of the time....

Molly C said...

Oh man, I have the same sort of music box, I think it might even play the same song. I remember having it as a kid. Now I need to go search my room for it!

Belinda said...

You forgot about pie, my friend. "Glorious pie!" :)

When I am dogged by a great gray cloud that plops and splashes rain directly on my head only, I find that sitting down with pen and journal and a cup of tea, works. I write myself out of the cloud. Something about the act of writing unravels any knot and smooths out the crinkles in my soul (aha, I see Kate liked to do that too.)

Anonymous said...

I have been hopeless at this for most of my life. Like you I can see a way for others and can be helpful but for myself I am useless.

Until quite recently.... I now throw my hands in the air and sing out songs of praise to God. He is my Lord when I am happy but in my deepest dispair I tend to forget. He never changes, so I have learnt to praise him in dispair too. This and this alone is the ONLY thing that has lifted me up in those moments. Sometimes we just don't have it in us to do it ourselves. I praise God that he is so much bigger than my capacity to do anything!

Lot's of love,

Laura x

miss kitten said...

coping mechanisms...

hearing my hubby for a moment, even if its just an "i dont have time to talk but i love you" moment.

a hug from my kids (which i can get this week! yay!!!)

a hot bath, lotion on my feet, and fuzzy socks. :D

talking to a friend.

the otter. (who is a VERY large stuffed animal and makes me laugh)

Amy said...

A strong, sweet cup of tea and a book to escape in usually does the trick for me. If that doesn't work, I turn to chocolate.

The dark times suck - hope yours are passing.

Mo said...

At the risk of seeming smarmy, reading your blog is one of those things for me. It's something I can do easily from my desk that reminds me there's a great deal of love, generosity of spirit, and beauty in the world.

Another quick fix is spending time in my yard in the early morning. My partner and I have a small paved square in the middle of a lot of green in the back yard, so I can roll around easily, even when I'm still half-asleep, without fear of getting stuck in dewy ground. Being out there and paying the kind of attention where I notice that the yard isn't actually quiet, but full of all kinds of life (at this time of year, including many fledglings and baby rabbits and squirrels who are just discovering the world) reminds me how much bigger the world is than it feels to me when I can't stand myself. Add a cup of good coffee and a sunrise, and life usually looks better to me.

Exercising while listening to a good audio book is something I've been discovering takes me out of myself in ways that are almost meditative. It has to be a book and a reader that I really like, but the combination of having to pay attention to my body and someone else's words lets me give my mind a rest, which is often much needed since I have a tendency to mentally creep back to whatever makes me feel worst. (Stealthy!)

Thanks so much for sharing your writing. I can't say strongly enough how much I love coming here.

FridaWrites said...

I come here and read your blog. I am not feeling well this morning, and that's exactly what I did.

Anonymous said...

On those blah bleak days if I can remember that I have the power to recover, I indulge myself with a long soak..lots of skin softening - mood altering potions and perfumes. No luck, I go for a pedicure; which must be the most indulgent thing in the world. Love it. Still a bit bleak. I make it a point to visit the two young children I love the most. A few hours of uninterrupted play always does the trick.
Jamie Lynn

Anonymous said...

My 5 year old daughter sings nme a song she wrote "I hope you feel better, I hope you don't die..." It always makes me laugh and whatever was bringing me down is forgotten (at least for a few minutes). If that doesn't work physical activity.

Brenda said...

A big hug from one of my kids is often of great help in chasing away the blues. But if it goes deeper than that, I find that the best medicine for me is to try to help someone else. Sometimes it's a phone call to someone who could use some cheering, but more often I find that if I sit down and write a letter (not an email!) to an aging aunt or a distant friend, I'm smiling by the time I sign my name at the bottom. Not sure why this works...it just does.

Susan said...

Plain and simple. I call Belinda.

Susan said...

And if I ask her if she has any chocolate, then she knows it's REALLY bad. :)

Anonymous said...

Making bread. Diving into a fantasy novel. Being with children. Watching ducks. Drinking my favourite tea, in bladder-straining quantities. Bach or plainchant.

Anonymous said...

I just cry and pray. Then peace enters adn the world isn't so dismal. There is Someone on our side.

liz said...

Sniff the top of my son's head, or re-read a Georgette Heyer, or spend some time following links around the interwebs.

cj said...

Yoga. Being outside, especially by natural bodies of water. Praying, not for anything in particular but to connect. Reading. Talking to women friends.

And if none of that works, I resort to chocolate.

Shan said...

I weed. Or I spin...knitting is no good as there's too much stillness involved.

If it's real bad, I drive.

Anonymous said...

For me, there is always Motown. Smokey, Marvin, Aretha and all of their friends. RESPECT!

Linda said...

I have to silence that negitive voice so I usually say a mantra of some kind. Right now it's....I'm sorry, Forgive me, Thankyou, I love you!
It helps clear my head of all the gunk!

I too find comfort food helps. It's not oatmeal for me Dave nor chocolate but Heinz baked beans with mash potatoes or a baked potatoe! I know it's a strange choice but it's connected to my childhood....Yummie!

Finally when things get very grey we get into the car and drive to Glendalough in Co Wicklow. It's a beautiful place with a holy well.
I have been there at times of great joy and times of great sadness in my life.
It's a place that waters my soul....just being in the landscape is enough for me...but we usually walk and take lunch as well!
Put it on your list when you attend the world DS conference in Dublin next month.
Love to you ......Linda( LinMac)

Anonymous said...

Desiderata..."beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle with yourself. You are a child of the universe no less than the trees and the stars, you have a right to be here...
Works for me!

theknapper said...

I love your strategies!!!!!
I have my petunia therapy.....buy a couple bright colourful plants (sm $$) & put them in a pot or plant along a pathway. Creating beauty & growth helps to stave off the ugliness in my world.
I once had a wind up dog that played "Raindrops keep falling on my head" while the dog danced. It always made me smile!(eventually I gave the dog away)
My food prn is tapiocca pdding!

Uncle Roger said...

When my father was in the hospital for the stroke that put him in a nursing home, I lived on date nut rolls (not a sweet roll, just a french-bread-like roll, with dates) and white mochas.

These days, I think about my kids and something funny they've done or said. Or, I fantasize about suddenly making a lot of money.

FAB said...

I listen to "under pressure" as loud as I can and by the time the song gets to "why can't we give love" I feel better.

When that doesn't lift my spirits I think of or hug my kids, their love and adoration can get me through anything...

Like you Dave, I have a comfort food, it's either tirimisu or biscuits dipped in my coffee just like my grandad used to do it...

Anonymous said...

I love to go to lunch by myself. I take a magazine, because I don't want to have to think to much and enjoy a nice quiet lunch.

Anonymous said...

I try to find quiet and when that doesnt work I will cook up a storm or cleam till my hands are wrinkled.
Christina

Anonymous said...

I am lucky enough to live in a country that allows same sex 'marriage', so a quick peek through the photo's of my wedding day and a few words of love from my Wife are usually enough to get me through the rough times.
I am also lucky enough to have a Wife that understands the need for personal space, and that my need for space is not a demonstration of loss of love for her.
I'm also lucky enough that there's very little that can't be smoothed over with a bar of dark chocolate, a glass of good red wine, and a film that involved Jason Statham / Hugh Jackman or Vin Diesel's bare buns.
Carole
bit of a crap lesbian ;o)