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Why My Favorite Crisis Kit Items Mean So Much to Me

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The road to recovery is a long but steady road, with wins and losses along the way.

Creating a crisis kit was a mandatory requirement to “graduate” from the inpatient dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) program I was at for bipolar disorder. They explained the purpose of the crisis kit was to bring us joy during difficult times. It was a reminder of our loved ones who are by our sides, pushing for our recovery. My initial thought was, “If I had all that, I wouldn’t be here! How is a box of stuff going to help me?”

Then I had an idea. What if I asked the people in my life who are uncertain about the reality of mental health to participate? Ask everyone to give me an item they think would bring me joy during hard times. I was hoping that if they participated, maybe their fear and disbelief of mental health would wane, and I could talk about it without feeling like a “drama queen.” I understand their fear; for my family, it is race and ethnicity related, but also very much generational.

I asked and everyone agreed to participate; I also asked a few friends who had been very supportive and encouraging during every phase of my recovery (and still are to this day).

1. “The Little Red Book.”

In Alcoholics Anonymous, they have the big book (which is blue). It contains stories of others who have struggled with their recovery, so you remember you are not alone. The red one is a pocket-sized version of that book. It offers quick support and the “steps” are very similar to the recovery road I am on. I appreciate this one because it was so thoughtful, and I found irony in it because though this person is in recovery, they still don’t believe in mental illness.

2. My grandmother’s ring.

This person felt, because I was so close to her but knew her for such a short time, I would appreciate the gift. I do very much; it’s like she’s always with me. I wear it every day.

3. A box of “happy quotes.”

I was given a box of “happy” quotes, most of which piss me off. “If you really want to be happy, just decide to be happy, it’s that easy.”  Ummmm, bite me! That isn’t true for all us, all of the time.

4. Two drawings, one with a caterpillar and one with a butterfly.

These represented my new self, my better self, my recovering self. Every time I see them, it melts my heart. Every time the giver sees me, he tells me how proud he is and how far I’ve come.

5. A journal.

For writing but not for keeping. A place to put my dark thoughts, get them out and rid myself of them. I haven’t needed this particular journal in a long time.

6. A cat mirror.

This was a gift that the giver received from a friend who struggled with depression. She told me to look into it and see all the good things she sees: beauty, strength, bravery, intelligence and love.

7. My friend’s laugh.

I have a friend with the best laugh. It truly does bring me joy; I call her when I’m down just to make and hear her laugh.  She recorded her voice on a gadget and when I push the button, it’s her laugh I hear. Best healing item ever.

8. A letter from my daughter.

My absolute favorite is a letter from my daughter. She was living in Boston when I was put into inpatient treatment, and I can’t imagine what getting that phone call did to her. In her letter, she told me all the reasons she loved me and offered up her list of activities that made life bearable for her. She said I could borrow them until I found more of my own. She said, “When everything happened, I had so many people offering to listen, which was nice of them, but the only person I really wanted to talk to was you. You are the first person I want to talk to when I’ve had a bad day or when something great has happened to me. You’re my person.”

So that’s my list. There’s more in my box; I just listed a few. It has changed since I was released from inpatient treatment, but these items have been there since the beginning. They were all given by the most important people in my life, whether they believe in the purpose of my recovery or not. I believe in recovery and I’ll keep recovering always. My people need me.

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Photo by Hermes Rivera on Unsplash

Originally published: January 4, 2018
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