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The 6 Things I Keep in My Mental Illness Coping Toolbox

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When you’re coping with mental illness, it can sometimes feel like you’re fighting the world. Despite knowing that I have a support system and resources at my disposal (such as access to therapy, sick days, etc.), it can still be tough. Sometimes there are good days, sometimes there are bad days. But when there are bad days, what’s a girl to do? I reach into my coping toolbox to help me fight through it.

What is a coping toolbox?

My toolbox is a carefully curated set of tools that I have learned and picked up over the years. I’ve spent so many years alone and scared, feeling helpless and powerless against the monsters that live inside my brain. But through a process of brute force and trial and error, I’ve finally stumbled upon some things that can help me. Some call this a toolbox of coping mechanisms, but I prefer to think of this as my treasure chest of weapons that make me the warrior I am.

I may not be fighting ghouls and vampires all day, but I do fight against the demons that live inside my head everyday — depression, anxiety, eating disorders, borderline personality disorder (BPD) or my panic disorder.

Everyone’s toolbox will be different. This is what’s in mine:

1. Water Bottle

Get a closed water bottle to stay hydrated and keep your water clean. Extra points for using a reusable water bottle — hooray for reducing environmental waste

2. Headphones

Sometimes the world is too much. Sometimes the silence in my own head screams so loud that I think my mind might shatter. Headphones allow me to instantly listen to audiobooks, my favorite album, or even try some meditation exercises.

3. My Teddy Bears

Yes, bears. Plural. Over the course of our relationship, my boyfriend has given me teddy bears for christmas and our anniversary. They remind me of loving and happy times and it doesn’t hurt that they’re really soft. Sometimes a soft touch helps.

4. Healing Crystals

I know not everyone believes that crystals have healing powers, but I think that everything in this world is filled with energy. At the very least, they’re really pretty to look at and when you’re having a rough time, a little sparkle never hurts.

5. Apps

We’ve all probably got a multitude of apps on our phones, but when it comes to taking care of ourselves, some are more effective than others. For example, as hard as it may be, it’s important for me to stay off Instagram and Tumblr because a lot of posts can be triggering. I have a few calming apps to help me cope, including apps for meditation, coloring and sudoku — all apps that require focusing on the task at hand, which helps me break out of my cycle of negative thinking, even if it’s just for a few moments at a time. At the very least, it stops me from spiraling.

6. CBT Techniques

While not a physical item I can touch, these techniques also help me calm down when I can feel myself beginning to spiral. Granted, it has taken me a lot of work to get to the point of being able to even recognize when I am going into an episode, but I am a work in progress. These techniques, such as box breathing, subtracting numbers from 100 in increments of seven and describing the room in detail, help put me back in control of my breathing and my mind.

These are the magic weapons that I keep in my toolbox. Along with some positive affirmations and good memories, these are what keep me going — what keep me fighting when the fight gets tough. My toolbox is ever growing and I hope that never stops. It is my hope that as my toolbox grows, I can share it with everyone in my community, so that we can arm ourselves when we need to fight.

We can do it. Together.

With the right people and the right tools, I think it becomes easier to be brave. Together, we can help each other build our toolboxes and treasure chests and we can continue the good fight one day — one breath — at a time.

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Getty image via KapturePhotoSolutions

Originally published: January 9, 2017
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