Mental Health Maintenance

It’s weird. 

I’ve been falling apart for a while. I almost killed myself in October, but my mental breakdown started far before that. And it came in waves. Honestly, I feel like I’ve been a hot ass mess since I got raped in 2010. 

I have a brilliant support system, and everyone in my life has gotten used to my messiness by now. They have realized they can’t really count on me to show to social occasions. They’re familiar with my red, puffy, pale depression face and deadpan responses to small talk. They have come to expect my need to step away from the group to cope my way through panic attacks. They may not completely understand it, but they know. And with that, naturally comes a certain measure of emotional detachment. You see, I am not always the one who is stable enough to listen to their woes or give them advice. I have been the “broken friend” for a while, but I’ve started to own that.

The weird part is, lately I’ve been experiencing a subtle role-reversal. 

Since Covid-19 came in and turned the world upside down, I have noticed that I seem better equipped than most of the people I know to handle the anxiety and depression triggered by such a catastrophe. It’s almost like the years I’ve spent in therapy, the roller coaster I’ve been on, the personal trauma I’ve gone through, have prepared me with the skills one needs to maintain mental health through quarantine. 

Those who don’t suffer from mental illnesses (or haven’t sought help for them yet) on the other hand, have no idea how to cope with the shared trauma we are experiencing in our current context. 

All of a sudden, I have gone from being the “broken” friend to being the friend giving advice about skills that can help everyone  survive Covid-19 with their mental health intact. 

As of now, our governor is considering extending the quarantine for even longer, and I’ve had 3 of these types of conversations with my friends over a 24 hour period this week. Therefore, I thought others may benefit from some of the materials I’ve made to help myself cope. 

The links below are to downloadable google docs with journal pages I originally designed for myself. If you find them helpful, you can print and fill in the blanks, copy the prompts into your own journal, make a copy into your own drive and change it around to suit your own needs, etc. 

Scroll down below each worksheet and find a model of how I’ve filled it out for myself.

A note on sources: I created these materials myself based on what I learned by participating in a Partial Hospitalization Program at the University of Michigan Hospital. All of the skills I utilize in the worksheets are based on the work of Dr. Marsha Linehan in developing Dialectical Behavior Therapy. 

Worksheet #1 (click here to see downloadable google doc): A set of questions/prompts to journal about over your morning coffee/tea/breakfast. These prompts help me practice Radical Acceptance, help me ground myself in a purpose every day, and give me ideas on how to spend my unstructured time that day. 

Worksheet #2 (click here to see downloadable google doc): A worksheet I use for every individual emotion I struggle to cope with. I have made one of these babies for when I’m feeling depressed, anxious, socially anxious, triggered, and panicky. Yes, it’s a lot of work, but I keep my journal with me everywhere I go. And, as juvenile as it feels sometimes, I need to refer back to these pages when I’m overwhelmed with an emotion. It is not always easy to remember all your strategies “in the moment.” 

Worksheet #2 is based on a strategy I learned for reframing cognitive distortions. If you have ever gone to a therapist that practices Cognitive Behavior Therapy, examining how your thoughts impact your emotions isn’t unfamiliar to you. While engaging in this kind of therapy, I’ve come to realize that my thoughts make patterns, and specific negative thoughts are recurring. This worksheet allows you to break down the process into a reference tool for dealing with the most common negative thoughts you have. 

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