Positive Coping Skills

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In my blog, I discuss coping skills a lot and how those pertain to my bipolar recovery. Although I do admit that bipolar is not curable (not yet), we as people, have options to lessen our adversity and our struggles and have the opportunity to see the greater purpose of what our lives should really look like.

There is a difference in coping mechanisms: there is problem – focused coping and emotion based coping. The main difference about the two concepts is that when you are fixing an issue whether it be a fight with a friend or receiving a poor score on a math test, you are now in a mindset to ask for help and create a solution of how to do better. Whereas emotion based coping addresses how you feel and you start doing something to distract yourself from the pain you feel. Please note: it is unwise to constantly be leaping from distraction to distraction, sometimes you must face your feelings head on. But if it unsafe to do so, it might be best to distract yourself until you are able to calmly address thoughts or behaviors.

It wasn’t until I started this blog post specifically that I learned there is more than one type of coping ability. I only knew of the distraction piece of the matter and was leaping from distraction to new distraction in my own life, but never applying what I learned about myself and my adversities in a fashion that would fix the issue at hand.

In my personal experience with bipolar, I get overwhelmed with the situation at hand and tend to shut down emotionally. It is through these emotional coping mechanisms that I am able to rationalize my emotions and move on and face the issue at hand to solve for it.

We cannot have one coping mechanism without the other if we wish to change our ways and behaviors. I’m curious about what others may think or do in order to cope with their own mental illness or adversity. I think when I was in therapy, I was really focused on just trying to not shut down during a conversation, even if the truth was hard to hear. So Kelley, my old therapist, got out her art supplies for me and just let me go in the direction I wished in order to create an outlet for me that is productive rather than destructive; this was her way of figuring out a medium where I could talk about past or present trauma without me shutting down.

I chose the acrylic paint set with the canvases and over the course of 4 therapy sessions, I completed my first art project, full with meaning and purpose. I titled it Community and it was me versus the world. The only premise of the painting that Kelley had for me was that I couldn’t negative self talk myself, and especially not to others. So I created a wall of faceless people, I included myself in the crowd as one of the shortest people there. I had a thought bubble above my head with a couple nice things I had to say about myself. As for the other faceless characters in the picture, they had one collective thought bubble. In that were words that other people had written about me in real life that I did not have on my list for myself.

It was very touching and still one of my nicest paintings to date because I really spent time on how I wanted everything to look. It was funny because normally if there is trauma on my mind, then I will sit in therapy and be quiet. But when I worked on that painting, it was like the flood gates have opened and I was an entirely different person.

So painting became my first coping mechanism and the following week, I went and bought twenty canvases and a basic acrylic paint set and brushes for the paint. I think it cost about $80 for all that, but this was over a year ago and I still using those original canvases. Some I have repurposed to try to give a painting concept a second chance, so I add gesso and white paint to the canvas for a redo. A lot of my finished products I give away. For example, I lost my job the week before my sister got married so I wasn’t in any position to get her anything because I almost wasn’t invited to her wedding. Well anyways, I painted a picture of her and I from a photo taken at her Bridal Shower / tea party. I made sure to give it to her in private in case she didn’t like it. Now it remains in the hallway of her mother in law apartment.

As a child, I was always captivated by writing. My biggest dream in life was to create a bunch of short stories and compose the pieces into a book. Between talking to my sister and my boyfriend of the hour, they both said I should blog as a personal coping skill and hobby. Next thing I knew, it was 11 February, 2020 and over the course of seven months, I have created and posted over 130 times, have gotten over 3,100 views on my website, just shy of 1,100 visitors, with a grand total of 92 followers, with over 300 likes and 50 ish comments.

Writing and creating this blog was never about the numbers, it was always about my content and being satisfied with my journalism and self reflection of my bipolar disorder, relationships, family, you name it. I started getting some comments about how good my content was and I didn’t think it was any good until May when I pulled in over 500 views in that month alone; Hey maybe I’m not as bad at this as I thought I was!

Through the various cycles of mania and depression, my posts were inconsistent rather than having a beginning, a middle, and an end like most stories should. I think I continued to attract readers because my content was so authentic, which is rare to find in blogs or vlogs for that matter.

When I wasn’t either blogging or painting, I would be cooking, cleaning the house, playing Pokemon go, watching or being active in all sports, going to bars to try out new things. I love to sing karaoke. But once mid March comes around, it eliminated most activities in the state indefinitely due to corona virus.

Making these leaps and strides are great when it comes to coping with trauma, but eventually you have to face whatever is ailing you and move on with your life. It has now dawned on me despite it not feeling like I do so, that I actually address trauma and solve for it by taking medication. Without medication, I would, simply put, be dead. The meds stabilize me enough to put me into a position where I am no longer afraid to face my life’s challenges. By taking medication, I agree to the terms that I am the problem, or that my brain chemistry is the problem. I cannot ignore that issue. Because it jeopardizes the well being of those closest to me.

Seeking professional help is a way to confront your demons. I am currently in the process of finding a new therapist and I am considering doing online counselling through someone who takes my insurance because I work a normal 8-5 schedule and that’s the hours of your average counsellor. Once you form a relationship with the social worker or whomever you choose to confide in, they can determine your adversities in a safe way that allows you an escape of some sort from your issues. Or at the very least, they identify your issue(s) and how to confront them.

On the flip side, it is all too easy to pick up negative coping skills such as addiction, gambling, drugs, alcohol, hanging out with the wrong people, smoking, you name it. Once I evaluated for myself what my positive coping skills were, I asked myself what I had been doing in the meantime as I worked out coping strategies with my therapist?

Oh, that’s right… I vape non-stop, drink moderately, smoke weed on occasion, went out on too many sketchy dates and slept with more men than I can count, let alone remember their names, and gambled almost daily

I had this minor epiphany probably in early August when Diego kicked me out and I had to figure out what I was doing wrong. At the same time, I knew the gig was up; I couldn’t keep going down this toxic path, but my therapist and boyfriend quit on me at the same time, I was about to have major foot and knee surgery, and I was dating the rainbow of men that I did not need or want. It was good that I looked towards writing my blog and occasionally painted when I was sad or manic, but that didn’t solve for my everyday coping mechanisms to get through all the bullshit.

I mean, gambling helped distract me but it also hindered me more than it ever helped me. Same goes for drugs and booze and nicotine. Now my main epiphany I need to have next is how do I rely and solve the adversities I have, without using the bad “coping” skills I have acquired over time?

I guess I am left frustrated with my particular bipolar and brain chemistry because I have all the skills to overcome adversity, but I still cling to some of my own ways. Some I have left behind for good is sleeping around with strangers, lowering my marijuana and alcohol intake, and I haven’t gambled since September 14th, 2020 and I am hoping to continue that trend considering I cannot drive anytime soon.

I must often remind myself that Rome was not built in a day and neither will my empire that resembles who and what I am as a person. I am making the right calls on these situations that could potentially ruin the game. Every final decision has progressed the ball down the field in order to make a touch down. Now I am at the ten yard line and I’m in a group huddle with my team and we have a decision to make and how we move forward is our destiny with the future, so we must chose wisely.

How do you guys cope with mental illness or adversity?

As always, feel free to comment below!

Dani

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