Tag Archives: coping skills

psych ward reminders

Early Thursday morning my life went chaotic. Which happens sometimes when you have a mental illness/illnesses. I don’t want to go into the details but the final result was that I found myself back in the familiar lounge of the psychiatric hospital I have been in countless (literally, I can’t count them) times before. This was unexpected. There weren’t behavioral signs leading up to this and the psychological ones were a combination of factors that hit all together and all at once. The good news about this is that I think my meds were already correct and I have the therapeutic issues figured out that sent me in so I’m pretty sure this isn’t something that has the ingredients to repeat itself.

The stay itself was productive in that it gave me time to focus on some issues that I’d been avoiding and ‘chill’ out while I reevaluated where I was at. I often find being at the psych. hospital harder sometimes than being at home. Mine has groups that are fairly well ran and a great art studio but on the weekends there is only one group and a whole bunch of time to sit around and be be bored or find something, anything that is allowed to do.  I was having to use self-soothing skills that I really hadn’t been practicing for awhile and I was feeling the effects from being out of practice. That was one major thing I realized. I’ve GOT to get back to using my self-soothing skills and also integrate some healthier habits into my life.

For me self-soothing skills are essential to my life. They keep my mind regulated and at peace. I define self-soothing skills as literally what it says something that “soothes me”. This is a little different from a coping skill for me. Coping skills are used in times of distress. Self-soothing skills are used all the time to keep me going. Also known as self-care I guess. So what are some of mine? Well, it’s little things. Coloring is a big one. The repetitive motions and the ability to zone out happily gives me great relief. Crosswords are another one. And so is reading. Ah yes reading. When I’m at home I’ve been neglecting reading. I’ve been on the computer as opposed to reading a book. And the computer does NOT soothe me. It activates me. It’s time for me to take some space away from the computer. Set up some boundaries with it in my life. Not gone – just less time with it.

As for healthier habits. Any exercise has dropped off the face of the earth for me. I throw the ball for Gus to wear him out instead of walking him and that would be so easy to add back in. Or play the Wii for just a little bit of time to get up and moving. Anything, that gets me off the couch. Another is allowing myself to go to bed when I’m sleepy and if that’s at 8:30 so be it. No more sleeping on the couch and waking at 12:30 to move to my room. Others are little things such as meds on time and with food, being direct with practitioners and a few other little things.

So the stay although unexpected was productive. I’m glad to be able to go to a good hospital that allows me to bring Gus and goes out of their way to accommodate us. I feel safe there and they make it as tolerable as possible. The staff by and large is good. And this is sometimes hard to find at a psych. ward/hospital so I’m grateful. But I’m very glad to be out and plan to go back to my life now while implementing some of the things I was reminded of. It’s good to have reminders but I think I’ll take them other ways now, thanks.




Filed under coping skills, Gus, life events, PTSD, Recovery, trauma

it’s time for the past to be the past

I didn’t post last week because I didn’t really have anything to say. I am even more sure about my decision to stop school for the semester. I feel much, much less stressed. Also, it has become clear that my therapist and I need to begin working on some serious trauma stuff. We’ve been patching things over with band-aids and that’s not working anymore. Going to school while working on trauma would have been so hard especially because we are going to begin addressing what happened in school to me in earnest.

Trauma is an odd thing. It sneaks up on you when you think you are totally fine. You can have processed and processed and processed and still one day you wake up and it’s looming it’s head and you feel completely stuck in the past.  And that’s not to mention the memories, the flashbacks and the panic attacks. I’m dealing with all of this. Unfortunately, I’ve gotten used to it. CFC  taught me how to function when the past seems more present than the future. I owe that to the wonder therapist WJ. Coping skills truly are wondrous things.

But there comes a time when you have to decide if it’s time to dig underneath and really begin to process the memories. I did some of this surrounded by the four walls of CFC but haven’t since I left. When I was there I was forced to stay safe, sit with memories and ask for help. I used those coping skills they taught me and by the time I left I was ready to face the world head on. But I wasn’t ready to resume the heavy part of the trauma work.

Now it’s time.

Am I terrified? Yes. Do I know if I’m going to be able to stay safe all the time while working? No. Could it include some short term stays at ‘the resort’? Yes, possible. But am I going to do it? Yes.

It’s time for the past to stop haunting me. I probably face the biggest challenge of my recovery that I have yet encountered. But it is the next step. And I’m ready to move forward.


Filed under bullying, coping skills, depression, eating disorder, eating disorders, Hope, Identity, New Life, PTSD, Recovery, survivor, the past

grounding skills

I really try hard not to post more than once a day. In fact, I try to keep at least a couple of days in between posts. I don’t think anyone wants to hear what I have to say that often. Oh and also I usually don’t have much to say. But someone asked me today what grounding skills I use. Grounding is something that is done to help a person come back to reality. An easy example is if someone is in shock perhaps from an accident. You might place a piece of ice in their hand that will in turn make things clearer and help them come out of their head. Perhaps grounding is the modern version of smelling salts. A way to wake up the mind and come back to the present situation and reality.

Often grounding techinques are used to help people who have flashbacks, dissociate or have panic attacks. I have been taught extensive grounding tools and have had to learn how to find some that are specific to me.

Here are a few of my grounding tools:

Look around the room and identify five things you can touch. Five things you can hear. Five things you can see. Next count four things you can touch. Four things you can hear. Four things you can see. Continue on until you reach one. Start again if neccessary.

Look for certain textures that are comforting to you. Perhaps something really soft such as a stuffed animal. Or maybe something rough like a rock. I carry bits of cloth with me, rocks that are rough and pebbles that are smooth. I can take this out unobserved when I am in a public place and hold onto them.

Silly putty is also a great tool for me. Just be careful you don’t sit on it like I have. Play-dough also works. Or flubber actually (love that stuff) . Silly putty is just really handy because it comes in a small container that you can keep in your purse.

Make a comfort or hope book and look at it. I have both. My hope book contains cards, quotes, gifts, inspirational pictures and many other things that bring me hope. It is in a large three ring binder so I can’t carry it with me but it is great to have at home. My comfort book is a small compact book that has pictures of things that bring me comfort (dogs, sunflowers, pictures of Kansas, my ‘nieces’ etc.). I keep this is my car or somewhere I can access it when I’m not at home.

Coloring or drawing. Pastels is best for me because they are very textual and keep me present. Also things that are very detailed help keep me present. I love to use mandalas.

Being with a pet is the very best thing for me to do when I am not grounded. Simply feeling them breathe under my hand or having them give me kisses or even playing with them brings me back to the present.

Smells also help me. Peppermint is the best thing to bring me back. But I know people who spray perfume onto something or smell cinnamon gum or candy.

Chewing gum or sucking on a hard candy (peppermint again for me).

Going for a walk or getting out in nature and deliberately noticing everything around you. “I see a bird. I see a dog. I hear the kady-dids sing. I am sweating.”

Repeat mantras. “I am safe. I am loved. This is 2012. I am enough just the way I am.” Whatever works for you.

Cuddle up with a warm blanket.

Drink hot chocolate, tea or cider.

Squeeze stress-balls. Play with tangles or other stress toys.

Call a friend.

Watch funny videos on youtube. I love to watch Ellen segments.

Listen to your favorite music. I have specific playlists for specific moods or situations I am in. It is comforting and familiar music that brings along good memories.

Check your social media (email, twitter, facebook) ONLY if you can safely do that without creating more unwelcome emotions.

Blog (seriously this helps me).

Journal as long as you can keep things positive. A lot of times journaling triggers me or keeps me stuck in the past.

Play solitaire. Do a crossword or play a computer game. I love to play with the wii. It’s interactive in a way that is very helpful to me.

I have other skills as well that I am sure I am forgetting but here are a few. It has been good for me to review them today. And also good for me to have them written down.

I want to thank C.B. for asking me about grounding skills today. Again it has actually helped me as so often blogging does.

I hope you enjoy the rest of your Sunday.



Filed under coping skills, depression, eating disorder, eating disorders, Hope, Recovery

not giving up but not giving in either

I am going to have a Father’s Day post later this week (I’m rounding things up) but today I want to talk about something different.

As most of you who read my blog regularly or who know me in person know I will be restarting college (as a junior – yay!) this fall. This has been causing round-and-round debates in therapy all centered on one topic. And that topic is committing absolutely to recovery (from my eating disorder and all self-harming behaviors). Beth is convinced that it is time for me to make the committtment 100% to recovery. I’m arguing that I’m not ready for that step.

It’s a leap, you see. A big leap. A leap from my place on the upper part of the recovery stairwell to the landing. And when I say I’m not ready I’m not talk about willingness or giving into relapse. I just am not at a point where I can say “goodbye eating disorder, goodbye all other poor coping skills, see you never”. I’m not saying that I am going to relapse or suddenly start using behaviors but to completely commit to a life free of symptoms I just….can’t right now.

You see knowing I have my behaviors/disorders on the back-burner gives me comfort, a knowledge that there is something that I am good at (because as sick as this sounds I know I am good at being anorexic), confidence to move forward knowing that I can always bail out mentally (but stick around physically), comfort that all though everything around me is changing I still have the inner ability to “stop time”. Rereading that it all sounds very disordered and sick. And I comtemplated deleting it but I’m going to leave it there. It’s all truth. I may not be choosing to act on behvioars (and I have absolutely NO plans to relapse or start behaviors) but to say I’m never going back? I can’t. I want to. But I can’t. So I’m living in that in-between land. The land where I’m not giving it up but not giving in either.

And somehow I’ve convinced myself I can have it all. I may be living in that grey land (Marya Hornbacher reference) but as long as I’m not acting on behaviors I can have the benefits of a real life too. I can live in the present, interact with others, go to school and enjoy my life.

Beth says that’s not possible but I think that it is. I’m not giving up ground on that elusive recovery staircase – I’m just not leaping either. I’m keeping my security blanket around but not planning to sleep with it so to say (took that metaphor too far?).  Am I leaving myself vunerable but when I might not need to be? Maybe. But to think about committing to recovery for the rest of my life makes my chest tighten and panic start to mount. This tells me that I’m not ready. I will be someday but as I write this it’s not now. It’s not today.



Filed under body image, coping skills, eating disorder, eating disorders, New Life, Recovery

returning to the basics

I’m reactive. I was thinking about this last night. Lately, little things have been so vivid. I don’t know how to describe it. Maybe it’s like when you are extremely light sensitive (perhaps after you’ve gotten your eyes dilated) and any time of high intensity of even regular light intensity bothers you. Well, I feel that way except in regards to emotions. I feel like my emotions are heightened and more intense than they sometimes are and in response I’m responding to things in a highly stimulating way.

I want to distinguish this from triggers. Triggers are when something  causes you to think about a certain behavior and perhaps even act on that behavior. This isn’t like that. Things aren’t making me want to act on behaviors they are just bombarding my emotions in what feels like double the way they normally do.

For instance, I saw someone was in pain on facebook the other day. Normally, how I would react to this would be with compassion and hope that they would feel better. This week I emphasized so much that I seemed to take on their pain as my own. This is not healthy nor helpful.

We naturally develop boundaries in order to survive. Boundaries let us watch the news at night without becoming extremely depressed. It lets us learn about hard/sad things without causing acute mental distress. It’s not that we are uncompassionent when boundaries works – it’s that we have adapted in a way that allows us to get up each day. It seems as if my boundaries have developed some holes in them and emotions that are usually regulated and monitored are slipping through.

The feeling of being bombarded by other’s emotions though isn’t a new feeling to me. In fact, it is simply the resurfacing of old feelings. As a child, I would be extremely upset if someone else was hurting or in pain. It would bother me to the extent it did effect how I functioned on a day to day level. I wanted to take away everyone else’s pain and if I couldn’t I felt a near desperation. For some reason those boundaries that people seem to learn inherently as children seem not to have formed fully.

I had to be literally taught about boundaries. How to set them up in my mind so that little things such as a dog wandering down the street doesn’t suddenly derail my whole day (ok that is a really extreme example but you get what I’m going for). I had to learn how to regulate my emotions so that I can handle the hard stuff, process it and then continue on without feeling paralyzed by sadness or fear. It took me a lot of work and a lot of time before I had firm mental boundaries in place.

I find that in the last week for some reason these have gotten weak again. Things are filtering through and causing me to agonize over what should be a situation that I can process and then move on. I have realized that I need to shrink my world down a little bit. Go back to the drawing board so to say. For me this means lots of self-soothing skills, staying at home, little outside stimulation and lots of doggy time.

I’ve been doing a lot of collaging,  journaling (although I monitor this as it can lead to a lot of emotional overload), coloring, reading and Wii playing. I’ve been trying to continue exercise (in moderation) as this helps calm my mind and makes things seem clearer. I’m taking time for myself and letting the silence and the easy rhythm of routine repair counteract the effects of the overload of the past couple of weeks.

And it’s working. It’s making me realize the importance of returning to basics every once in awhile. Being able to stop and say I need today to just be a quiet ‘me’ day. And I am learning that I need these days more frequently so a whole week isn’t required to get my boundaries back in place and my emotions stabilized.

I’ll come back to the living world soon enough but for now I’m going to be coloring while Shona and Mandalay cuddle next to me (oh and remembering to take my anxiety meds)


Filed under coping skills, Independence, New Life, PTSD, survivor

response to triggers (part two of the inner dialogue of triggers)

It surprises me sometimes that reminents of my eating disorder are left over. I think that I am so used to living with them that they often go unnoticed. Lately, though I have been trying to be aware of them. These leads me back to my first post on triggers which was several weeks ago. In it I showed what went through my mind when I was ‘triggered’. In this post I want to show what I do (or should do) when I am triggered. So now in response to “The Inner Dialogue of Triggers” I am going to introduce you to the “Inner Response to Triggers”.

I am going to use a few real life examples for this post.

Trigger: I decide I am going to have a McFlurry for snack.

Inner Dialogue: You can’t do that Kate. You have already gained some weight besides you’ve never had a McFlurry why would you want one now? Don’t ruin your track record. 

Rational/Healthy Response: It doesn’t matter if I’ve never had a McFlurry before. In fact it’s about damn time. And one McFlurry is not going to affect my weight. I am hungry. I am craving something sweet. Besides the fact that I’m afraid makes it more important that I do this. Remember if I eat when I am hungry and stop when I’m full I will not gain weight.

Trigger: I haven’t exercised or moved very much during the day

Inner Dialogue: You fat, lazy pig. You are going to get fat, fat, fat.

Rational Dialogue: I am tired. Really, really tired. This means my body needs a rest. I didn’t overeat so there is no need to worry. There are many days where I am very active so it is a good thing to give my body a rest. Besides I know from experience if I exercise when I am tired I don’t enjoy it and then it becomes something I dread instead of enjoy.

Trigger: My pants are tight.

Inner Dialogue: You must have gained ten pounds over night. oh My God I have to exercise. I have to get out of my skin. 

Rational Diaglogue/Action: Change clothes Kate. It’s 9:00 at night of course your pants are uncomfotable. You always wear pj’s this time of night because it’s your time to relax. This doesn’t mean you are fat. It simply means you pants feel tight not that they are tight. Tomorrow you know from experience that your pants will fit like you are used to.

Trigger: I am not the smallest person in the room.

Inner Dialogue: They are thinking you are all fat. Look at fat you are. You must weigh at least 20 pounds more than them. I used to be that size. I am meant to be that small size.

Rational Dialogue: First, you aren’t fat. You are a normal size. That person is a normal size for their body (and if they aren’t then they need help). Second, you have been the smallest one in the room and that only lead to Laureate, a tube up your nose and stuck in a wheelchair for two months. Third, eat your damn food.


So, there is a little glimpse into what happens when triggers pop up in my head. And this happens every single day. I must admit that the response doesn’t always happen. Or at least happen in a way that helps me get through the moment. It’s a lot of work to constantly try and block these thoughts. It’s a part of recovery and one of the most important parts at that. It has gotten easier over the past year but I still have days when it is really hard to thought-block or counteract my thoughts. BUT once again it’s necessary to learn and then practice these skills. Without them I have no doubt that I would still be in the depths of my disorder.


Filed under body image, coping skills, eating disorder, eating disorders, New Life, Recovery, survivor

thank you Shona

A few post back I posted about triggers. I’m going to get back to that subject but I’m still trying to formulate how to approach it so until I do I’m afraid you are going to have to listen to me go on about dogs….:)

Dogs are obviously important in my life. I’ve posted about them here, and here and here (and many more). But tonight I want to talk about my girl, Shona. I arrived home from Laureate in July of 2010. I can’t remember exactly when or by whom it was decided that I would get a dog. I suppose it was kind of expected. I had Connor (my moo dog) already but the plan was for me to move into my own apartment (well I did…just a year and a half later…) and Connor was set in his ways and really wouldn’t be able to leave home (or the basement for that matter). We also knew I would need a little bit of a smaller dog as I knew apartments tend to balk at anything over 30 pounds.

Sooo, my mother and I headed off to the humane society with the intention to look (note: Givans’ do not ‘look’ at animals – we take them home). We wondered the cages for awhile and then I spotted her. It was her eyes that grabbed my attention. Shona has these beautiful doe like eyes that are so expressive.

And so as you can probably guess I signed the papers and about ten days later she came home with me.

I didn’t have much time after that. I was deteroirating mentally and physically. I wasn’t ready for recovery and I felt out of control, scared and hopeless. In those next few months before I entered the Center for Change, Shona helped me hold onto sanity.

She did this by providing so much laughter:


Companionship and Unconditional Love.


But then I had to learn one of the most important and hardest lessons in recovery. Nothing can make you recovery. Not a person and as I learned not even a dog that I loved more than I loved myself.

So I left Shona. One of the hardest things I have had to do and went to The Center for Change.

And while I was over there I learned to live for myself. Not for anyone else but for myself. But there are still days when I need motivation to live and that is when Shona steps in. She saves me. I know this sounds overly dramatic but it is true. Shona saves me on a weekly basis. Knowing that she loves me when I can’t love myself is what sometimes gets me through the night. And so I’m thankful for my girl. I’m thankful that I have her and that she has stuck by me for this season of my life.




Filed under coping skills, dogs, eating disorder, eating disorders, New Life, Recovery

it isn’t a pig – it’s a dog. aka therapy.

Therapy has become very hard lately. I think I heard once that therapy is like pulling off a band-aid. It hurts now but won’t for long. I disagree with this statement. Therapy to me is like taking out all of my insides and slicing my skin off and then having to grow new ones. A gross anology maybe but that is what it feels like. And it doesn’t just hurt now but hurts all the time.

Beth is challenging so many long held beliefs. Beliefs that I didn’t even know weren’t effective but now that I can see differently know they clearly aren’t. And it’s hard. Hard to change and even harder to try and understand why I must change. For example, pretend that someone told you that what you have always called a pig isn’t a pig and is in fact a dog. Not only do you have to wrestle with changing that in your mind but you have to figure out why the pig suddenly isn’t a pig anymore. That is what therapy is like for me.

I have so many pigs that are in fact dogs in my mind that I leave each week feeling as if the world has suddenly turned upside down. And to say that it hurts to do this is an understatement. I leave each Wednesday feeling depressed and hopeless. Thursdays are spent recooporating. Resting, since I’m so tired after Wednesdays and getting my feet back firmly planted on solid emotional ground.

I said above that it hurts all the time. This isn’t true. There are breaks but when I come right back to it – the pain never really goes away. It fades into questions and into a soft ache but it’s still there and comes to the surface in the middle of the night when I can’t sleep.

I don’t want to seem negative or leave this entry feeling hopeless. There is a purpose to my pain. In some ways it is good pain. It is challenging self-destructive beliefs, blame, shame and guilt. And that makes it bearable. I can trust God that it won’t be this way forever. Maybe when I look back ten years from now it will seem more like a band-aid being ripped off than a skin graph.

And I can handle the pain. I have the skills. And I have hope which makes all the difference in the world.


Filed under coping skills, depression, eating disorder, faith, New Life, PTSD, Recovery, survivor, the past, trauma

the three letter “f word”

I hate nights like this. Nights I feel like I am going to crawl out of my skin. I feel fat. I hate saying that and in reality I usually don’t. I often feel uncomfortable in my body or I dislike how I look but very seldom do I feel the dreaded three letter “f word”. But I really have no other words to describe how I feel.

I hate writting people off who say “I understand how you feel” but this is one feeling that I don’t think anyone without an eating disorder can understand. When I feel fat I feel like I cannot stand one more minute of living in my body. I feel like I’m a hot air balloon. I feel like I MUST get rid of this fat feeling (and therefore the fat) at this minute. If I spend one more minute in this body I’ll explode. Maybe normal people feel like this but something tells me that my reaction is a little extreme.

Of course, eating disorders are never about weight. There is always something else behind them. I know I’m not fat. I know my weight (which I now know…) is completely normal for my 5’5″ frame. But that doesn’t make a difference to how I feel. I suppose there is something behind the abnormal intensity of my emotions. Some underlying issue that is making me uncomfortable and I have a pretty good idea of what that is. But somehow, someway my discomfort with this has led me to feeling fat.

I wish I knew how this happnened. I wish I could trace my brain waves and see where fear, anxiety and so on turns into thoughts that I am  fat. I don’t ever think “I’m anxious therefore I’m fat”. Suddenly, I’m just overwhelmed with a feeling that I cannot for one more minute sit in my body. Now I can do things others than behaviors to manage this feeling. I can distract, I can call friends, I can tell my support system that my body image frankly sucks and I can ask for help. But the reality is that no matter what I do I usually just have to wait for the feelings to evaporate. Wait until I can process the primary emotions whether by myself or with Beth’s help.  Just wait. And waiting is not fun.

I hate eating disorders….


Filed under body image, coping skills, eating disorder, eating disorders, Recovery

“um Kate do you have depression?”

The past few days have been blahh ones to say the least. I have felt really lethargic, teary, anxious and a whole bunch of other not so fun emotions. It was for a combination of reasons and at the same time for no particular reason at all. It reminded me of when I said to Carrie in treatment that I felt sad all the time and for no reason and I just don’t understand why. Her response was “um Kate don’t you have depression?”. That’s right I do.

This happens to me sometimes. I become sad. And not just a sadness that I know will shortly pass but a sadness that makes me feel weary down to my soul. That is when I know I am depressed. Not surprisingly my urge to use behaviors during this time escalates. I think that maybe loosing a few pounds by using behaviors will make me happy or that self-harming will release some emotion and I can just move on. Or that both will perhaps make me numb to the world. But by now I have learned (through many mistakes and many, many hours of therapy) that this just doesn’t work. So I am very happy to report that for the past two days when I have been struggling the most I have been behavior free.

This hasn’t been without work or support. I did struggle some last week and with my mom’s help I was able to get back on track. Which in itself is a blessing because it prepared me just in time for these two days. If I was already in the vulnerable position of consistly using behaviors today and yesterday would have gone much, much differently. This has opened up my eyes to letting people knowing what is going on with me. I CANNOT struggle alone in the darkness. Not only is this very dangerous for me (as evidenced by some of my past), but it causes me pain that I do not have to have. And in this already dark place I need any relief I can get. So I have been very honest about the fact that I depressed. Not easy by any means but worth it.

I am somewhat ashamed to talk about my depression on here or for that matter anywhere. Society stills seems to misunderstand depression even though many people are diagnosed with some sort of mental illness. I’m not a bad person because I struggle with depression (although at times everything in me tells me that I am) nor am I “weak” or simply “feeling sorry for myself”. My brain chemistry is just off. Because that is the truth of the matter. Depression is a mental illness. Dissect that for a moment. A Mental. Illness. Just like a cold or a flue or a cancer it is caused by some biological factor. Not enough serotonin or whatever that chemical thingy is (it’s been too long since bio-psych) but the point is – it is not my fault or choice that I struggle with depression nor is it any one else’s.

However, I do have choices. Do not think for a minute that if I am depressed it gives me a free pass to be self-destructive. I have been taught the tools, have the skills and have practiced these so I have a choice to use them. I understand lapses or slips. Goodness knows I have had plenty of them but the hopeful thing for me is that I know I am capable of fighting against my depression. Less than a year ago I didn’t know this. I just sank further and further into the darkness and no amount of light could draw me out. But now I have skills. Boy do I have skills. And I have even added new ones. One of these was trashy daytime t.v. Don’t judge me. Some Oprah and Dr. Phil complete with a crying session does help. Try it sometime. 🙂

I’m still depressed. I know from past experience it might last awhile but I also know that it will past. And that is the most valuable thing I’ve learned by far. I may feel bad now but it will pass. It will not last. For now, I will continue using my skills and trying to rest in the knowledge that this will not be how I feel forever. Soon I’ll be back to updating you with stupid things my dogs do that I find adorable and you honestly probably don’t care. So you and I can both look forward to that. 🙂






Filed under coping skills, depression, eating disorder, Recovery