Part of staying in recovery is learning how to cope with life’s challenges and health issues. I sure have had my share of health issues. Within the last several years it’s been surgery after surgery. It’s very easy to slip into depression when you face things like this. Even people without mental health problems can get down when their health is not good. It’s even worse when you have mental illness. If you don’t cope with your situation, it becomes easy to fall down the dark hole of your illness.
I made it through my surgeries using different coping techniques to keep my mind busy. When I had breast cancer, I colored in adult coloring books and journaled. With my other surgeries I wooudburned, journaled, and worked on my memoir. These activities kept me busy, so I didn’t have time to worry, fight racing thoughts, and slip into depression. When I had my back surgery I woodburned Christmas ornaments and began selling them. I started up a small business selling my pyrography. When I had a tendon repaired in my ankle, I sat on the couch and worked on writing chapters of my memoir. With each surgery I journaled out my feelings.
Using these coping techniques kept me busy and focused on something else other than my situation. It kept me from getting bored and feeling sad that I couldn’t do my regular activities. When I don’t have something to keep me occupied, my mind goes on overload. My worries bombard me causing anxiety attacks, depression takes over, and my mind goes on a mad rampage, flooding me with negative thoughts. I go into a depression.
With carpal tunnel surgery, I couldn’t do my usual coping techniques. My right hand was wrapped in a bandage for 48 hours and for a week the only thing I could do was flex my fingers. Once the stitches were out, my hand was still very sore and I could slowly use it. Everything I usually do to cope involves using the hand that I had the surgery on. I felt lost. I couldn’t even journal out my feelings. I had to find new ways to cope. I couldn’t allow myself to just lie around and slip into depression. I had to find a way to deal with my situation.
I couldn’t put a harness on my dog, and I couldn’t risk her pulling on me when I walked. So, I left her home and went on walks by myself with my ear buds in and my phone playing music on iheart radio. This got me out of the house and into the sun which brightened my soul. Since I couldn’t write, I recorded my thoughts in the notebook app on my phone or on an old tape recorder. That way I was getting my feelings out and they weren’t trapped inside me. I walked down the street to my friend Stacy’s house who was recovering from eye surgery. We talked about our frustrations with our recovery process and many other things.
One day I was feeling lonely and sick of being stuck at home. My friend Amy was preparing for a yard sale. I offered to help if her brother could pick me up. Unfortunately, her brother was busy. She lives forty minutes away from me. My husband insisted I ask her to let Lou drop me at her house after he finished work and spend the night, and he would pick me up the next day after work. Amy was more than happy to have me over. She is an author also. She wrote a guest post a couple weeks ago for my blog. We had a great time. I helped her with some of her yard sale items. I put tape on them, and she wrote the price. We talked about writing and brainstormed on how to improve her newsletter and shopped for a basket she was giving away at her book launch.
Then I invited my mom and family friend to go to mile long yard sales on the road Amy lives on. We went to several yard sales including Amy’s. We found some treasures and had lunch at a church. It was fun. This got me out of the house and away from the TV. When I have nothing to keep me busy it’s easy to sleep until one-thirty p.m., lie on the couch in front of the TV and give in to my illness. Going yard sailing and staying at my friends kept me from doing that. I was able to get out of the house and keep active.
Combatting mental illness is a daily battle even in recovery. Health issues had threatened to send me into the dark hole again, but each time I found ways to fight it off by using coping techniques. Even when I couldn’t use my hand to do my normal coping methods, I found new ways to cope.
When life challenges your mental health with heart ache, health issues, and trials, you must find ways to cope and fight your illness. When you’re unable to use your normal coping techniques, get creative and find new ways to deal with your situation. Don’t let your illness take charge. There is always a way to cope, even if it means finding new techniques. Life will always challenge us and threaten to throw us back into the pits of darkness. It’s how we deal with it that helps us reach and stay in the light of recovery.
I have one more week until I return to work. I am finally strong enough to write and woodburn. My hand will still have soreness for a while, but at least I can do stuff. Finding new ways to cope when I couldn’t use my usual techniques kept me in the light of recovery.