To start with I couldn’t face making a safety plan, a plan for when I felt in crisis and in danger of harming myself.
It felt like admitting I was a failure and would fail again. So, I didn’t. I held out on getting help on the belief that things were not bad enough, or that I would be being selfish or taking up time doing the things for myself. This was despite the fact that in leaving it undone, I was putting myself in danger.
It was only when I had reached crisis more than once, that I made myself make one.
So, I ask of anyone like me, don’t leave it that long. You deserve to put yourself first and empower yourself and create the control you can have, even when you feel in despair.
Writing a safety plan
Eventually then, I sat with a pen in hand, ready to make a plan, I wanted to stop even from the first question: triggers or early warning signs. I shook my head. I’m just good and then bad, that’s what I wanted to say – there’s no warning, the emotions just overwhelm me. I wanted to cross through it all. That’s not true though, there are signs, there are triggers, there are things that make me worse. It doesn’t make it my fault.
So, as hard it was, I made myself go back to those moments I wanted to forget. I looked at the weeks and months leading up to them, littered with signs I’d ignored. For example, when I’m unwell I always think I am a burden. So, I isolate, I withdraw, I stop talking. Writing down a list of people I can contact, both people I’m close to and mental health services, where I can’t ignore them reminds me I am not taking up their time.
It reminds me that when I look at this plan, I know I feel in crisis. And this will prompt me to reach out.
Next on my safety plan, I made myself write out positive things about myself and my life – they sounded falsely positive, I felt silly. Yet, you can forget things when you feel alone and empty. There are always reasons to live, and positive things about yourself even if they slip clean out your mind. Writing these down helped, because they are so easy to forget. You think you will remember what you have thought and felt but you think and feel so much, that things we thought we knew for certain escape us.
So, write things down about yourself and your life you want to remember and that you can hold onto.
Here’s what I wrote: I like to create, I care about others, my girlfriend my friends, my parents love and care about me, I have survived before, I can again.
Include practical things that make you feel good
When depression hits it can feel never-ending. Doing things to help calm or soothe yourself seem futile, so write them out in your plan in a time when they do bring you joy. It is so hard when you feel you will feel bad regardless, now and forever; but sometimes, just sometimes, feeling sad but then slightly less sad and suicidal then before, that matters, even if the change is small.
We all have different things that help us, write down yours. They are often things that allow us to express how we feel. They might be something that feels or smells nice to us. You might have a favourite film or tv show or book. I know sometimes I’m determined that something this simple could never help; it’s only when I look back that I realise it did.
Take back some control
So, it’s not easy or comfortable to make a safety plan. It can feel like tempting fate, especially if you feel in a good place, but it’s worth it. It helps, it actually gives you more control, and it helps you acknowledge how bad things can get and plan for them. Rather than just holding out hope you’ll never get that bad. It helps to put faith in yourself, you can and will be able to cope – you just might need a little help.
Thanks to our guest blogger, our Young Ambassador Alice, for writing this important blog.
To write your own plan – follow this link for a template you can download.