I and the professionals around me knew that the last few days were going to be tough for me. Circumstances and the state of my mental health before, combined with the pressures and triggers over the festive period, as well as past experience led us to believe that it was going to be a tricky and particularly dangerous time for me.
We utilised lots of different strategies to help me get through the last week but one of the ones that I found particularly (and surprisingly!) helpful was to prepare letters from myself to myself to read each morning. I was sceptical but actually found it helpful and so wanted to share in case others may find the same when you know you’re facing a particularly tough time. I channelled what I might say to others, what professionals had said to me, what family/friends had or would say to me, as well as including reminders of the things that passed that would be big achievements for me currently and the therapeutic interventions to come that would help me hold on and recover if I did get to a point of really struggling.
These are my simple letters, however I have typed out the inner contents to remove peoples’ names:
Dear Molly on Christmas Day,
Don’t put too much pressure on yourself; try to just be!
You can go down, have a cuppa with the staff, talk or don’t talk, laugh or don’t laugh…make the most of being in this place of safety with people here to help and support you in whatever way you need.
Stick music on, enjoy seeing your mum open things you know she will love, remember that mum knows you struggle receiving/reacting to presents so give yourself a break. Enjoy a relaxed hour with her…make sure it’s not an extended period – remember you’ll be with her all day, too.
Do whatever you need to in your break. Get back in bed…have a bath…curl up on the sofa…do some colouring…talk to staff…BREATH!
Try to remember to take your camera to [Auntie’s] – it might be good to lose yourself in that! Try not to put too much pressure on yourself…remember that you don’t HAVE to do anything…just you being at [Auntie’s] will be enough for everyone. Enjoy watching everyone open their presents and try to be proud that you managed to not just think of them but get them things with meaning. Take a break if you need to. BREATH. Phone [Placement] or [Crisis Team] if yo need to talk or gather yourself. Take the dogs out with [Cousin] if you need some quiet time. Give yourself a break. Curl up and let everyone talk around you – they won’t mind…you’re always quiet, anyway.
Don’t feel guilty for leaving at a reasonable time. You NEED to to be able to get through tomorrow and give yourself a better chance of surviving. You still will have spent a long time there. Remember that the family have been so close to losing you that you being there at all will mean a lot to them.
Do whatever you need to when you get back to the house: [Keyworker] will be there…talk, just be with staff, have a bath, get in your PJs, watch mindless TV or a favourite film, write, play a game…whatever your body tells you you need.
GIVE YOURSELF A BREAK.
You’re doing good. Hang in there…
From Molly on 23rd December 2017 x
Dear Molly on Boxing Day,
You can do this. You really can. Just think of what you’ve gotten through until now! You never thought you would go to the pantomime, let along make it through the whole thing and participate. You’ve already tackled some of the conversations and questions you were scared of…and you managed to even sneak a bit of ironic sarcasm in there. It wasn’t so bad. You shouldn’t be ashamed of the situation – it’s too much to ask you to try to be proud, but at least try to give yourself a break…where you’re at is ok; try to believe that.
[Cousin] is going to sit next to you, so there will be a little bit of a shield if you need quiet time. You’re proud of the children’s little selection of presents – remember that – remember how much they love you and you know that they will love what you’ve got them. If you can concentrate on playing with them, you’ll probably feel a little bit of pride and belonging…try to grasp on to those breadcrumbs. Try to see that you’re bringing them happiness by being there, not damaging them.
Remember that you can leave when you need to. This year you’re trying to do things different, trying to make changes, so you don’t have to stay until the end just because everyone else is or because you always have done…be brave, do what you need.
Focus on the love around you; try to remember that. Hold on to each hug, smile and laugh.
Go easy on yourself.
Do what you need to when you get back: talk to staff, have a nap, have a bath, get in your PJs, binge on Netflix, watch a soppy film…whatever you need.
Remember you’re seeing [Psychologist] tomorrow. You know that will help. You have to be there to see her – you promised.
Remember you’re seeing [Care Coordinator] on the 28th. Ditto!
Be kind to yourself. Hold on. Pause.
From Molly on 23rd December 2017 x
Dear Molly on the 27th of December,
You got through it! How bloody amazing is that? You’re alive and now you need to PAUSE in a very big way. Remember your conversations with [Placement Occupational Therapist]…
- Don’t make decisions based on feelings rather than facts…
What you believe might feel true, but that doesn’t mean that it is true.
- Don’t make decisions when you haven’t allowed yourself enough time working with the right help and support to find what the facts really are.
- At this point in time, you are still in the role of ‘Child Molly’…we’ve not found ‘adult Molly’ yet, and emotions are still out of control and overwhelming…
Would you truly feel a child capable of making the decisions you are considering?
- After failed attempts, you have regained some hope and strength…it comes back even from the darkest rock bottom…give yourself time and things will change, your thoughts and feelings will change, even if just subtly.
Allow yourself TIME…even if that means a week of duvet days, binging on Netflix in your PJs…THAT IS OK!
- You trust [OT]. Remember talking this stuff over with her. Remember how sad you were at the thought of dying. Remember those glimmers of hope you’ve felt recently about the potential of working with everyone here at [Placement], [Care Coordinators] and [Psychologist]…try to trust others in believing that this isn’t selfish and that you do deserve a chance, finally.
Hold on for [Psychologist] today and [Care Coordinator] tomorrow.
Utilise support from staff [at Placement].
Phone [Crisis Team] if you need to.
GIVE YOURSELF A BREAK>
Listen to Winnie the Pooh: how often have you surprised yourself by being “braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think”?
Try to trust [OT] when she says that it’s ok to step off the world for a while…that that doesn’t have to be final…it’ll still keep on spinning.
From Molly on the 22nd of December 2017 x
They are cheesy and more upbeat that I ever am or could ever believe I can be, they are based on some psychologically temporary grounds (they are definitely more sticking plasters than any kind of long-lasting solution), they require a fair bit of external validation…BUT they have served their purpose brilliantly and have been just what I needed at this point in time.
I would definitely recommend that people give this a go if they know that they will struggle at a certain time, or even to just have on hand in case a crisis surfaces unexpectedly. There’s something powerful in something written in your own hand, using your own language and experiences. It’s got to be worth trying!