Coping with Asperger autism and chronic PTSD, I have lived through quite dark times myself. I wholeheartedly agree with most things already posted and I try to keep my redundant thoughts short.Coping strategies1. One Day More
Multiple times I was ready to give up but I always convinced myself to give it one day more. For the next rehearsal. Or until the next concert. Or when I met this or that friend. Or until after a holiday, for the sake of my family. Looking back, I think this is actually a brilliant survival strategy: don't decide it generally. Keep postponing decisions you could not take back. Take life one step at a time, one day after the other, or when things are really desperate in bits of 10 seconds like Kimmy Schmidt advises (btw. early seasons of Kimmy Schmidt are great for distraction, too - Uuuuunbreakable!
). It is also kind of similar to what Beppo from Momo
advises: don't look until the end of the street, just do it one pavement flag after the other. And then suddenly it's over.2. Water
Water is scientifically proven to reduce depression symptoms. There just seems to be something it does to us 'ugly bags mostly filled with water". When you have the time and opportunity, take a long warm bath. Alternatively, taking a shower can also be very helpful. Even in high-stress-situations, it's often possible to quickly visit a bathroom and throw some water in your face or let water stream across your wrists. All these options help relax the nervous system, I feel.
And, as basic and lame as it sounds, drinking a large glass of cold water also often helps disrupt a destructive thought cycle for me.3. Music
As stated by Voleron and jperko, music can be helpful. I fully agree with jperko about writing/composing and the importance of choosing music that doesn't deepen one's sorrow. Personally, I find especially 'mathematical' music (like Bach or Schönberg) very soothing. Playing it myself on an instrument works best for me, balancing the mind and keeping hands and brain busy with complex movements. But listening to it is also helpful, especially with headphones when it's a stereo mix. Activating both halves of the brain is important in certain PTSD-treatments and I think that's why playing an instrument with two hands as well as stereo-listening is so helpful.
Singing is very liberating, to me, as well. Feeling the resonance of my own voice, I guess, in a way relieves feelings of helplessness. It is no coincidence that so many movements use the slogan 'raise your voice'.4. Distraction
Sometimes you can't face your distress directly, it would just be overwhelming. Distraction is a good survival strategy for such moments. I used to feel I was 'weak' and 'running away' when I did such things, but I got to understand it can be the right way to go when the pressure would otherwise be too much. I've gotten through some very bad days by solving Sudokus and I can't count how many times I woke up from a nightmare in serious distress, turned on STO and fled. And most times I found SGN members there to talk to.5. Diary
Writing down what's on your mind and then letting it go helps me as well. It helps me clear up what's actually getting to me so much. Verbalizing it can be very hard for me, especially while the feelings are strong I often have a hard time talking about it, and in writing I can find the words to talk about it later. I can put all my distress on paper, appreciate it and then put it away. It's like storing it for another time when I feel I can cope with it better.6. Nature
This has also already been mentioned, and I know that at times it can be hard to find a place in nature. But the small things also work well for me, even when I struggled with leaving my inner city flat at all, I found joy in watching the birds outside my window or admiring the structures of a leaf (even from a salad). Obviously, being in a calm place surrounded by plants is better, but it can be difficult to find when living in a town.
Observing ants also is very peace-inducing for me. And interacting with dogs always helps me, too. Before the pandemic I used to go for walks with my brother and his husbands dog once a month or so and I always found the presence of that special dog very helpful, especially in talks about difficult family situations, and even for days on.7. Safe Place
It can be under a blanket, as mentioned, but it is anywhere where you feel (and actually are) safe. I had a safe place under my grand piano for while. People knew when I was there, I needed to be left alone. I had a pillow there, my diary and my love would just let me be there and occasionally offer me water, coffee or food.
In my childhood, I used to climb a certain tree where I knew most people would not be able to follow me to and then I just sat in that spot for a while to calm down. I guess that's Nature + Safe Place in one :-D
People tried to train me in creating an 'inner safe place' in my mind to retreat to but, at least for me, it needs to be a real physical spot. Preferably a cosy, warm and tiny one, for me.8. Solidarity and Analysis
Whatever you are struggling with, you are probably not alone. Just knowing that other people went through similar things helped me a lot. Finding role-models who went through it and survived, too. Most things that depress us are not individual tragedies, let alone failures, but rather systemic problems. Realizing how much of my own pain and horror experiences was so very typical for our society took a lot off my shoulders.
With time, I understood there was nothing wrong with me. I wasn't emotionally unhealthy, I was reacting in a healthy way to very unhealthy situations. It also helped me realized that even when I was actually considering suicide, it was not because I wanted to die. It was because life felt unbearable. And things can change. And by now I'm very happy that I'm still here.
You are not alone.9. Smile-List
When my therapist first proposed this to me, I thought it was a ridiculous, useless idea. But I tried it and it turned out to be one of the most easily accessible helpful things I got from therapy: a personal smile list.
Try, on a good day, to think of ten things/situations/memories/movie scenes that make you smile.
Write them down.
Then later, whenever you feel depression or anxiety approaching, take one of these out in your mind and allow yourself to smile. Although everything. Because even in our greatest despairs, life itself is a miracle. And the wonderful things are there, even when you don't see them. But you can try to re-focus.
Some examples of what's on my list:
- Cool Runnings
(if you need context, you need to watch the movie, it's funny)
- MC Glamour- Celebrating Captivity
- Talking Porcupine
- The stunned look of surprise on the annoying boys face when my then-girlfriend actually poured a glass of juice over his head after telling him she would pour the juice over his head if he wouldn't stop (and he didn't stop, so he got the juice HA)10. Know (and respect) yourself
Speaking of 'feeling anxiety approaching': it was very important for me to get to know how to read myself. This sounds easy, but it isn't. At least it wasn't for me. There were lots of times when my emotions caught me off-guard, just suddenly taking over, because I wasn't listening to them in the first place. I didn't want to feel that way, so I told myself I wasn't, but feelings are not obeying such orders! So I had to learn to notice the early signs that such a wave of emotion was coming. That took me a lot of observation and patience. Try finding the patterns of what happens shortly before an emotional storm - small signs in your body. Maybe it's shortness of breath, or something specific you do with your hands, or a type of headache - everyone is different but there probably are body signals that sound the alarm when the emotional attack is coming.
And then, next step, when you notice these signs, react BEFORE it takes over. Don't judge yourself, don't demand that you 'should be able to' or whatever way is your personal way of belittling or shaming yourself. You are okay the way you are, including these feelings we all don't wanna have. But you also have a right to feel okay. And if you notice that you don't, change something. Don't just run head-first into the same wall over and over.
It may mean to get off the (metaphoric or literal) train. It may mean to leave the (metaphoric or literal) party. It may mean to postpone a discussion. It may even mean to cut off (or drastically cool down) a relation that causes these feelings. In my case, it also meant giving up a career as a live musician. But your own mental health is important and you have every right to look after yourself and not put other things, or plans how it 'should be' , or other people first. You are worthy of respect and love. Even and especially from yourself.
Try treating yourself not like the harshest critic, but like a best friend would.