I had an experience today that caused a lot of stress. In short, I helped a friend through a very hard time in which he discussed self harm in a potentially lethal way. I think I handled it quite well, and I’m glad to have rallied his other friends around him. I may have overestimated the danger he was in, but I always take discussion of self harm seriously. I’ve been trained to do so.
But this story is not that of my friend who suffered. I plan to share what I did to recover from that. All of us, from time to time, go through emotionally exhausting experiences. I care a lot about my friend and the thought of him coming to serious harm did a number on my psyche. I knew I had to take care of myself.
In this case, I did a few small things that put me back in the right state of mind. I hope to share many coping skills throughout this blog, so I might as well start with what I did today: I called friends.
I called two friends. With both of them, I gave the full story of what happened, including the background. I did not share names, and I was lucky that my friend in danger was someone I know from online gaming, so my friends from my city had no way of ever knowing who he was. I think avoiding gossip is very important, so I was thankful for this freedom to speak.
Recounting the full story out loud of a hard situation is a great way for the brain to process it. In fact, one theory about dreams is that they do this in a strange way. Poor sleep often leads to trauma worsening. Because I was able to recount the story twice with my voice, I felt at peace afterward. Because my friend who was in danger turned out to be OK, I celebrated with a silly thing: a candy bar. To get a candy bar, I had to leave my house and drive to a local gas station. That change of location is also good for my mind.
Text v. Voice
I’d like to make a note that I also talked to two friends about the experience though an instant message type chat online. For some reason talking in text rather than voice was not as healing for me. I imagine that different people decompress differently, so I would encourage those practicing the technique to try out different forms.
Another aspect worthy of a mention is that I celebrated my good decisions where they existed. We don’t always do the right thing, but it is important to celebrate successes. This is not to build pride and arrogance, but rather to avoid self hatred. I encourage all things in balance, and I think proper humility is a balance, not a hatred of self.
I’m happy to be learning how to take care of myself, and I’m happy that my previous studies have led me to some success. It is good to be an ongoing student.