It takes not being on your meds to fully realize how thoroughly one has mastered coping strategies. For people that don’t go through therapy or psychiatric treatment of any sort, coping strategies are the safety net that’s supposed to catch you if everything else isn’t working. Some of them work spectacularly, while many others can break under increased strain.
Mine break mostly whenever I feel like they’ve become empty platitudes. Growing up, these platitudes and other empty practices helped keep me away from treatment – to the point of not even being willing to admit I had a problem with anxiety or depression. People would tell me I needed more generic happiness or spirituality or Jesus, and all would be well. After all, it worked for them. Why shouldn’t it work for everyone else?
That latter question is probably one of the deadly sins of mental wellness. If it isn’t patronizing, it’s definitely isolating. Either way, it leaves people holding the bag of their mental toxic waste with nowhere healthy to put it. Most of the time, I want to tell people where they can go eff themselves when they give me such nonsense, but then the point gets lost in the ensuing butthurt. They were just trying to help, they’d say.
Over the years, this association gets attached to every meaningless statement that I get offered. It’s a morbid reflex. Regardless, it helped me form a protective cocoon around depressive thought and my anxieties. When the best reasons I have for not hating myself, being afraid, and engaging in unhealthy thinking turn out to be untrue, it must mean that I’m right to be depressed. In short, platitudes are the proverbial gasoline poured on the dumpster fire of my misfiring neurons.
I recognize that nobody can know that. Saying something nice to people normally helps others (I’ve heard). Personally, I can’t do it. Without facts, my mind seizes upon any excuse to tear myself down. I end up isolating myself from people just to stop things from being too unmanageable.
What’s to be done when empty words won’t do?
Eventually everything boils down to personal discipline. I’ve had to write things down, to keep them out there where I can’t get rid of them. Going over some of it has helped, because they’re records of times when my mind was in better shape. The important thing is that they’re my facts, and not anything anyone else tells me. When I can barely rely on myself, resting on others is resting on a broken crutch.
What I’ve learned is that I do these things not because some therapist has instructed me to do so, or because of some lofty philosophical principle. I do this because I have to. Without it, I’m at the mercy of myself.