For whatever reason, it was this most recent episode of illness that prompted me to create a book. The book is written in a notebook (from invite.L, my favorite seller of stationery, if you're a stationery geek like me), and has been informally dubbed The Care and Keeping of Esmé. Should you, too, have a chronic mental illness, I invite you to create one for yourself. Here are some of the things that are being recorded in The Care and Keeping. If you should have any suggestions, feel free to leave them in the comments.
- A grocery shopping list. This might sound bizarre, but my acupuncturist has recommended certain foods for me, both for my schizoaffective disorder and for my fibromyalgia. But in general, it is easy to slide into a not-eating state of mind, or an eating-too-much-crap state of mind. Creating a grocery shopping list when well encourages me to remember what is actually good for me to eat. (And that I need to eat.)
- Basic, basic recipes. Brown rice plus tuna fish plus lemon juice. Okay.
- Nourishment activities. I have a page that details for me how to get to the ocean. I have a terrible sense of direction and don't drive, so I made extensive instructions about taking public transit to the shore. You might not love the ocean; maybe you love the zoo, or have a forest that you like to go to.
- Nourishment activities, continued. These are the things that help alleviate the anguish/psychosis/mania/etc. You might need different lists for different types of episodes, as I do. I have included things like "using Headspace" (a simple, but lovely meditation app), "drinking ginger tea," and "Skyping with Mum." Having a tangible list of activities helps to at least remind me that I can attempt to not go straight for alcohol or self-injurious behavior, or any of my other long-standing, but unpleasant, coping mechanisms.
- Lists of signs of oncoming episodes. I didn't realize until I stopped craving the taste of alcohol after my yearlong episode of depression ended that "craving alcohol daily" was a symptom, or that making a million lists and obsessively tidying was a sign of oncoming psychosis. Yours may or may not vary.
- A list of resources. This may include your best friends, your family, your doctors, a crisis line, your local clinic, etc.
I hope that was helpful. Again, if you have any more suggestions, leave them in the comments. And if you think this might be helpful for someone you know, feel free to send them the link; tweet the link if you feel like it might be nice. (http://www.esmewang.com/2013/03/careandkeeping/) Be well, all of you. I wish you all the very, very best.