We’ve all got our toolbox of coping skills to draw on when things start to get difficult. It’s usually not quite as simple as that, though. My toolbox has multiple different compartments, and multiple different keys. When I’m well, I’ve got the master key and I have access to all the different compartments with all the different skills.
Things change when I get depressed. Perhaps the guinea pigs have stolen the master key, or perhaps I swallowed it in my self-defeating misery, but wherever it is, I can’t find it. That means there’s a bunch of higher level compartments that I just can’t access. And there are damn good locks on those puppies, plus I have zero locksmithing skills.
Still, there are a few different compartments with a few different tools that I can still use. Then something stressful happens, and boom, the keys to a few of those compartments have disappeared. I fumble along trying to pull myself together, and maybe I find one or two of those lost keys. Then life comes along with another kick in the ass, and I might end up reduced to my 7-Eleven strategies that are available 24/7/365, namely avoidance, and alcohol to lubricate that avoidance.
Then maybe I’ve decided to venture out into reality again, and some other shit comes along, sending me straight into fuck-it mode, where I’m ready to throw the whole fucking toolbox off a roof, and perhaps myself along with it. But just as I’m getting ready to head up to the roof, one of the guinea pigs coughs and out pops a key. Then once I’ve got one toolbox compartment open, I realize that hidden in there was a key to another compartment. And slowly I’m able to gain access again to more and more of my toolbox.
I’ve probably overdone the metaphor, but I suppose I’m trying to remind myself that even though it feels like I can’t cope most of the time, the tools are still there and hopefully I’ll be able to use them again.
Do you ever struggle with being to access the coping skills that you’ve developed?
The COVID-19/Mental Health Coping Toolkit page has a wide range of resources to support better mental health and wellbeing.