Planning ahead is an important part of my self-care. For example, over the years I have learned that from the first of October through the first of January is my danger zone. It has nothing to do with Seasonal Affective Disorder, I grew up in Southern California, then after 30 years lived in Arizona. It’s purely situational relating to a few key events that have happened to me over my lifetime during that time of year.
Last year I learned that if my brain is not functioning well as I get closer to October, I will start a quick descent into hell. Once January hits, if I don’t pull out of the downward spiral by mid-March (again, situational) I will most definitely crash and burn.
Many people may think of this as defeatist thinking. That type of person believes in the attitude of “If you think it will go wrong, it will.” This is not the case. My pre-planning comes from years of evaluating my cycle. Just like a woman tracking her fertility, I track my sanity. As a matter of fact, there are numerous mood trackers on the internet as well as apps for smarter-than-me phones. There’s an old proverb that is something like “To be forewarned is to be forearmed.”
Therefore, in addition to starting DBT in September (unplanned but fortuitous timing), I will need to cut back on commitments. It’s very difficult for me not to feel selfish about putting my mental well-being first; but as I learned last year, it is vital. Survival of another depressive episode, similar to what I just came out of, may not be possible. I simply don’t know if I (or the people who love me) would be able to handle it again, nor do I want to find out.
This is the year I learn how to say “No.” Apologies and explanations are probably not necessary, but in some cases I will feel compelled to do so.
To those of my readers in similar situations, what type of preventive actions do you practice? Is tracking your moods and episodes an important part of your life, or do you just take it as it comes? Most people who are successful in life, whether or not they have a mental illness, probably practice some sort of self-care. It can be beneficial to everyone.