During my first hospital stay in NYC, I was given numerous worksheets daily in regards to mental health. There was one for coping skills, another one for thought patterns and yet another one tracking behavioral responses. It was my adult version of homework. But unlike my school homework which I despised, I found those exercises engaging, thought provoking and extremely helpful.
My most important worksheet was my safety plan. In my safety plan, I identified my triggers, my stressors and helpful methods for dealing with anxiety. It also listed contact information for supportive friends and mental health professionals. I reviewed the worksheet with my professional team and had it officially nominated as my safety plan. For a while, even after I was released from the hospital, I kept this worksheet close by so I can refer to it should the need arise.
Whenever an anxiety-triggering emotion rose to the surface, I tried to engage in one of the soothing activities I had listed or call one of my friends to talk about it. Slowly, one baby step at a time, I have learned to override those dangerous thoughts. My safety plan is in the drawer now, instead of being out, but I still call my friends to ask for support. The importance of having a support system can sometimes mean the difference between life and death. I am grateful to all of my wonderful friends who have been there for me and continue to do so. All of you are my safety plan.
And to all of you, think about your safety plan. Not because you’re in danger, but, because it’s important to remember what our triggers and stressors are and what we can do about it. It’s important to know who the supportive friends in our life are and to whom we can reach out if we need to. The friends who are there for you in your tough times are your true friends. Love them, appreciate them and let them know how much they mean to you. They are your support network. They are your safety plan.
To all of my supportive friends, safety begins with teamwork, so thank you for being a part of my team.
And you? You are the key to your own safety. Don’t let anything or anyone ruin or steal that key. Take care of that key, keep it in a safe place, nourish it, treat it nicely and remember your importance.