It’s About To Go Down: My Emergency Mental Health Crisis Plan.

When you live with a mental illness you always know what your worst case scenarios are. All of us, at one time or another, have seen our symptoms turn into full blown bullshit and if we’re dedicated enough we can get through it and put a plan in place to try to prevent the worst of the worst. 

Being well and staying well takes three things for just about everyone: listening to your doctors, taking your medications, and investing in some serious self-care.

With my particular blend of crazy I always have to be prepared for a single scenario: Major Depressive Episodes. They’re awful, they’re painful, and for many they’re downright deadly. With MDE number 7 officially under my belt, I wish I could tell you that I’m so prepared for them that I’m able to get through them without so much as batting an eyelash. But that’s a bunch o’ bullshit. 

The older I’ve gotten the worse these episodes have become. Because life is unfair I actually have Psychosis as a result of MDEs which means I go full on Cuckoo’s Nest and the poor souls who love me have to deal with me doing all kinds of craaaaazy shit. Like when I thought the radio was talking directly to me and my unhappy husband watched me converse directly with NPR hosts like we were at some sort of super sick holiday house party. Oops!

When you know what your worst case scenario is you have to put a plan into place to help you survive and thrive through it, otherwise you increase the chances of not making it at all.

I wish I could tell you that episodes 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, & 6 have taught me how to safely survive on my own but that’s crap too. In fact, episode 7 has been the worst bout I’ve ever experienced and nearly took my life not one, not two, but three solid times. I will say, however, that the reason I’m back at blogging and trudging forward in life right now after less than 2 months is because I chose to come to class prepared this time. 

Before you go on getting excited about my plan I do want to say that your symptoms and sickness are unique to you. Instead of adopting exactly what I do, I’d recommend that you use this plan as a guideline and to develop your own with your doctor. They’ll be able to assist you in crafting something that’s perfectly tailored to your own beautiful blend of crazy and we’ll all be happier because you’ll survive the worst of it too. 

So here we go! This is my “Ahh fuck I’m going to lose my marbles again” emergency mental health crisis plan:

Phase 1 - Prepared Preparation

Whether it’s manic episodes, disassociation, or depression so severe you can’t get out of bed, the first thing you need to do is to understand exactly what your symptoms are and what you can expect them to be. When I hit an MDE, my communication skills go utterly out the window. That’s why I keep a list of my symptoms, the history I’ll need to provide to doctors, and all of the medical information I’m going to need to get some serious help in a safe place so it’s easily accessible when necessary. 

My symptoms fluctuate just a little bit, but for the most part I follow the same perfectly putrid path every time I get super sick. For example, I know that I’m going to get paranoid, I’m going to suffer from serious all or nothing thought patterns, and I’m going to be so depressed that standing up is going to feel like I’m running a marathon. It’s important for any doctors I see to know what I’m both expecting to experience and currently going through and it’s just plain easier to sit down and have my support person able to deliver my information while I’m off in la la land trying to stay alive.

Phase 2 - Rockin’ the White Coat

Early medical intervention in a mental illness crisis saves lives, period. There’s a reason medical schools exist and no matter how far along you are in your own recovery you can’t substitute that kind of education with a great attitude. What I’m saying is don’t be stubborn! Trust the people who spend their entire careers helping people to get through the worst of the worst times. 

If you’re traveling (like I was recently and wowza did it make things complicated) it’s important to take the time to sit down and map out treatment facilities, outpatient centers, and hospitals for those worst case scenario moments. Wherever you’re going you absolutely must have an idea of where you might end up no matter how strong you think you are. My advice? As soon as you notice an uptick in symptoms get help immediately. Believe me, not doing so is costly and I’m personally paying for that mistake today.

Phase 3 - The Support Circle

When you start to go down the world becomes a bit more complicated to communicate with. In my case juggling text messages and phone calls is utterly impossible. I forget who I’m talking to, what I need to say, and I end up trying to deal with so many conversations that I utterly forget that my top priority is my own health. 
That’s why I form support circles. Ya gotta have at least 5 folks in them who you can be nakedly honest with about your health. They can also check in with you to keep your ass on track. If you don’t have 5 folks who can help you do this, don’t worry! There’s gonna be an app for that. (Can I get a HELL YES?!) They function like mobile support groups and frankly can save your life when you can’t spend 24 hours a day with a therapist. 

Phase 4 - Diggin’ the Dark

My mental health crisis moments always get to a place where I have to unplug and go dark in order to fully focus on myself. Since isolating yourself can be a totally negative thing, this one’s important to talk about with your doctor. But I’m a space person which means that I can’t handle conversations, messages, or social media when I’m fully engulfed in brainy bullshit.

The best way to do this is to utilize your support circles and keep that line of communication relatively open. This forces me to stay in contact with those that get me through the deadly darkness without having to answer too many people at once. I also like to put up a post on social media to let people know that hey, I’m taking a step away.

Phase 5 - You Do You

This phase is often the hardest part of the crisis plan as it requires a release of control of your outside world. But when you’re super sick you do super sick things, so it’s important to focus down on things like therapy practices and doctor appointments. 

I love to work, for example. But when I’m ill, I can’t even lift my arms above my head let alone accomplish anything significant. That’s why it’s so important to communicate honestly about where you’re at and what you’re dealing with in order to let others know that you’ll be back when you’re in tip top shape. And yes, it’s frustrating to have to admit that you can’t do something, but it’s important to be real about your realness too. 

So the next time you’re worried about whether you’ll make it through, sit down with your doctor and come up with your own crisis plan! Smart preparation is the way we get through the worst of it and, if you’re committed to your wellness, it can even save your life. 

Alicia GibsonComment