Preface Note 1: This idea was not mine. I’ll more-than-happily give credit for the idea where it is rightfully due: to someone I consider a dear friend and Wiser Sister on the autism spectrum, the Unabashed Autist, who writes an incredible blog of the same name (applause for the awesome blog and the equally awesome idea!).
Preface Note 2: Before I get going on a roll, I must say that this is sort of a DIY (Do It Yourself) remedy for minor or temporary bouts of the blues that you know are not going to cause harm to you or anyone else. This post and its topic don’t substitute for the advice of a professional or their treatment avenues/interventions. I can’t make any guarantees about how well or how often it will work for you. Some of you are aware already that I’m a doctor; however, unfortunately, I’m not yours, and I can’t make any claims with this post. I’m sharing an anecdote here, which can be tweaked and tailored for your own use, in cases of temporary emotional dips that you know are limited and minor, or perhaps in conjunction with professional care for those of you (us–I’ve been there) who suffer longer or more severe episodes. Please, above all, take care of You.
Anyway, here we go… 🙂
During the last week of December, my Wiser Sister messaged me on Twitter, asking me if I wanted to collaborate with her on a little personal and individual project. Kind of like making a pact of sorts, if you will. Given the unfortunate breadth of geographical distance that separates too many of us from each other, we’d each do this in our own homes and send each other pictures.
Due to many obstacles (like being out of town) and shortcomings (motivational issues, emotional processing, poor time management, and executive function problems), I didn’t get mine done for a while …
On January 14th, she asked me if I’d done mine yet.
Sheepish and ashamed, I admitted that I hadn’t. (Oops!)
I think that part of my slowness in getting going is due to a deeper and more insidious phenomenon.
It’s not that I didn’t want to do it–I absolutely did; I think her idea is pure genius!–but one of the issues I’ve been dealing with over the past few weeks may in fact be the upsurge of thyroid problems I’ve been dreading for the past five years since I found out that my immune system is attacking said thyroid gland.
THAT’S the part I didn’t want to admit to; I have this unproductive habit of thinking that if I shove my head in the sand, then the problem will go away and cease to be real. In the end, that never works out well for me.
So when she messaged me on the night of January 14th, I got to thinking: if my motivation is down and it’s probably due to my thyroid pulling shenanigans, then depression usually comes next.
Which makes having a little survival kit of sorts on hand doubly important for me.
Receiving her gentle reminder was like having a spotter (workout partner) at a gym, saying, “two more reps! You can do it! Come on, you’ve got it in you! You’re awesome!”
It made all the difference in the world.
A fire lit under me.
It was time, and there’s no better time than Now. “Tomorrow never comes” and all that.
Well, where there’s a will, there’s a way, I suppose, because it happened that night. Well, at least, most of it happened that night.
Within the next 15 minutes, a blizzard of activity ensued. I marched straight back to my home office, the really cool part of the apartment/flat with all the chock-full bookcases. My brains gears ground to life. I scanned the room. Let’s see….happy stuff, happy stuff…
But I had a few obstacles to overcome. A few questions dangled in the air. (Step #1: Answer These Questions For Yourself)
- What would I put in my box? (Prerequisite: what could I think of that made me happy? What could cheer me up and pull me out of a temporary emotional undertow?)
- What would I store this stuff in?
- How would it fit? How would I arrange it?
- What would I call it?
First, I had to figure out what I was going to stock my box with.
And to answer that, I had to answer a few other questions first:
- What relaxes me?
- What brings me peace?
- What brings me joy?
- What makes me happy?
My answers to the list immediately above:
- Reading spiritual material
- Feeling like I’m “cool”, like I’m up on things
- Feeling nostalgic, whether specific pleasurable memories are triggered, or it remains more of a vague, comfy feeling
- Art, primarily coloring
- Listening to chill out music, especially that which has an ethnic flair and a consistent, unobtrusive beat
- Creative elements
- Activities requiring…well, activity.
I began to gather, and I ended up with a magical little grouping: (Step #2: Brainstorm and Gather)
They are (starting from upper left and rotating clockwise):
- “Butterfly Stained Glass Coloring Book” by Ed Sibbett, Jr.
- (My set of colored pencils)
- “Creative Cats” by Creative Haven
- “Floral Designs Coloring Book” by Ed Sibbett, Jr.
- “Mystical Mandala Coloring Book” by Alberta Hutchinson
- “Tiffany Glass Coloring Book” by A.G. Smith
I believe all of these can be found at Michael’s, Hobby Lobby, Half Price Books (United States chains), and/or online at Amazon.
Alrighty, off to a good start! I leapfrogged onto the next step.
And then came the books…
Books are always a sure thing. But I had to be selective; I had to be choosy when deciding which ones to put in there. They had to create just the right vibe. They had to send my brain to its cool, hip, Happy Place.
In the end, I chose:
- Douglas Coupland “Microserfs” packs a one-two happy-punch in that I can feel all techie and cool, releasing my inner geek, while also being whisked away back in time.
- Myths & Legends is also extremely nostalgic!
- And Buddhism books, especially practical ones, are excellent for reminding me that we’re all one and connected, which helps me feel included in the universe, which lifts my depression.
Specific information about each, starting from the top-left and moving clockwise; they are:
- “Myths & Legends” ~ the 1984 Childcraft Annual (that one might be tough to find, or not)
- “How To Make Friendship Bracelets” by Veronique Follett
- “Awakening the Buddha Within” by Lama Surya Das
- “Microserfs” by Douglas Coupland
Since I also experience anxiety, and there are times in which my anxiety and depression double-KO me, I decided to include some anti-anxiety remedies. My anxiety is the color of PTSD, and I was lucky enough to have found a PTSD workbook at our local Half Price Books location, so I snatched it up! I also found another Buddha-related book and a beautiful hardcover book of purely blank pages for sketching, drawing, and painting.
The PTSD Workbook at the top-left is by Mary Beth Williams, a PhD. The Buddhist Handbook on the bottom is by John Snelling.
And now we need a soundtrack…
I know, that doesn’t exactly narrow things down or shed any light about what’s actually on the CDs. What I had done was burn my own CDs of music I had downloaded from the internet (a “special interest” or collective hobby I’ve been involved in since 1997), and I’m into some pretty eclectic fringy stuff, so I’ll try to post a track listing here once I get to my home office computer (I’m playing hooky at the office at the moment). Please watch this space for the update! You totally don’t want to miss the tunage lists. 🙂
And now I had to find just the right box, container, etc. (Step #3: Find the Right Container; something cheerful, happy, creative, etc. Something YOU.)
Talk about being cognitively paralyzed by a plethora of options! That’s why I only got this project completed this weekend. That’s what took me so long, and why I hadn’t posted this any sooner.
I had a lot to contemplate, and my Aspie/autistic brain does this Contemplation Thing on its own time schedule. And true to my own form, it had to be perfect. I’m not sure that it is, because that same Aspie/autistic brain of mine is still contemplating (yes, after the fact), but it does its thing, and I’ve learned to let it.
I thought about fabric storage containers, but decided that the current landscape of available colors was pretty boring. Charcoal grays don’t exactly give me a “lift your depression!” vibe, at least at this point in my life.
Other boxes had nice bright colors, but were extremely flimsy and would cave and contort as its contents shifted over time.
I wanted a flat box as opposed to something with curvy, contoured edges, because I wanted to be able to stack things on top of–and next to–the box.
And I didn’t want it to blend in with anything else, either, so I had to be sure that what I chose would be readily visible and identifiable. It’s a go-to survival kit, I told myself. You don’t want to be rummaging in the dimness or even darkness for it, while the frustration mounts.
Browsing online proved to be quite frustrating. No, I don’t want a decorative set. No, I’m not interested in those expensive trends; they’re going to outdate themselves too quickly. Yes! A shipping box would be perfect! They’re durable and stackable, and I can tape printouts of my favorite abstract digital art images. No!–I want ONE, not a minimum amount of 50. Ugh.
Make my own? I can start with any durable cardboard box, but then I would need to reinforce it with contact paper. Do they even sell that anymore? It turns out that Amazon has a huge selection, but nothing scratched that special itch.
Alright, back out shopping…
Finally, at the Container Store, I found my perfect choice. A brightly-colored, sturdy box that had just the perfect dimensions for the Happy Stuff I wanted to house in it!
In my Not-So-Infinite Wisdom, I forgot to snap a picture of it with my mobile while I was at the store, but I may just go back and do that (fairly soon, before they change trends, as the neurotypical world frequently likes to do). If and when I do, I’ll insert the picture here, so please watch this space for that, too (sorry for all the Space-Watching!) 🙂
But here’s an overhead/top-down view of what the box looks like with all the Happy Stuff put in it:
The books whose titles aren’t visible because they’re standing upright are the Lama Surya Das Buddist book and the Douglas Coupland Microserfs book. The only thing missing is the CDs (I should really find a couple of cases to put them in first, but alas, my CD Case Stash is eluding me at the moment).
And here’s what it all looks like with the lid put on, from an elevated-frontal view (it really is a straight rectangular cube; my mobile has a funny way of distorting dimensions sometimes)…
I haven’t labeled it yet or anything. I reckon I will, if I can find just the right surreal computer desktop wallpaper HD image to print out in full-size and neatly tape to the top of the box. But not only would the image have to be extra-cool, it would also have to coincide with the color scheme of the box. 🙂
Like Unabashed Autist, whose sister-post on this specific topic can be found here (and she has WAY more photo prowess than I do! LOL), I invite and encourage all of us to make Go-To Kits like this.
It’s important to bear in mind, however, that they’re merely a distraction, not a cure. They may feel magical, but they’re not magic.
I encourage all of us to know, be aware of, accept, and respect our limits; if the abyss is yawning too widely and the rabbit hole goes too deep, or you’re reaching a treacherous point of no return (and if you find yourself asking if you are, then you’re probably already there), then please understand that this is not going to be enough.
Do take care of You and do seek the advice, help, and support of a qualified, licensed practitioner or equally-qualified help-line/hotline. Don’t weather a major storm alone. This is for those little light mists or perhaps a short popcorn shower (short downpour) that you know will only last for a bit, and you can already see the sun popping through behind it.
This is like putting on a “doughnut tire” (one of those spare tires that’s smaller than the rest) on your car; it’ll get you short distances at lowish speeds, but you wouldn’t want to use it on a long-haul expedition or in the Indy 500 race.
Again, take care of You, listen to Yourself, respect Yourself, and Have Fun!