Writing about mental illness and health issues really brings things into perspective for me. I am able to notice that I am more self-aware and that my insight has improved greatly. No longer do I bury my head in the sand until things reach crisis point; instead I communicate openly with the Intervention team and my support networks to keep them in the loop over what’s going on.
There are many tools to help with improving your insight into your own red flags and issues. One of the most helpful things I’ve found is to keep a mood journal to track fluctuations in energy levels and symptoms. There’s a few online (Google search: mood tracker) or there’s a few apps out there too. I have just started using iMood Journal which is 69p on the Play Store for Android, and it’s fabulous. It asks you to rate your mood on a scale and then gives a journal page to take notes on what’s happening with your mood. It gives an overall picture of how your moods can change and helps with spotting patterns.
Another thing that helps is to have a list of your relapse indicators. In creating this, it is useful to consult with people in your support network who have seen you in the run up to a crisis. They can often highlight things that you weren’t aware of. For example, one of mine is increased religiosity which I didn’t think of as a problem until my husband pointed out that every time I’ve headed into a psychotic episode I’ve started attending church and taking more interest in religious issues (normally I am anti-religion and anti-church).
If you do find yourself reaching crisis point, a well written and realistic crisis plan can be a life saver. Written ahead of time, it will serve as a reminder of the process you can follow to access help. Mine has a list of steps to follow; first I should contact my husband who will contact my care co-ordinator. If I can’t get through to my husband and it’s out of hours for the EIiP team I have their crisis line phone number as the next step. The crisis line isn’t always helpful though, so I have the option of walking to my father in law’s flat so that I’m not on my own. And the last step is to get in touch with the authorities if necessary.
Do I always follow these action points? No. It has taken me a long time to get my head around the idea of asking for help. But experience has taught me that it is better to ask for help early on; before it gets to the point at which I am no longer able to ask at all. And that is something I am proud of.