For 25 years, I have moved through the world as if I am one by paying attention to my thoughts and feelings and making decisions about what, when and how I do things. During this time of crisis, I noticed that things are so kicked up inside me that I’ve struggled to be able to pay attention to my thoughts and feelings. The level of anxiety and fear has drowned out everything else. I now have to work harder at finding the thoughts and feelings in my mind and body. But to do this I have to slow down. Walking outside, yoga and coloring helps me find the thoughts and feelings again. Then I’m able to work through the fear and panic parts are experiencing. Noticing them allows me to address them which helps to manage these feelings before they become so big that they overwhelm me.
This is hard. This crisis is scary. Parts inside have old habits that they turn to during times of great uncertainty and fear. Noticing my thoughts and feelings, however scary and intense, helps me to resolve them before getting overwhelmed by them. I have done this naturally for so long that I have some confidence in my ability to manage it. But it’s still hard.
I imagine I’m not the only person with DID that’s struggling right now. Here are a few reminders that might help.
Stay in Communication with Parts
- Listen to their fears.
- Reassure them.
Chaos is a match for past abuse – remind them this is not the abuse of the past. This is something we are all going through together. The whole world. It’s not something that’s happening to you and no one knows. There are efforts to address the economic and health impact of this crisis. They and you are not alone.
- Strategize with parts about what you can do to help them feel safe.
Create a plan for what you and your parts will do if you get sick, if you lose your job, if a family member or friend gets sick, how you will get groceries and medication refills and any other fears they might have. Remind your parts that together you all have survived far worse. If all else fails, remember you have superpowers.
Eat, Sleep and Stay Hydrated
Eating regularly and eating well will help carry you through a crisis. It’s the kind of thing that fear and anxiety can disrupt. Try to be mindful of eating regular meals even if you don’t feel hungry. The meals don’t need to be big, but it will help you to think and sleep if you remember to eat.
Drink water and stay hydrated. This also has a huge impact on your ability to think and take care of yourself.
Sleep. Fear and anxiety interrupt sleep. You know that. You’ve probably dealt with a lot of that in your life. Right now, is a good time to use the skills you’ve developed to get good sleep. Limit how much news you read, watch or listen to about the coronavirus. Keep or re-establish a routine for going to bed around the same time every night and getting up every morning. Engage in relaxing activities a couple hours before bed. Things like watching lighthearted tv or videos, lighthearted reading or even engaging in mindful creative activities like coloring, drawing, or music. It helps to maintain your sleep schedule to relax in the evening and go to bed around the same time each night.
Maintain Structure and Routine
Try to keep a routine. Getting up around the same time each day, making your bed, taking a shower, eating breakfast. All these regular activities build on themselves and help you get through the day. The more you do this, the more your brain will want to do this each day. Then on days when you are struggling, you’ll still be able to get up, make your bed, shower and eat breakfast. Activity helps you manage anxiety and depression.
Connect with Others
Social distancing and sheltering at home can leave people feeling really isolated. People with DID tend to live in their heads and are already prone to feeling alone and isolated. Try to reach out to friends. If possible, set up regular contact whether it be through text, phone or video conference. Check in on people you’re worried about. Hearing their voice, seeing their texts and seeing their faces can be reassuring and helps calm anxiety and fear.
Reconnect with Hobbies or Start New Indoor Activities
Work in things that you like to do as long as it’s not restricted right now. If you have not been ordered to shelter in place, go outside and sit and enjoy the weather for a few minutes, if you can go for a walk or run. Drive and meet a friend so you can see they are okay. Stay in your own cars and wave and talk via phone. Go to a place where you can enjoy wildlife and sit in your car and take it all in. Most streets are empty right now. If you are not ordered to shelter in place take a drive and see how your city or town looks. There is a reason you live there. This is a good time to remind yourself.
If you’ve been ordered to shelter in place, pick up old hobbies or start new ones. Read the books you haven’t had time for if you can focus. Color. Play cards, musical instruments. These are all good mindful activities that can help center you.
Balance Distraction with Limits on Social Media & News
Find ways to distract yourself for periods of time. Watching movies, playing video games, checking social media. Be cautious with social media though. Limiting how much you see and focus on the coronavirus is important and checking social media right now may be overwhelming. Plan what you’ll check and how much you’ll read or watch the news.