Lessons Learned at the Clinic: Part 3
This week’s post is the last installment of a three-part series on lessons I learned from my stay in a 30-day residential treatment center. This week, I’m especially pumped to share something extremely practical and hands-on. A plan. A tool you can create (or create with a therapist) to help manage anxiety, depression, or similar emotional struggles.
When I came home from my time away, I set to work on this assignment, given to me by my counselor. My husband came in and asked me what I was doing. “That sounds like what I teach,” he said, chuckling a little in surprise. He’s an IT guy, a trainer who teaches all sorts of techy stuff I can’t really understand. Stuff like data warehousing, business intelligence, and Powershell scripting. Have I lost you yet? Hang in there…it’s all about to get relevant. “I teach people how to create a disaster recovery plan,” he went on to say.
And that’s what I’m gonna teach you about today.
Sort of. Read on, fearless ones.
Let me give you a quick definition of the techy version of a disaster recovery plan, then I’ll explain the parallels and details. According to TechTarget.com, “A disaster recovery plan (DRP) is a documented, structured approach with instructions for responding to unplanned incidents.This step-by-step plan consists of the precautions to minimize the effects of a disaster so the organization can continue to operate or quickly resume mission-critical functions.”
Basically it’s a detailed plan, complete with specific instructions, on what to do in case of a complete meltdown. So you can get back to functioning as normally as possible.
My husband says the IT version can be printed out in book form, with a list of who to call and actions to take. He says it’s important to create this while everything is running smoothly and everyone is in their right mind.
Are you picking up what I’m laying down?
So this is essentially what my therapist helped me to create: my own personal disaster recovery plan. It’s in a bright blue, 3-ring binder in my office closet, labeled and everything. I know exactly where it is, and so does my husband, in case disaster strikes.
For me, disasters or meltdowns are triggered anxiety attacks. They’re specific times of feeling out of control, not myself, not able to access all the good stuff I’ve learned along the way. And like I said, for me, they are triggered by specific things. But just knowing your triggers is not enough. You have to start further back than that. Let me explain.
- First, you need to identify the powerful lies you believe. These may already be known to you, or you may need to do some soul-searching and work with a therapist to uncover what they are. But these are the unhealthy, guiding principles of your life–things like, “I am a failure,” “I will always be alone,” etc. Most people have at least several. I think I had five or six.
- Second, you need to identify the feelings associated with those lies. The initial feelings and the internalized feelings that develop out of those powerful lies. Powerlessness? Shame? Out of Control? Ask yourself, “When I believe __________________, what does that make me feel like?
- Third, what are the things (people, situations) that trigger those feelings which inevitably tap into those lies? For example, if I witness any level of cruelty towards others that is left undefended–even in movies–that triggers some major junk in me. Every time. You need to get specific here and narrow these down. Maybe it’s even a certain sound or look or smell that reminds you of some kind of trauma. But there are things that just flip our switches. Figure them out. Write them down.
- Fourth, are there certain things you do (behaviors) when you are triggered? This would be in case you’ve already blown past the feelings stage and are headed right into reactions.
Let me take a big pause right here and state the obvious: getting these things identified clearly and accurately might not be easy. For me, I had to work through things extensively with my therapist to get to this point. There was a process of figuring out what those lies were, and that took going through past traumatic events and examining how I felt and responded to them. Seeing patterns emerge helped to determine what my powerful lies were.
OK, so then…once you know 1-4:
- Fifth, replace your powerful lies (negative core beliefs/guiding principles) with TRUTH. The way it was explained to me was make it palatable to yourself–write down the truth in a way that’ll be believable to you. Your own statement, even if it is based 100% in Scripture. You need you speaking truth to yourself in these moments.
- Sixth, find Scripture that backs up the truth you’ve just written to yourself. You probably want to write these down at first on index cards, with the lie on the back and the truths on the flip side. If you need help finding a verse, do a Google search on the topic with “Bible” in your search. You’ll get (most likely) a lot of options to choose from.
- Seventh, what are the action steps you need to take? Are there boundaries you need to put in place? Something you need to say to yourself, or out loud? You might need help in coming up with some healthy options for this. Enlist the help of a therapist, pastor, mentor, a solid friend, your spouse, etc.
This is all some big, hefty stuff, I know. But I cannot tell you how much peace and security it gave me leaving the clinic, knowing I had just such a plan in place and ready to go. I haven’t needed it yet, but I might. And if I do, I know right where to go to get it.
As a postscript to steps 1-7, I included in my blue notebook cards, letters, and notes I’ve received that serve to remind me that I am loved and supported. I also have a friend who keeps a ‘war box’ that contains little items that remind her of the same things, and of the times that God came through and delivered her through difficulty. I’ve now placed one alongside my disaster recovery plan.
I’ve created a Disaster Recovery Plan template here that you can download and use to make your own plan. Print as many pages you need to make it customized just for you. Again, I did not author the plan itself, it is the work of my wonderful therapist (thank you, Anita!) and her many years of skilled practice. I’m just sharing what I’ve gleaned, and putting it into a form that might make the process more clearcut for you. It certainly won’t replace the need for therapy, but it’s a huge asset nonetheless. I’m excited about my own plan, and that you might have one too.
Be sure to drop me a line and tell me if you have found it to be helpful!