Welcome to Fridays here at Trauma Happy Finance!
On Fridays I like to share a cool thing. Sometimes it’s a website, an app, or maybe a book.
Today I’m sharing the things I did to try to be a good therapy patient even though I was deep in the ditches of depression.
Therapy sessions are generally capped at 50 minutes. Some days I feel like I want to tell so many stories that my time just flies by. I’m guilty of going on long winded tangents and take a while to get to the point. I have to remind myself to shorten things, or just get to the dang point of my story. And I lean on my therapist to reel me in and nudge me back to the memory we’re focusing on for the day.
Some weeks with the combination of my depression and the clock, I’d leave the office feeling frustrated at myself. I took too long to remember a follow-up point about something we talked about last week. Or I forgot to bring it up entirely until I was driving away.
The fact is, you’re spending your time and money on these sessions and doing some work during the week to organize your thoughts will help you use your couch time efficiently. The five tips below are a combination of things to keep your thoughts organized and ways to keep your human body fresh and afloat, despite feeling crappy.
1. Keep a Therapy-Focused Spark File
If you’re anything like me, you don’t deep dive into the therapy topic you’re currently working on at any time during the week that isn’t therapy time. I don’t think in my case it’s always out of repression. It just doesn’t come up in the day-to-day. But sometimes your brain throws you curve balls and a thought comes up that you want to dissect with your therapist. Whenever that happens, I take out my phone and enter in the thought, however fragmented it may be, into my Spark File – Therapy.
A Spark File is a text document that serves as an idea bucket. Whenever an idea or any creative thing you want to remember comes into your brain, you put that idea into your Spark File. This way all your ideas live in one place. A Spark File is separate from journaling because for me, journaling is a process that has a start and end point. My journaling is a multiple minute process and multiple hundreds of words. Entering fragments of an idea into your Notes app should take no more than a minute or two.
I keep a separate Spark File specifically for therapy topics. I like having the separation of creative ideas and my trauma-processing brain dumps.
With a Spark File you’re not trying to remember what it was you wanted to bring up from last time. You have it there, written down fresh from the moment it popped into your head as you walked through the pasta aisle at the supermarket. It’s there in the Notes app ready for you to dive in right when the clock starts.
2. Keep a Journal
I turned a corner in therapy when I started writing every day. When I sit down to journal I often don’t have an idea of what to write about. I set both a time limit and a word goal for my journaling sessions. Just the process of digging through my head to find something else about my day to get the word count going forces me to look at situations in a new way. Having to put my thoughts into full sentences solidifies the thought in my head and also gets it out of my subconscious and onto the page. Then my thoughts can live on the page and not in my head anymore.
After journaling for a couple weeks, new connections and perspectives about old wounds came to me faster in therapy. I’m able to get into the headspace of Younger Miguel much more easily and that in turn makes it easier to make progress.
3. Use Your Calendar
I’ve also had those weeks of feeling lie like the only thing you have to look forward to is therapy. That scheduled 50 minutes means you get to talk to someone and tell your story. All the other days are just filler until you get to unburden yourself in the presence of a mental health professional. But being in that state of depression also meant that I was running late to a bunch of things. Depression is that double-edged sword where I looked forward to therapy but just because I was looking forward to something didn’t mean I was any better about being on time. The critical part in your head that tells you that all your friends secretly hate you and that everyone you interact with knows that you’re a fraud shouts pretty loud when you’re lying in bed fighting with your head. And some days it takes until the exact second you have leave to get there on time to stop listening to that awful voice.
Make use of your phone calendar and reminders. If you’re like me and really needed therapy to wash away the crappiness of the week sometimes, make sure you get all the time you’re scheduled for and don’t be late. Seeing the Travel Time estimates and knowing that green rectangle was my time to take care of myself helped me shut out StupidCritical Voice some days.
4. Keep Hydrated
I wish someone had told me to keep hydrated while fighting depression and that it would not only improve my skin but also my mood! Here in the Northeast US where I live, it’s easy to forget how much water the cold air takes
away from your skin. Combine low temperatures with all that depressed napping and your body will thirsting quickly! I use a water drinking app to track how much I’ve had during the day. And if sleep is sometimes the only other thing you look forward to while you’re depressed, it’s good to keep yourself hydrated. in preparation for nap time. This way, when your therapy day comes and you’ve slept 90 hours since last week, you’re hydrated enough to participate!
5. Shower Twice to Feel Nice
On the days when the Depression Hat sat heavy I’d make it a point to take two showers: one in the morning with the works and one refreshing rinse before bedtime. I figured I was napping and therefore sweating so much that I could justify the water usage. Gifting myself that constant fresh and clean feeling twice a day even if I was just going to nap after getting home from work or class was a gift I gave my depressed self.
If you’ve been so depressed that therapy was one of the only things you looked forward to during the week, what little gifts did you give yourself? Do you do anything to keep track the things you want to bring up week to week? Share in the comments below!