While other Mustachians are out there do-it-yourselfing their houses, car repairs, and computer programs, my goals are more base: stay alive, want to stay alive, teach my son to do likewise. If you have a brain that plays tricks on you, or offers regular interference to daily living, this can take all your spoons. After so many psychiatric hospitalizations, I realized the doctors could do very little (if anything) for me. The least helpful thing they did? Write theories and other erroneous information in my file. The most helpful? Listen, admit they didn’t know what to do, offer compassion.
I realized that the major benefits of hospitalization I could offer to myself at home, dramatically reducing costs to taxpayers and myself.
Now when my brain starts to go extra wonky, I have specific steps I take. Here I write them to you, in case some of them are helpful for you too:
1. Eliminate stimulation. Turn off lights, shut windows against noise, close curtains against sights.
2. If soothing or (more often in my case) hardcore music helps, turn some on.
3. Put some fresh, crispy, clean, white sheets onto your bed. Make them super tight. Replicate the hospital bed. Put cotton or other heavy but breathable (cotton) blankets and comforters on it. Climb in.
4. Rest. Sleep if you can, but definitely lie down. (You are not a better person if you do more in any given day or lifetime, or a less valuable person if you do less.)
5. After some rest, make a super healthy meal. For me, it’s critical to have animal protein (meat, eggs). A fresh salad can be helpful. If you can’t make food at this moment, just grab the healthiest “fast food” you can: carrots, a boiled egg, a handful of nuts. Eat as much healthy food as you comfortably can. You’re aiming to infuse your body with the nutrients it needs to support you.
6. Phone, email, or text friends with similarly wonky neurology. They won’t tell you to buck up; they will cluck soothingly, or joke about your mutual craziness. (Such conversations are one of the best and most healing parts of psychiatric hospitalization.)
If you start to feel like you’re going off the deep end, or you have no one to call, call a crisis line. You don’t need to be suicidal to call one: The volunteers are there so that when a human needs another human to be with them or listen, they are.
Most crisis lines are in a crisis of their own, thus will be unable to answer right away, so have the numbers for at least five to call. I live in British Columbia, so I try a couple here, then a shelter in Ontario that’s open and staffed 24/7, and then a couple in the States until I reach someone. Sometimes a volunteer or staffperson has to wrap up the call in order to help others. If I still need to talk, I just call another one right after.
7. If you work, call in sick. If you work for yourself, call in sick to yourself. Stop working! Stop expending energy. Stop feeling guilty or “lame.” Rest.
8. When you’re up for it, take a walk in a quiet, green area.
9. Come home and get back into bed.
10. Do things that make you happy: draw, write limericks, gaze at the natural patterns on a stick, do reflexology on your hand or massage on your foot, do a mindfulness exercise. If you have a tub, consider an incredibly bubbly bath.
11. Continue living in your DIY hospital until your head clears, your brain has successfully rewired itself, and you feel inklings of joy in your heart. Don’t jump into “real life” at this point. Move gently and lovingly, continuing to care for yourself with nutrition, rest, and safety while easing your way slowly back into the world.
Of course, if at any point your brain tricks put you at risk of harming yourself or another, call 911 or your other local emergency number.
A major catch to being able to implement these steps is that many people with interesting neurology are without safe, quiet housing and access to nutritious food. This is one of the main reasons I wrote my book for you. If you’re too broke even to snag that, please ask your local support agency to purchase a copy for you and others to borrow. (And I’ve given out 300 copies free, so an individual or agency you know might already have one—be sure to ask around!)