My therapist started her two-week summer vacation on Friday, something I thought I was okay with until I said good-bye at the end of our session. I surprised myself by starting to cry but I quickly left the office before my therapist saw my tears.
Now I have two weeks without therapy to get through and although I’m kind of nervous, I know I can do it. I’m planning some fun things to do and hopefully time will go by quickly.
Since my blog on Coping While Your Therapist is on Vacation remains my most-visited post, this will be a good time for me to post more often for everyone’s well-being.
Today I’m going to let you in on one of my secret coping devices. Like you’ve probably heard me say before, I really really have a hard time recognizing that I matter to people, so much that I feel like people forget about me when I’m no longer present. It was about three years ago that I came up with a small solution to keep me from completely panicking when I can’t see my therapist.
Right before my therapist went on vacation, I went to a holistic store and read up on the various gemstones they carried. I decided that blue agate fit my situation best since it promotes courage, strength, good luck, and protection. It’s also connected to the heart. I bought three of the stones, which cost me under five dollars total.
During my next therapy session I explained to my therapist that I wanted to give her one of my stones so that even when I wasn’t with her, she’d have a reminder of me. I’d then have a matching stone that would help me feel connected to her. I let her hold all three stones and choose one for herself. Then I kept the remaining two: one to have in my pocket always, and the other to have as a back-up in case I misplaced the first stone.
I usually carry one of my blue stones in my pocket so that if I’m feeling upset or triggered I can take it out to hold and it helps me feel more grounded. My therapist carries her stone in her wallet so it’s always with her, too. It’s been going on for three years now and continues to work well for us both. Sometimes at the end of a therapy session, instead of telling my therapist that I feel scared or lost, I just ask her if she still has her blue stone. That question in itself speaks volumes and when she tells me that yes, she still has her stone, I feel validated and remembered.
My latest tattoo acts as a similar reminder for me. In addition to feeling disposable and forgettable in people’s lives, I’ve also always felt lost. It’s a very complicated feeling, but recently I had the privilege of feeling found instead. The feeling didn’t last, and I wanted it to so badly, but maybe if I could feel found just once then I can feel it again. So I framed the instant that I felt found on my wrist in an embroidered heart so that I can always remember the moment and the person who helped me feel found.
Both my blue stone and my “found” tattoo give me strength when I’m feeling weak. They help me feel safe in the present moment by reminding me of feeling safe in the past. They are meaningful because I have chosen them to be meaningful.
The best part about having any safety objects and reminders is that no one knows their meaning unless you share it. You can keep the item in your pocket or on your key chain or make a necklace out of it, and whether you’re home alone or giving a speech in front of a thousand people, it can be your secret weapon of survival. You can have one object or several, carry it with you or just keep it in a safe place at home. It’s all under your control and you can tailor it to your specific needs.
When choosing a safety object, consider what is meaningful to you. Think about size, shape, texture, and weight. Does a specific scent help you feel grounded? A scent like lavender can induce calm or the smell of someone’s perfume might help you feel their presence when they aren’t around. Your safety object doesn’t have to be an object, either. It can be a song or a memory or an idea. Physical objects do have the benefit of being visible reminders, however, so consider adding one to your basket of coping tools.
What makes you feel safe?