Safety Objects as Secrets to Survival

ErinSurvival13 Comments

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?

ErinSafety Objects as Secrets to Survival

13 Comments on “Safety Objects as Secrets to Survival”

  1. Beth

    Excellent post. I love your suggestions and will definitely have to implement some. Thank you so much for posting.

  2. Heather

    I love your new tattoo! I have a bracelet made out of wooden beads that I made while I was at Homewood that I can use to do mantras (one of my ways of calming down) that I wear all the time, even while sleeping.

  3. marandaelizabeth

    Your new tattoo is beautiful.

    I carry a little pouch of safety objects with me, hidden in my backpack. I have some stones, an acorn, a penny that was squished on the traintracks, and one of my safety objects from Homewood. And little things scattered around my apartment, notes and charms and stuff. Even my tattoos count as safety objects.

    I feel safe when I have pens and notebooks with me, and what I call my “tiny pharmacy,” which is a little bag of pills, charms, vitamins, and herbal remedies that I keep with me when I go out in case I need them.

    1. daisiesandbruises

      Thanks, Maranda! I can’t wait to show you my new tattoo in person, though it won’t be much of a surprise. :P

      I love that you have an acorn in your safety objects pouch! I mean, OF COURSE YOU DO. Also remember when we couldn’t get pennies to stay on the train tracks and we tried taping them on? I forget the outcome except for the messy sticky rails. lol

      I miss you! *e-hugs* Your comment made my day, same with the sticky typed phrases you sent me! <333

  4. Feylin

    Hello! Semi-frequent reader here, first time actually commenting.

    I’ve never really thought about it, but I actually have a ton of safety objects (pendants, stones, gold pennies, marbles I’ve found, a tiny toy monkey…), and I usually have at least one with me at any given time. I agree that physical objects are very helpful, be it as a reminder or a distraction.

    I also wanted to let you know that your blog is wonderfully thought provoking in general, and is a fantastic resource.

    Thank you for being you!

  5. Pingback: Take Care | Maranda Elizabeth

  6. Rachael

    That’s a really interesting post! And I’d guess a lot more common than people realise too,lot of people put a lot of emotional investment into things like jewellery, especially gifted or inherited pieces that symbolise the connection you have with another, in whatever form that may be.

    Tattoos are always so interesting in that regard too. I think for me most of mine are promises that I’ve made to myself. Each new one I get seems to furthur solidify the trust I have in myself to achieve what I want to do. To keep on fighting, that I haven’t given up yet.

  7. Mel

    Hi Erin and everyone else who has posted. Perhaps not an original comment but I wanted to say that it’s really helpful to read stuff by other people who are in a similar emotional state or who have similar needs. I can often be a very capable person, but really struggle with needing / missing my therapist; with feelings of panic at the end of sessions and acute feelings of being lost and ‘desperate’ after seasons.
    I am learning to accept feelings but man!, it’s hard to do without falling back on negative behaviours to anaesthetise or just get through the evening. I also don’t really know how to find a (conceptual) place of safety – I am physically safe – but can’t for example find a safe place in my head. Any further suggestions? I like the rock idea but not sure I could ask my therapist to keep one; I’d be crushed if she said no…
    Thanks again for posting!

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