Reclaiming safe space after suicide attempt
January 31, 2014 8:31 AM   Subscribe

I am just home from the hospital and a subsequent care center after I took a prescription overdose nearly 2 weeks ago that was nearly fatal. I live in an apartment with a roommate. Even before the overdose, I never felt fully comfortable here even though I realize it's better, safer,etc. than a lot of living situations I've had. But now that I associate my room with wanting to die, it's naturally a bit more dire that I break that association. I'm familiar with some spiritual ways of cleansing a place, and have a plan to slowly do physical cleaning as well. What are some other ways of reclaiming and even embracing my space?
posted by mermaidcafe to Health & Fitness (26 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
Every ritual is going to be as powerful as you make it. Some people burn incense etc.

But since your situation is dire, bring in the big guns: get the most spiritually positive person you know (monk, priest, respected elder) to come in to your room and sit & meditate in it for a while or bless it or have some chanted prayers or what have you. You could even bring in a bunch of people and have a large "meditate on love" session there, and have them sing too. Change that energy up.

Change the pictures on the wall and get new bed sheets & covers. Just because.

Wishing you positive vibes.
posted by St. Peepsburg at 8:39 AM on January 31, 2014 [7 favorites]

First of all, I am so glad you are still here.

How flexibility is there in the space? Can you completely re-arrange the room? Even if it results in slightly less physically usable space, it may help it feel like a different space.

Can you re-paint? Is there budget for, say, new bed linens, or new curtains?
posted by KathrynT at 8:40 AM on January 31, 2014 [2 favorites]

There is nothing wrong with planning a move if you need a fresh start, but in the meantime in addition to cleaning, invite your friends in. I tend to view my space more favorably when my friends have been there. It brings in a happy vibe. Sometimes something as simple as new bedding can change a space as well. All the best to you as you heal.
posted by cecic at 8:40 AM on January 31, 2014

Seconding KathrynT. Paint if you can, but definitely get new sheets/curtains/accessories. Changing the visuals is an easy first step. And if you have a close circle of friends, invite them over for a "room warming" party once you've started to make the changes, so you can fill the room with good vibes.
posted by pdb at 8:42 AM on January 31, 2014 [1 favorite]

Seconding re-painting.
posted by bfranklin at 8:43 AM on January 31, 2014

And yes, if you are a religious person or follow an organized spiritual path, this is the time to call them in to bear.
posted by KathrynT at 8:47 AM on January 31, 2014

Change the smell of the room, too. Different detergent, some incense, fresh paint, cleaning products, whatever you have the wherewithal to do.
posted by tchemgrrl at 8:47 AM on January 31, 2014 [6 favorites]

Move the bed, reorient the direction in which you lie down to sleep. If it's not possible to move the bed, sleep in it with your head at the foot. You'll wake up with a different view than you used to - put things in that view that ground you and give you motivation.
posted by Mizu at 8:51 AM on January 31, 2014 [9 favorites]

Repainting is huge--most non-corporate landlords will not only allow it (within reason, given the color you choose) but even pay for supplies. Just do it. And get help, to make it fun!

Other ideas: swap out textiles (thows, pillows, etc.--Ikea is a great, cheap source) and wall hangings. More personal photos, or photos of great memories/places/trips.

Also: a nice set of bedsheets, if you can afford a good upgrade.
posted by blue suede stockings at 8:52 AM on January 31, 2014

Are there any practical problems with the room, like is it too noisy or does it have a lot of mold in it? Solving little problems like that could help it feel like a happier place, and also might help you feel better about your ability to cope with problems.
posted by sam_harms at 8:53 AM on January 31, 2014

Here are a few Wiccan/Pagan rituals for cleaning

Putting a bowl of water with a camphor leaves in every room (and opening all the windows) is a good way to chase out any bad influences. I am more than happy to send camphor leaves as I have a gigantic camphor tree in my front yard.

Another simple ritual is to clean the floors with witch hazel, using one part to ten parts water. It will also break up stagnant and negative energy left behind. You can also put this mixture in a spray bottle and mist the house.

Sprinkling salt in the corners of your home will also clear the energy and help you get a fresh start. You can use it both on the interior and exterior of the house.

While I am an atheist, sometimes just the ritual of meditating and completing these rituals brings a huge change in my perspective.

I also nth new art and/or linens as your budget allows.
posted by Sophie1 at 8:58 AM on January 31, 2014 [6 favorites]

Put little notes to yourself where you can see them: Welcome home. You are here. Breathe.

Get a new kind of toothpaste, detergent, shampoo. If you aren't averse to scents, this Linen & Lilies stuff is heavenly.

Buy yourself some fresh flowers every week -- inexpensive bodega/grocery store tulips or alstroemerias in a deep hue.

Lavender can be soothing at night, if nights are hard. Lavender balm and a little lavender buddy may make sleep easier.

This is going to sound bonkers, but cut the tags out of your clothes and get rid of anything with a logo on it. Doses of random branding/ads tie you to the moment, but your existence is timeless. I did this several years ago and it helped me focus a bit more.

All the best to you as you heal. Give yourself time and a lot of care.
posted by mochapickle at 9:03 AM on January 31, 2014

I've had a lot of loss and trauma in my life, and what has helped me feel better was consciously setting a serious long term goal to make my home environment as awesome as I possibly can. It's near the top of my list of "stuff I want to accomplish in my life".

As much as I'd like to, I can't control the (sometimes very) nasty world outside, but I sure as hell can control what goes on in my personal space. I keep my house clean because I know myself. I get depressed and paralyzed when my house is a mess, and I don't like that feeling. So I do my future self a favor and I force myself to clean because I know I'll be sad if I don't. I clean the demons away.

So, I offer and second the idea that you make your bedroom (and as much of your apartment that you can get away with) (and the future places you'll live) ALL about your comfort and happiness. That's what home is supposed to be, comfort and happiness. When we go through hard shit, we should treat ourselves extra good while we lick our wounds and regroup. Echoing others to set a goal in your mind to make your space as beautiful as you can get it.
posted by Grlnxtdr at 9:07 AM on January 31, 2014 [3 favorites]

Would it be possible to switch bedrooms with the roommate?
posted by valeries at 9:34 AM on January 31, 2014 [4 favorites]

- Repaint if you can
- rearrange furniture to a totally different configuration. It may not be as efficient an arrangement but having it be DIFFERENT will do a tremendous amount for changing the mental history of the place
- buy new bedsheets and comforter. New pillows too. Your bed is your super awesome comfort sanctuary. If you can only afford to do one thing to change your room spend your money on new, soft, comfortable bedding.
- get a new picture to hang on your wall that inspires you, gives you peace, or makes you feel good somehow. I'm not saying a picture of a big sunflower with "Hang in there, kid!" written on it or anything so obvious and heavy handed. I actually would go more abstract. Browse, take your time, and keep looking for something that really clicks with you. Maybe it is just a bunch of brushstrokes with a few shades of blue. Maybe it is a picture of Joey from Friends. Maybe it is a picture of the milky way. Maybe it is a pencil sketch of a spoon. It doesn't matter what it is as long as it is a positive thing for you. Hang that on your wall in a predominant place.

I'm glad you are still with us. I'm sending you cleansing, empowering thoughts your way.
posted by PuppetMcSockerson at 9:40 AM on January 31, 2014 [1 favorite]

Houseplants. Even something as simple as a philodendron, pothos or dieffenbachia can help change your space into a "living" room, plus they convert carbon dioxide to oxygen, which is a great benefit to you, an oxygen breather.
posted by Lynsey at 9:42 AM on January 31, 2014 [4 favorites]

Plants and flowers. New music. As others have suggested, re-arrange the furniture and paint the walls. Buy some posters of art you like and hang them up. Go to the library and check out books that you loved when you were younger; re-read them. Get plenty of exercise to relieve stress.
posted by mareli at 9:43 AM on January 31, 2014 [1 favorite]

There's a larger question which pertains to what you want to do in the time of your life - the things that give your life meaning. Consider what aspirations you have, what direction you want to go in. Decorate your room with reminders of those things and dedicate yourself to taking at least one small step toward moving in that direction each day.

Say you want to travel someday. Hang up pictures of places that you want to go to, and every day do something, anything that leads in that direction (e.g., find out some facts about that place, work toward getting a passport, post questions in AskMe about how to travel cheaply, etc.)

Say you want to be in a loving relationship. Post pictures of friends, or encouraging statements. And every day, do something that will lead in that direction (e.g., say hello to someone you haven't met, write a letter to someone you haven't seen in a long time, take steps toward going to some kind of meetup, etc.)

Cultivate healthy habits and keep track of the steps you have taken! You'll need documented proof to help support you when you're feeling discouraged. There may be days when your hoped for goals will seem impossibly distant, but keep your promise to yourself to take at least one step toward them each day. That way, whereever you are in your life, you'll be closer to them then you were the day before.
posted by jasper411 at 9:54 AM on January 31, 2014 [1 favorite]

We moved into a custom-built dream house, designed and built by another couple who had had a nasty child-damaging divorce. I felt the need to cleanse the house of their bad vibes, and walked through it describing every happy thing I could about marriage. Maybe you could stand in your room (with ribbons, incense, friends, whatever moves you) and describe everything you're grateful for, everything you love, everyone who loves you. Not only does this re-paint the imagery of the room, it is a useful reminder in any space.

Thank you for coming back, thank you for being strong and honest, and thank you for reaching out. We build community this way, and you're an essential link.
posted by Capri at 10:25 AM on January 31, 2014 [4 favorites]

I am so glad you're here. This is a great step to be making in your recovery and hopefully the suggestions above are all wonderful ways to help you feel more secure in spaces that are yours.

After my own suicide attempt I decided to get rid of anything I associated with the things that were triggering my sadness and despair. For me that meant getting new sheets, bed linens, clothes, and toiletries, even if it meant throwing away stuff that was still in good condition. Certain things just end up carrying bad mojo and getting new things to make me feel like I was starting over was blissful. I also decided to invest in a few new pieces of artwork that I could place around my room to anchor my progress and faith in the future (something I had lost sight of while suicidal). Perhaps you could do the same?

Sending you love. You are so strong! Keep moving forward.
posted by These Birds of a Feather at 10:52 AM on January 31, 2014 [1 favorite]

There's a scene in The Wolves Of Willoughby Chase where the little girl tries to circumnavigate her room by climbing on the furniture. She said you never really see a room until you've tried moving around it without putting your feet on the floor. That fascinated me as a kid, so I tried it and she's right. Looking at things from a weird angle can make a familiar place look totally new.

So make sure you're not looking at the rooms from the same angles you were before.

Move your desk to a different corner. Move your chair or make a point of getting a beanbag and watching TV from that. Move your bed to another part of the room, or if space doesn't permit then get it down lower by putting the mattress directly on the floor or raise it higher by putting the base up on cinderblocks. Stand in a different part of the kitchen to prepare food. Face the opposite way in the shower. Sit sideways on the toilet or straddle it. If you find yourself just standing still for a moment to think, don't stand in your usual spot, climb onto the couch and stand taller.

Make physical changes that help you to see the world from a different perspective than you did back then.

And take care of yourself. <3 You can beat this.
posted by the latin mouse at 11:09 AM on January 31, 2014

I love, Love, LOVE that you made it through that darkness. Thank you.

And just the fact that you are asking us for ideas is so powerful - you are actively walking away from that time, pushing it away, seeking happiness.

That's so impressive to me. I know what kind of strength it takes. You may not feel strong, but you should - it's as if you just climbed 100 flights of stairs to escape a prison.
posted by IAmBroom at 12:44 PM on January 31, 2014 [3 favorites]

Temporarily cover the walls with fabric.

Change your lighting. This can be as simple as changing out blueish florescents for bulbs with a warmer color tone. If you have lamps move them around, try putting them up higher.

Try moving some of your furniture, even the bed, to a diagonal relative to the walls. It will look very different.

If you want a different view out your window, you can buy "stained glass" look plastic.
posted by yohko at 1:50 PM on January 31, 2014

I'm really glad your OD failed. I hope you are too.

I'd echo what everyone else is saying above: rearrange your room as much as physically possible. Give it a seriously deep cleaning--pretend you're doing spring cleaning. Clear out stuff you no longer need or want. If there are things around that are triggering for you, pack 'em in a box and stuff it at the back of the closet and forget about it until you're ready to open it again.

But first: cleaning. As I'm sure you're familiar with, self-care is one of the first things to go with serious depression. A good deep cleaning is a) nice mindless exercise that keeps you moving, with b) a concrete and tangible final result, leading to c) a sense of accomplishment for you.

After that, fill your room with life and movement. I've been keeping candles around a lot since I've been out of the hospital; they're calming and the light is such a warm colour. Try pictures of green, growing things. A couple of plants for sure--but to make things easier on yourself, get succulents or something. Plants that are just fine if they get a bit neglected for a while I mean. Don't overwhelm yourself.

Also having been where you are, if you ever need support or anything feel free to MeMail.

There's a scene in The Wolves Of Willoughby Chase

You are literally the only human being I have ever met who has read that book outside of my immediate family.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 3:11 PM on January 31, 2014 [3 favorites]

And if you do find it necessary to relocate, just do it and don't feel bad about it. You do what you have to do - sometimes minor changes work and sometimes they have to be major changes.

The only important thing here is not to let yourself sink back into that place you just dug yourself out of. Many of us have been down the same road - or a similar road, anyway - and we're not going back. Use the help they've connected you with and don't fear - you're going to be okay.

Sending love and energy and peace to you.
posted by aryma at 11:23 PM on January 31, 2014 [1 favorite]

Seconding the houseplants. You might even think of liberating a gold fish or a betta fish from a miserable existence in 10 ounces of water to put him in a gallon bowl. If fish are your thing, of course. Caring for something living, that I know depends on me, makes me think about caring for myself. (fellow attempter here, from a family of successfuls--sometimes success isn't worth it)

Anyway, not sure what your financial situation is. I know I couldn't afford flowers everyday, even though they were suggested to me, also. But one of the best things you can do is get out for a daily walk--even if it's only 15 minutes--45 is even better, but just 15 to start with. If it's colder than crap, then only walk for five minutes. On your walk, find something that interests you--A small rock. A leaf. A flower. A piece of colored paper. A twig. Pick it up and carry it home to your room. Place it somewhere where you can see it and know that it represents the world within your room. Your room is your safe haven, and you can control what comes in and what has importance in your life.

On your next walk, or when you feel like it, take that small thing back to where you found it. Unless something absolutely resonates with you, don't keep these things. Take them back or pass them on. You're not collecting a bunch of stuff, you're noticing the world around you. Not only does this give you a reason to walk, it will ground you in the present and force you to observe your surroundings instead of being stuck inside your mind and emotions. Take your grounded state and your observations back to your room and let them also be new furnishings.

All the other things mentioned above are great, and I want to second them. Heck, try rearranging your room according to Feng Shui, if that's what floats your boat.
posted by BlueHorse at 1:56 PM on February 2, 2014 [2 favorites]

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